The Difference Between Traffic and Readers – and How to Know Which You Want

By Ali Luke

If you’ve been in the blogging world for any length of time (or even if you’re yet to start your blog), you’ll have heard some key terms being thrown around.

Two of the most popular are traffic and readers.

Although you might think they mean pretty much the same thing (visitors to your blog), there’s a distinction between these.

Traffic includes people who visit your site for a couple of seconds then surf away. (If you’ve ever had a rush of traffic from StumbleUpon or another social site, you may well have seen this in action.)

Readers aren’t just visitors – they’re people who come back to your blog again and again. They might subscribe, leave comments, share your posts, and even buy from you … at which point they become customers.

blogging-traffic-or-readers

Image from Flickr by The Next Web

Traffic is Fleeting (Though May Be Impressive)

Of course traffic is important, but simply having a lot of monthly visitors isn’t usually enough for a successful blog. Even if you’re not interested in monetizing your blog at all, you probably still want a lasting audience rather than fleeting traffic.

There’s one case when traffic beats readers, though, and that’s when you’re monetizing solely through ads.

If the point of your blog is to bring in advertising revenue, then you don’t really want loyal readers – you want lots of passing traffic, people who’ll click onto one of your posts, then click on an ad and leave.

This may also be the case if you’re an affiliate marketer – you could be looking for one-time visitors (e.g. to your review of a product). However, affiliate marketing can work fine with a small but loyal audience who trust your recommendations.

Don’t take this to mean that you can forget about traffic altogether. New visitors are important – some will stick around and become readers.

Readers Will Grow to Like and Trust You

If someone reads several of your posts, leaves a comment, and subscribes to your newsletter, it’s pretty clear that they’re interested in what you have to say. They’re a reader – not just a passing blip of traffic.

Readers will generally subscribe to your blog or newsletter, though some may choose to follow you instead through social media. They won’t necessarily read every word of every post, but they will stick around for weeks, months, or even years – so long as you keep delivering the high-quality content that they’ve come to expect from you.

A small, loyal group of readers may be all you need. For instance, you run a consulting business and only need two clients a month, then if you’re attracting the right audience (people with the means and inclination to pay you!) then you could do very well with a readership numbering in the hundreds.

Most bloggers will want more readers than this, of course – perhaps a few thousand. It can take years to get a blog to that point, though there’s a lot you can do to speed up the process. One great method is to guest post on large blogs in your niche to bring in well-targeted traffic that’s likely to convert into readers.

Which is Better, Traffic or Readers?

Personally, I favour building a blog (and business) that revolves around loyal readers rather than lots of traffic.

There are a couple of key reasons for this:

  • If you rely mainly on search engine traffic, your business could take a huge knock if you get penalised by Google (whether fairly or not). This happened to Darren Rowse early in his blogging career.
  • It can take a lot of time to see even $100 from advertising revenue (you may have to put in months of work building your blog first – I know I did!) and many bloggers simply don’t have the time or resources for that.

Of course advertising is a perfectly valid form of monetization – we run ads on DailyBlogTips, and I have a few on my blog Aliventures. For me, though, it’s more rewarding (both financially and emotionally) to focus on readers and other ways of making money blogging.

If you’re looking to get more traffic and more readers, watch this space! We’ll be launching a new course in a couple of days with six weeks of text and video lessons to help you grow your blog faster than ever before.

 




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20 Responses to “The Difference Between Traffic and Readers – and How to Know Which You Want”

  • Santel

    It’s a tricky question. Most of us want traffic. Only a few who know why readers are important.

    I totally agree due to many years of experiences, traffic doesn’t generate me anything. But readers does!

    I recommend everyone should focus on their readers.

  • Gary Arndt

    I’m finally glad someone has addressed this subject.

    I’ve been saying this exact thing for years. Traffic is a means to build an audience, not necessarily an end in itself.

  • Waheed Mughal

    I am wondering what is considered more importatnt, or better. The number of visitors, or the amount of page views. For instance a blog may get a modest number of visitors, but if those visitors spend a lot of time on the blog and view alot of different posts then I would presume that it would be considered a interesting and good quality blog nonetheless, correct?

  • Yoav

    I’d like to have three types of readers please…

    1. Buyers… serious people that want to spend money on my products and services.

    2. Bloggers – To spread the word and build links

    3. Social media moguls – To spread the word.

    🙂

  • Shahzad Saeed

    Ali,
    On one of my blogs, I’ve been started getting a lot of sudden traffic from Google. Because most people are receiving the exact solutions what they’re looking for, they just read it, leave it and never return again.

    I know the trend will last once and the traffic is going to end one day.

    The tricky part is to make them more engaged with some more useful contents and turn them to a loyal reader.

  • Christopher Pontine

    Hey Ali,

    Great article, I know I need to start creating a reader and not just traffic.

    Thanks,

    Christopher Pontine

  • Steve B

    Depends on your site. For blogs, it might make sense grow a big number of readers, but for others, like a dictionary or weather site, people aren’t there to “read.” They’re there to look for a specific type of information and then go on about their business.

  • Nick Walker

    Wow! What a great post Ali. I have never really thought of it that way before, and as I have just started I new blog I found your insight to really be of value. I think that turning traffic/visitors into loyal readers comes down to quality content, which adds value to the readers lives. I have head people say this so much but its so easy to get in the trap of writing for the search engines rather than your audience. I guess Its all about user experience at the end of the day.

    Anyway, thanks once again for the insight Ali. I will be sure to consider what you mention here whilst building my own blog.
    I also will visit your site many times again.

  • Andrew

    I love seeing spikes of traffic coming into my site, but I always know that Google could pull the rug out from under me at any time, and that is an uneasy feeling.

    Readers and email subscribers though, they are the group that keeps me coming back and posting. Even if they are a small percentage, it is so much more motivating to know that there are people out there who specifically and intentionally come to your site to hear what you have to say.

  • James Schiller

    I agree with you. I also favor readers over traffic, that’s why as a real estate for Kiawah Island homes, I give emphasis on how I can build a trusted real estate expert status by posting useful articles about real estate related matters. I always think that if I help my visitors by giving them the information they need, they might share my posts to other social communities and groups, therefore helping me in return.

    I also include photos and videos of events and fun activities I have attended in the locality I serve and encourage my visitors to give feedback or ask questions to foster engagement with my readers.

  • Lakhyajyoti

    I prefer loyal readers than traffic. What I think is traffic is temporary but loyal readers are permanent. Thanks for the great post.

  • Raspal Seni

    Hi Ali,

    After having read how you generated just 100 bucks after an year with Google ads, I gave up the idea of having ads for my blog. I started with afflinks and banners after your post about monetizing the blog since day one. Have put a few and will be putting some more in a few days.

    I don’t want traffic, I want loyal readers (also reading your ebook on the subject). I did see a surge in traffic on my tech blog after my last guest post here (strange because my main blog didn’t get any traffic).

    I also saw 20 hits within one minute of tweeting about my latest post, yesterday. That’s just traffic. These people visit and leave as soon as they come. They don’t even comment. I’m yet to see a commenter coming from twitter. Till date, whoever commented on my blog posts were the ones whose blogs I’ve commented on.

    But here’s one point I’m missing yet – not having something valuable to give them. If there was some kind of freebie on my blog the visitors/traffic could see, some of them would subscribe to my newsletter too.

  • Monica Womble

    I want readers. Like-minded people that will intelligently comment on my posts and add to them to help out other readers and myself, too. No matter what niche you’re in, there are people out there who can relate, and “relateablility”, as it were, makes for strong connections between people. Give them a reason to come back.

  • sachin

    I prefer loyal readers than traffic. What I think is traffic is temporary but loyal readers are permanent. tell me to increase nore loyal reader in the face of traffic. by the thanks for the great post. it will help me for generating more money

  • David Black

    Trouble is every reader starts life as a little piece of traffic – We need to get the traffic to hook the readers. Once they’re through the door, we just need to hang on to them with content they’re interested in.
    People often think they need produce massive, complex pieces of writing when all people want is to be entertained – if they’re interested they’ll come back.
    Thanks for the post Ali..

  • Hasrul Hassan – Sifu Blogspot

    U need reader to built your credibility. People will trust u if u write and give proof. And later time, people will follow u and they will respect your opinion even thou contradict theirs.

  • Akash Agarwal

    Yah! it’s true that sometime we got confused that what we want. It’s a very clear clarification. Thanks for sharing this valuable information.

  • Bella’s Shelf

    Wonderful post! Thank you. My question is this, whats the diff between page views and page visits? i have a tracker “app” that sends me a weekly breakdown & dont know which is better, which is wanted, etc?
    Thank you ????

  • maxwell ivey

    Hello; some great points were made here. To me you need both. You need traffic for your site to be found. The more traffic you are getting, the more likely it is that those people you want to connect with will find you when using their favorite search engine. And once they find you, you have to produce regular quality content and work to nurture those relationships so they com back time and again to read your posts leave comments and share with the people in their circle. I only have a hundred subscribers to my blog and about 20 for my youtube channel. but i also have large communities on the major social media networks along with a healthy email list that helps me bring in the traffic that will hopefully lead to even more loyal readers. thanks for the post and take care, max

  • Ryan Davis

    In my opinion both kep important place in traffic generation in their own way and as business owner definately we need both.

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