Why (Almost) All Your SEO And Traffic Generation Could Be A Waste Of Time


If you’re wondering why all of your hard work and money spent on SEO and traffic generation hasn’t yet translated into actual income, or not at the level you would like, this post could reveal the exact problem.

When it comes to online business success, traffic generation shouldn’t be the main focus of your daily action to maximize revenue.

Yes it is obviously crucial but all of the traffic in the world won’t translate into income if you ignore the issues discussed in more detail below.

While it’s very easy to get trapped in a traffic-traffic-traffic mindset (been there and have a wardrobe full of t-shirts), usually it won’t help your business unless you have these other key fundamentals in place on your website.

What You Will Learn

  • Why traffic generation e.g. SEO, is the completely wrong main focus in your business
  • The 5 big problems your current traffic generation methods probably have
  • What heavyweight internet businesses focus mainly on instead
  • The bad news about people’s buying habits online
  • The even worse news about how distracted people are online
  • What to do about it

ALERT: Instantly Increase Your Conversion Rate With My Personal Case Studys!

The Great SEO & Traffic Generation Problem(s)

Right from the outset, it has to be made clear that I am primarily known as an SEO guy, but for the very reasons that will become obvious below, my main business focus now is on email marketing strategy and tactics.

SEO has been and is very good to me.

If done well, few traffic generation tactics can deliver the ROI of SEO in my experience, even with Google’s endless updates.

But, and it’s a pretty large, heavy ‘but’, SEO usually only brings fresh leads to a website.

Fresh New Leads

It’s what happens after those new leads arrive on your website that will determine whether you are successful or not online, or how successful.

It’s that simple.

And worth repeating:

It’s what happens after new leads arrive on your website that determines whether you are successful or not online, or how successful.

It’s not how many people you manage to get to a website in the first place – that’s obsessive SEO thinking that goes nowhere.

If new prospects come to your site once, leave, never come back and you can’t reach them again, what was the point of that traffic if they didn’t buy or engage when they came?

And almost nobody buys on the first visit to a new website, especially without any pre-selling in the form of a referral from someone else’s list of email subscribers.

So if you’re struggling online to make some – or any – money, or you aren’t happy with your current level of online income, look deeply, real deeply, into what happens when and after new leads land on your website/s.

That’s partly because the SEO mindset – more like an addiction and I am speaking from very personal experience here – is all about more and more and more traffic generation.

It was around the end of 2013, going into 2014, when I realized the catastrophic scale of my SEO traffic-obsessed mindset (yes we can call it epic stupidity), despite the overwhelming evidence that pure traffic is not how to succeed online.

Wasted traffic is pointless traffic and I wasted a lot – far far more than I care to even calculate.

For most Internet Marketers (as I used to do), there isn’t that much attention, or any attention at all, paid to the one practice that mega-successful online businesses focus obsessively on:

Building a long-term base of repeat customers that they communicate with frequently via email

Do you?

Is building a long-term base of repeat customers that you communicate with frequently via email your current top priority?

Think about the last 5 or 10 Internet Marketing information products that you bought online.

How did you hear about them to even consider buying them?

Email probably right?

You’re probably even reading this post or any of Matt’s excellent new research posts on this blog because he told you about them through email.

Notice the pattern.

So the problem with SEO or any type of paid or ‘free’ (apart from your time) traffic generation is that it only brings new leads and cannot build the relationships that you need to build, sustain or grow an online business.

Why not?


Traffic Gen Problemo #1:

Most people don’t buy from a new website on the first (and probably last) visit. They just don’t and that’s supported by endless research e.g.

Visitors Won't Buy First Time

Source: SAP/SeeWhy.

So if most of your hard-earned traffic doesn’t buy on that crucial first time, where does that leave your online business?

Traffic Gen Problemo #2:

People today are more distracted than ever before in human history.


We all have shrinking attention spans. And they’re getting shorter every day as information overwhelm grows.

The proof?

How many browser tabs/windows do you have open right now? And can you remember any of the new sites you visited for the first time yesterday or last week?

See what I mean.

You may think your website is epic and amazing but your site is ‘up on a catwalk’ competing with millions of other ‘epic’ and ‘amazing’ websites.

In short, your prospects, your leads, are incredibly distracted.

Here’s some research published in Time magazine showing that more than half of new visitors to a new webpage spend less than 15 seconds on it:

15 Seconds Attention Research

15 seconds! What kind of offer can you successfully make in 15 seconds?

So if you have no mechanism to remind your site visitors of your existence, let alone your offers once they leave your website, that traffic is gone, probably forever in most cases.

In my SEO Mastermind circle, I’m constantly shocked by the amount of traffic my hardcore SEO colleagues waste because they have absolutely no followup mechanisms for one-time visitors to their website/s.

It’s crazy old-school dinosaur SEO thinking.

And it’s never been easier to follow up with your site visitors (I’ll get to the solutions in a minute) but they’re stuck – as I was – in the ‘SEO traffic generation’ addiction mindset.

Traffic Gen Problemo #3:

Thirdly, if you aren’t using methods to follow up with your site visitors after they find you, do you think your main niche competitors are making the same amateur mistake?


Regardless of how you personally feel about email marketing because you get too much email, you’re on too many lists, you get too many spammy affiliate offers by email etc etc:

[a] you don’t have to be a spammy affiliate email marketer (look at how Matt and Pat Flynn do it – they refuse to send affiliate offers by email and I hardly ever do it unless I have thoroughly tested the ‘thing’ and actually use it in my own business), and,

email marketing still flat out works and every day that you’re not listbuilding and relationship-building through email, your business is losing money, potentially a lot if you have decent traffic.

Retargeting/remarketing is also essential today but I’ll get to that shortly too.

Traffic Gen Problemo 4:

What are the chances that your new prospect/lead is in the buying mode exactly when they happen to visit your website (for 15 seconds)?

Pretty slim aren’t they.

And that’s regardless of how good your product or service is and today, as the Web gets more saturated with businesses, your product or service should be better than just good, it needs to be exceptional.

And that’s not even to attract new customers, that’s just to have a shot at keeping the ones you already have or ‘luck into’ in the future.

So unless your site visitors are ready and primed to buy for that (probably) 15 second window when they land on your site, there will be no sale.

Obviously no sales = no income.

It’s sounding pretty grim isn’t it but I’ll get to some straightforward solutions shortly.

Traffic Gen Problemo #5:

You are almost never in a kind of direct product comparison marketing battle when selling online.

What I mean by that is people very rarely directly compare all of the features and specifications of one product or service against another when buying.

Generally speaking, we’re usually too lazy to do that – me included.

Instead, to gain new customers, you are in a daily visibility and presence battle, not a product feature battle.

For example, are HostGator and Bluehost the best hosting companies in the world?

No way.

On their cheapest packages that have the most customers, they use very old servers that are massively overloaded with customer accounts.

As a result, when any of the sites hosted on those ancient servers get much simultaneous traffic, their page load speeds blow out to crazy times, if the pages will load at all. If you currently have hosting there, check your site speed with multiple visitors over at loadimpact.com

But everywhere you go online, Hostgator and Bluehost have visibility and presence.

You almost can’t avoid them but that doesn’t mean that they offer the best hosting service.

And they attract loads of new customers every day of the week through their omnipresent visibility.

That’s what your online business needs but on a smaller scale.

So Terry, What Do I Do About These Issues?

You have at least a few good options when it comes to making much much better use of your current traffic and changing the focus of your business from raw traffic generation, including SEO, to visitor engagement, relationship-building and follow up.

Matt’s blog here is a great example of that.

Plus, the good news is that there have never been more effective tools – many of them free or very cheap – that allow you do all this stuff on autopilot mostly, including tracking and testing loads of things to multiply your online business.

Option 1: Email Marketing

Think email marketing is old school and unfashionable?

If yes, then so is making serious money online.

From Eben Pagan’s $20m+ per year in dating advice to Brendon Burchard’s $10m+ year to British Airways to Amazon to Appsumo to Groupon to Spotify to Uber to Jeff Walker to Pat Flynn to Matt Woodward, email marketing is either the central engagement channel or extremely important in serious online businesses.

And if you think email marketing involves too much work creating all those followup emails, most of your initial sales conversions will happen – if they are going to happen – in the first 10-14 days i.e. you need 7-10 email messages and a lot of that content can be curated from other sources.

That’s the bulk of what you need to get going, apart from a landing page and some traffic.

Quite simply, most people don’t want to buy without some form of beginning relationship, either through email, a live chat conversation, a referral from someone they already trust or possibly some retargeting to begin brand awareness.

And 2015-style email marketing is light years ahead of what it was like even 5 years ago.

The game has moved on a very long way since then.

In short, and I am speaking from my own experience here, whenever you are moving away from listbuilding and email marketing as skills or practices to learn and apply in your own business, you are probably moving away from greater success, profitability and business growth.

You can of course use a mechanism like Facebook Groups but even there, the update notifications to members come via – you guessed it – email.

Option 2: Retargeting/Remarketing

Though a distant second to the ROI power of email marketing, retargeting (Google calls it ‘remarketing’, same thing) is your 2nd best way to reach past recent visitors to your visitors.

If you’re not familiar with it, let’s say you visit a site about knitting and they have retargeting set up on the knitting site, let’s call it knittingcentral.com.

After you leave knittingcentral.com, you will continue to see knittingcentral.com banner ads on other sites you visit afterwards e.g. knittingcentral.com banners will ‘follow’ you to CNN, or BBC news or a site about vintage cars or one about red wine.

Here are some examples of sites retargeting me from my initial visit to their website, note how their banner ads ‘followed’ me to other sites that have nothing to do with their niche:

Targeted Advertising

Ads Following Me

Retargeted Advertising

This reminds your visitors of your offers and existence, especially if you develop new offers after they have left your site – though generally the fresher the retargeting leads, the better.

Retargeting is a bigger topic for another discussion so I won’t go into the mechanics of it here but in my view, retargeting is the future of banner advertising – because it’s much more customized to each individual visitor rather than the clumsy ‘one size fits all’ approach of yesteryear.

Learning and applying email marketing should be your #1 priority though, closely followed by retargeting – especially to reduce ‘cart abandonment’ – and they are pretty easy skills to acquire.

Once you do get the hang of them, you’ll wonder why you resisted them for so long and how foolish it was to do that.

Option 3: Content Locking-Driven Virality

Finally, you should also ‘content-lock’ access to certain material on your site and insist on a Like, Share, +1 or Tweet to unlock it.

That gives your post or article a greater chance of virality when the Likers or Tweeter’s circle of friends see the link to your site.

However, ‘content locking’ or ‘like gating’ is a controversial topic over at Facebook and they banned it on Facebook in late 2014.

It may well be that Facebook will ban it outside Facebook in future (they may already have depending on when you read this) but that may be technically challenging to police on their end.

As you may have also noted, Matt does a lot of content locking with a social locker and it doesn’t hurt his traffic numbers!

Also, if you are using content locking to promote sharing and virality, make sure that you have optimized your email website conversion rate when those people do come via their friends’ tweets or shares.

Otherwise, again, that traffic would be wasted.

To summarize your traffic-leak-plugging strategy, you should be:

  1. Collecting email addresses on to a list and then emailing good content to them with the occasional offer – if you are offering a great product or service.
  2. Getting an account at a retargeting company like Perfect Audience (I use them) or Adroll or even Google AdWords, putting the code on your site, building your retargeting lists and testing a lot of different ad banners on your visitors.
  3. Content locking great material on your site to encourage viral sharing.

Ultimately though, email marketing way outperforms the other two conversions-wise, even in 2015 when email inboxes are pretty crowded.

ALERT: Instantly Increase Your Conversion Rate With My Personal Case Studys!

Wrapping It Up

As you have probably guessed by now, if you are a one-man or one-woman online operation or run a small outfit, relying totally on a single skill like SEO now is just not a good long-term business strategy.

The Web is getting more competitive, paid traffic more expensive, SEO trickier and general distraction among people is escalating.

The solution is to commit, really commit, to getting good at email marketing, getting good at retargeting and growing your main serious business asset:

a growing base of long-term repeat customers that you communicate with frequently via email

And, never forgot that those list subscribers are actual people, pretty similar to you mostly, so don’t ever treat them just as numbers or stats in an Aweber account – treat your list subscribers like Matt treats you and you’ll have a great business on your hands.

If you use email marketing properly, you’ll be shocked at [a] how little traffic you need to earn a good income online and how you can make much more without even needing to increase your traffic numbers.

52 Responses

  1. apnewscorner

    nice article………..

  2. 3.17.2015

    Very true for eCommerce.

    Most visitors come to the website on the initial visit to flesh out prices. See what is on offer and even if they go through to the checkout page the ‘Add to basket’ can be high but the ‘Basket > Sales’ is lower.

    A lot of visitors want to see what is the final cost of an item all the way to the checkout page, and then they go off and check with the competitor.

    Our site generates over 350,000 visitors a month from organic traffic, but if it was not a brand and the pricing was not competitive people just would not convert.

    Whenever we switch the lever and bring the prices down, then and only then do people convert.

    So, you are right to elaborate that what matters is the value you give to the website.

    I was surprised to see from your income report that you generate a decent return from such little visitor number, which is what critically matters. If you deliver on your promise of quality and value, then the money will follow

    • March 17th, 2015 at 11:22 am

      Well I always say if you forget about the money and purely focus on helping people, the rest will take care of itself.

    • Terry Kyle
      March 18th, 2015 at 2:17 am

      Fighting cart abandonment could be a big issue for you Azzam and Facebook newsfeed ads + retargeting are good options there if you’re not already doing it.

  3. 3.17.2015

    I must say that I I continued to read. I felt better. As I do my best into converting new page visits into lead generation. Giving my readers the option to ask for a quote or sign up for a newsletter on most of my sites.
    Also I like to look at where they click on my site. To make sure that they are going through the conversions and signing up for my newsletters or asking for a quote. Even on my clients sites I make sure that the site converts the users.

    Pierre Goldman

    • March 17th, 2015 at 11:21 am

      Don’t forget you can also build in the request for a testimonial into the email funnel to extra UGC at the same time.

    • Terry Kyle
      March 18th, 2015 at 2:19 am

      Exactly Pierre and constantly checking that data, refining, testing and evolving is what separates the amateurs from the pros online.

  4. 3.17.2015

    Great article Matt. This reminds the old truth again “money is in the list”. For me, it’s really about creating engaging content that will hook your readers with your brand and then retain them with more content. Your service, product, offer whatever you want to sell will be a byproduct of your “ability to engage the readers”. In short, focus on content marketing :)

    • Terry Kyle
      March 18th, 2015 at 2:20 am

      That’s it Anisul and given how much content there is out there now and coming every day, that engagement requires more work.

  5. 3.17.2015

    Hey Terry, so this is the post you were working on.

    Some solid info in there and yes, it’s been said but I’ll say it again: If you’re not collecting emails you’re making one of the biggest mistakes possible.

    Good read guys.

    • Terry Kyle
      March 18th, 2015 at 2:21 am

      Thanks Dave, good to hear from you. Email me for a catchup when you have time.

  6. 3.17.2015

    Hey Matt

    Nice article man! What the article does for me is to help me to re-focus. There are so much new stuff out their trying to distract people from the core of making money online. However, what I notice is that all the top money makers focus mainly on emails and their lists. They cherish their lists like their life dependent on it. I just got an email from legendary marketer Frank Kern. I didn’t even know that guy still have my email. It must have been 5 years.

    By the way do you know of any other good Optin/landing page software that you would recommend other than leadpages.net?

    • March 17th, 2015 at 11:20 am

      I haven’t found anything better than LeadPages just yet but I have noticed their load times are getting poorer recently.

    • Terry Kyle
      March 18th, 2015 at 2:22 am

      Like Matt, I mainly use Leadpages, in combination with OptinMonster and Plugmatter.

    • March 21st, 2015 at 5:32 pm

      I use 1minutesites on my blog, which is basically the same software as Leadpages but it’s cheaper and not everybody is using it as with Leadpages. I used Leadpages before and 1minutesites gives me better conversions. :)

  7. 3.17.2015

    Great article and food for thought :).

    I’m already thinking about locking some extra content, but what if you would lock that content (say a template) with an e-mail optin? Like Brian Dean explains in this article http://backlinko.com/conversion-optimization.

  8. TriggerIM

    Great points, Terry! All very valid. I think whether to put this into action depends on the site. Dinky niche site with short expected lifespan, maybe not. Authority site (or, niche site unexpectedly built out into authority site), h*** yeah!

    • Terry Kyle
      March 18th, 2015 at 2:24 am

      I know what you mean Trigger but even on dinky affiliate sites which I hardly ever build anymore, I use the email messages from the vendor that my site promotes.

  9. 3.17.2015

    Finally, I have focused on conversions for some time. SEO, adword, remarketing have one sole focus initially, at least, to get an email to market to. I done seo for years, it only helps if the site is fully optimized for converting. I get seo work all the time, nowadays however unless they allow me to make changes so they actually get some form of information (emailaddress) to be able to market to these visitors I walk away. They can find some cheap seo who doesn’t get it.

    Pop ups, slide ins are all a must, the key element is timing. This varies according to the type of site. I never set a pop up to show immediately, for serviced based businesses 30 seconds isn’t a bad guess, they won’t be on as long as a visitor to an e commerce store so you want the pop up quicker so as not to lose the lead. Ecommerce sites are different, I tend to set them for 1 to 1.5 minutes depending on the type of store and I review the analytics for the average duration a user hangs around for.

    Social, great traffic generators , if your site is ready to collect marketing data. Be inventive with posts, whatever you sell or do, create photos that are different, these are the ones that get shared not the standard salesy type photos. Also with your social accounts post genuinely helpful info etc with no link back to your site (it’s on your social accont after all!) you’ll get more shares and followers as you won;t be seen as only a self promoter, even though you are, you’re just being smarter about it. Smaller businesses, use mailchimp, it is free up to 2k subs , upgrade to a paid service when you hit 1900 so avoid any issues when you hit 2k.

    • March 17th, 2015 at 11:12 am

      Sound like you have learnt a lot of your lessons the hard way – the best way to learn :)

    • Terry Kyle
      March 18th, 2015 at 2:25 am

      Good stuff Mark and sounds like you’re focusing on the right things in your business.

  10. 3.17.2015

    The truth about distraction is true Terry. I have 5 tabs open while I started reading this post.

    • March 17th, 2015 at 9:59 am

      But you made it this far =D

    • Terry Kyle
      March 17th, 2015 at 10:08 am

      You’re doing well Siddarha, I normally have 20 open! Scroll depth is another shockingly bad stat on most webpages but that’s for another post.

  11. Kabir Arora

    Yes, and this distraction is the biggest problem for Digital marketers like us.!! You have aimed to finish something, but suddenly you get a notification from Mathew about his new blog…What next, you will leave everything and start reading that blog.!!

    Though Great Post.!! Thanks Mathew.

    • March 17th, 2015 at 11:07 am

      Hahaha well that’s the beauty of an evolving digital marketing strategy, theres a lot of cogs to turn in your direction.

    • Terry Kyle
      March 18th, 2015 at 2:27 am

      And you can model Matthew’s high quality post strategy in most niches too Kabir.

  12. 3.17.2015

    What would be the next step up from Bluehost/Hostgator basic plans? Is there like a good, better, best approach to this or does it need to be a “go big or go home” kind of thing :)

    • March 17th, 2015 at 11:06 am

      Take a look at TrafficPlanetHosting

      They also host this blog :)

    • Terry Kyle
      March 18th, 2015 at 2:29 am

      I own Traffic Planet Hosting Lance so my opinion may not be the most independent but if you test your sites hosted on cheap hosting companies over at loadimpact.com with multiple visitors (it’s free to test), you may be in for a shock when you see what happens to page load times under any traffic load!

  13. 3.17.2015

    As someone who has almost exclusively relied on SEO over the years to market my websites I know only to well just how suddenly Google can whip away your traffic. Every time one of my sites see’s a traffic drop I kick myself for not capitalizing on the “good times”!

  14. 3.17.2015

    Hi Matt! :) Sales is one thing and way to monetize traffic. But how about AdSense sites, or generally sites that earn income through display advertising?

  15. 3.17.2015

    Great authority post, very bookmark worthy..!

  16. 3.17.2015

    Read it all, this is right. And building an online business is actually the same as building an offline business. At least that’s what I think about nowadays online business. IM is tricky and very hard, especially for newbies (because it’s easy to get in “trouble”), because there are a bunch of people ( The ones making money selling “ways” to make money) filling your brain with outdated info or things that doesn’t work at all. But as I read everything in this article, something is quite clear, online business must be treated like an offline business, treating clients like persons, not numbers. That’s the way to sell, your good explaining it Mr.

  17. 3.17.2015

    I already started to build my authority sites and these tips are golden for me. Hope I will avoid most of the traffic problems pointed here. The money is on the list is my motto and it’s working well so far.

  18. 3.17.2015

    Great post, Terry. Although this information is repeated too often, we struggle to get the process right.

    The first four traffic problems are right on dot, while I am on the fence with the 5th – “.. people very rarely directly compare all of the features and specifications of one product or service against another when buying”

    I *almost* never see a product as it is featured, but start comparing it to others in the market. It happens to bigger (commoditized) products like hosting, and to the smallest of the internet marketing products.

    If the sales page/demo video/product creator is not providing the same value as another similar product out there, why buy it?
    I am pretty sure a lot of us do this. Am I reading this wrong?

    Social virality with content locking works, but only if the content around the share is great. For e.g. Matt has great content that gets repurposed/adds value through the locked content. Both new and returning readers know that they get value and go ahead and click it. It can be an utter flop (like what I have seen on 2 of my blogs :))

    • March 24th, 2015 at 6:51 am

      Yes indeed Prashanth – the content must be worth sharing above all.

      With the product comparison point, if you look at the topselling product in most categories online and offline, are they technically the best purely on specification, reliability or performance? Often no but those brands have presence, exposure and a strong profile in the marketplace e.g. I’ve had 2 Dell laptops that fell apart weeks into their non-warranty period (wouldn’t touch one now), same with a brand new Fiat rental car where new bits fell off the interior over almost every bump we hit. Dells and Fiats however sell by the truckload though. I know that’s not at all scientific evidence but hopefully clarifies.

  19. Noviadi

    Now this is open my eyes widely. I remember now that im an SEO junkie afterall. Thanks for always enlightening us Mat =)

  20. 3.17.2015

    Great post as usual. I love my SE Traffic Hacks membership, and it’s nice to check out your post here on Matts blog. Keep it up guys

  21. alexamedia

    Thanks for articles Matthew!

  22. 2.9.2016

    The story resonates with me. It is painful thinking about the money wasted all those years focused on SEO-> conversion rather than SEO->Lead Capture->Conversion.

    Of course, I always had the typical newsletter and low value freebie giveaway, but that’s not how to properly capture a leaving visitor.

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