A source from one of the second tier engines recently told me “There’s simply no good traffic left anymore.” We were discussing clickfraud, and he mentioned that many engines were beset by it because they did not have enough good traffic to pour over their paid listings. Instead, they had “bad traffic” – ie, clickfraud or crappy affiliate sites with no content value. The catch 22 – they can’t afford to dump the bad traffic.
I am not an expert in SEO or SEM, nor do I spend a lot of time thinking about traffic, in the abstract. But my own investigations of the affiliate business as well as recent acquisitions has got me thinking about traffic in more concrete terms.
In the world we now live, where search is king and the princes have been crowned, more or less – AOL, Yahoo, Google, MSFT, IAC – the scarcest resource is what that fellow called good traffic. I might rephrase that a bit, and call it “good intent” – as opposed to ill intent (clickfraud). Good intent is owned, in the main, by the crown princes of search, but as Safa points out, there are buckets of it – though smaller – at other sites, in particular shopping and high quality content sites.
Haven’t we seen this before? It sure smells like Web 1.0, where it was all about eyeballs. But the shift from eyeballs to intent is important, because thanks to search, intent = revenue, and that can be measured, bargained for, and purchased.
This makes me think about recent purchases – be they Ask, Bloglines, Flickr, or Furl – in a new way. What do all those sites have? Traffic of good intent. In the case of Bloglines and Flickr, traffic that is growing headily.
I get a lot of calls from entrepreneurs and journalists who want to know if this or that new startup is going to take off. My new measure of a company’s success is pretty simple – forget the technology, the promises, or the backers. Just look at the traffic. Is it good, and is it growing? Getting good, growing traffic is a really hard thing to do. If a company manages it, it tells you a lot. Pretty simple stuff, but there you have it.