As a new blog publisher, I am certainly excited about the opportunity to gain more readers, more RSS subscribers, and more traffic. It’s exciting trying to build a readership base and to think that there will/might/could be people out there who would like to hear what I have to say or who derive some benefit from my posts. It is a nice idea to share my knowledge and help other beginners to blogging or affiliate marketing try to succeed. But is building up an RSS readership base the only way to succeed? Is having thousands of RSS subscribers necessary in order to make money online? No it isn’t and here’s why.
RSS readers, while certainly loyal followers of a blog (or the blogger) they patronize usually come by because they are interested in what you (or I) have to say. This is nice, but in most cases, especially in the case of ‘general topic’ blogs, the subscribers subscribe because they are entertained by the blogger. While there is certainly nothing wrong with that, these visitors are not ending up at their blog(s) of choice because they are looking to fill a need, they generally wind up at your blog (or my blog) to see what we have to say or to be entertained by us.
You might be saying to yourself, “So what if my visitors are not coming by to fill a specific need, they’re still visitors and the more visitors (i.e. traffic) I have, the more money I’ll make.” Unfortunately, there is a slight flaw in that logic. If you are an affiliate marketer, you especially want people visiting your blog or website who ARE looking to fill a need. Why? Because these are the people who are most likely to become customers of the affiliate program(s) you are promoting because you will wisely choose programs that are going to fill the specific needs of your visitors. One of the first things to realize about affiliate marketing is that one of the ways to determine which program(s) to promote is by asking yourself how people are getting to the area of your site in which you are promoting these programs.
That might sound a little bit like, “What came first, the chicken or the egg?” But it is very important. If you can understand the need that visitors have who wind up on a certain page or area of your site, then you can promote affiliate programs on that page or area to fill that need. This is incredibly important because the combination of understanding the needs of your visitors/offering affiliate programs that solve these needs is one of the keys to successful affiliate marketing online.
So where does organic search engine traffic fit in and why is this type of traffic generally better than repeat visitors (RSS subscribers)? As I mentioned above, RSS subscribers may be visiting to hear what you have to say or be entertained by you. They come by certainly because they find our posts useful and probably do derive some benefit from them. However, they are not usually trying to fulfill a specific need and therefore are not as susceptible to our affiliate offers. That means the conversion ratio we can expect from our RSS subscriber traffic is typically much lower than from our other kind of traffic – the organic search engine traffic.
This is easy to understand by looking at a quick example of how the ‘internet search process’ works. Suppose a typical internet surfer is thinking about starting a WordPress blog like this one. This person realizes that they will require hosting for their new WordPress blog and decides to enter the search phrase ‘reliable hosting solution for WordPress blogs’. If you think about the keyphrase the surfer just typed in, you may notice something interesting. They are looking for a hosting provider for the new WordPress blog they are contemplating (this is their need). Lo and behold, one of the first pages that shows up in the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) is one of my former posts where I talked about installing WordPress using Fantastico and discussed hosting providers that offer this nifty little script and endorsed the Web Hosting Service that I use for this blog, as well as some of my other sites. I am basically offering a solution to this person’s ‘problem’ or need and they will probably at least check out the hosting company I recommended.
Think about that visitor for a moment. They found this site by performing an Internet search via a search engine, wound up here because I discussed a potential solution to their problem (i.e. their need), and are much more likely to become a customer of the hosting affiliate program I endorsed than my typical RSS subscriber who comes by to ‘see what’s going on’ or ‘for entertainment’ or to gather some ‘general affiliate marketing ideas’. It is no secret that the organic search engine visitor is potentially a much more profitable customer than a blog’s everyday RSS readers. This person may never subscribe to my RSS feed.
In addition to this, RSS readers may stop subscribing if your posting frequency decreases because, to maintain these everyday visitors, it is usually necessary to provide them with new material on a pretty consistent basis. Contrast this with a timeless post that ranks well in the search engines and draws hundreds or even thousands of potentially new customers every month. Now, there is no doubt that your RSS subscribers can become customers of your affiliate programs, but once they are, then what? The lifeblood of any affiliate marketer is the ability to consistently bring in new customers to the programs she endorses. What’s even worse is when all of the blogs within a certain niche promote the same affiliate programs and your RSS subscribers are simply a subset of the RSS subscribers of one of the more popular blogs in your niche and have ALREADY become customers of the affiliate program being endorsed by you THROUGH the affiliate links of someone else!
Finally, your RSS subscribers may become conditioned to seeing your ads or not clicking your links simply due to the fact that they LOOK at your same pages day after day and week after week. Simply by serving your pages in front of a fresh new visitor you have increased the likelihood of one of your advertisments or promotions succeeding. And where do we get fresh new visitors from? That’s right, organic search engine traffic!
It’s interesting to me to see the valuation metrics placed on blogs, especially within a niche, and what’s a little ‘not right’ is the fact that the blogs with the highest RSS readership base are valued the highest. When, in my humble opinion, this type of visitor is the 1) least likely to stick around if the blog is sold (i.e. loyal to the blogger not to the blog), 2) the least likely to become a customer of affiliate programs being endorsed by the blogger, and 3) the most difficult to maintain (i.e. it’s usually necessary to post quite frequently to keep this visitor coming back).
Compare this to the typical organic search engine visitor who 1) Visits because they have a need to fill that your site, or a program being offered on your site, just might fill, 2) is more likely to use a product or service endorsed on your site to fill that need, 3) does not require daily posts to attract, and 4) will still end up on your blog even if it ends up being sold because of the great SERPs your posts have achieved.
So, what kind of traffic would you prefer? The Organic Search Engine Traffic or the RSS Subscriber traffic? You can clearly see which type I prefer. Naturally, having BOTH types of traffic is the most desirable result and I certainly do not think it is necessary to sacrifice one for the other. But I want the traffic that will most likely convert and the type that I do not have to become a slave to my blog to maintain. WHat kind of traffic do you want?