WHAT YOU WILL LEARN
In this lesson you will learn how to analyze Internet Traffic. You will be reminded that Internet traffic consists of human beings with desires and interests and goals of their own. You will learn how to get into the “flow” of Internet traffic using value and ease of use, combined with effective traffic building strategies.
IT’S LIKE WATER
Think of what we know about early humans and how they migrated and settled. Water is a basic human need. If early man did not live close to water, then he had to bargain for it from others who transported the water into his area. People who did not live close to water had to have several vessels to store what water they could get their hands on. The consequence was that people who settled far from any river or stream had to spend a great deal of their time and resources trying to obtain and store water — and they never really had more than just enough to get by. On the other hand, people who settled near a large river or stream could freely dip out all the water they needed in abundance. When it came to water, positioning was everything. Any map will show that large successful settlements are usually close to free flowing water.
Analogies have been made between money and water. It has been suggested that if you position yourself where money freely flows, you will obtain a lot more of it with less effort than if you position yourself in some remote location relative to the “money stream”. The analogy to water is equally useful when applied to Internet traffic.
ANALYZING INTERNET TRAFFIC
MARKETING FORCES IN HARDWARE AND SOFTWARE
Similar to how the forces of nature and history determined where rivers flow across the earth’s surface, the history and forces of the Internet have shaped how Internet traffic flows across the wires and ether. For the most part, people make their initial connection to Cyberspace in one of two fashions: they either dial in from home or work, or they connect through a network at work. In order to do this, they have to have software that creates a TCP/IP socket. To view the World Wide Web, they also need software called an Internet browser. That socket and that browser are the first opportunities for anyone to get their attention in Cyberspace. Some socket software allows for ads to be shown as the Internet connection is established.
Browsers have three features that control Internet traffic. Those three features are “Home Page”, “Favorites” or “Bookmarks,” and “History.” The Home Page is all important. That is the first page you see when you open your browser. You see this page over and over on a daily basis. Internet Service Providers (ISPs) provide their subscribers software which sets the ISP’s page as the subscribers’ home page and even sets some of their favorites. Even though many subscribers may eventually change their home page, ISPs, by their very nature, have a natural tap into much of the Internet’s traffic. ISPs that provide an expansive and encyclopedic digital environment along with their access, such as AOL, really have a tap into the traffic. Software companies that make browsers (and there are really only two players here – Microsoft and Netscape) can have pre-set bookmarks and favorites. Operating systems can control consumers’ choices of an ISP by having software built into the operating system. (Sometimes it seems like there is a battle for your attention going on inside your computer when various software packages pop up and ask to be made the “default” software.) The fairness of this type of competition has been the subject of a major antitrust action by the Justice Department against Microsoft.
The History feature of a browser, on the other hand, just makes it more likely that you will return to a page once you have been there before. This, in addition to the other features, makes it more likely that pages with traffic will gain even more traffic.
Other types of software-based online marketing include software that resides on your screen independent of a Web browser and displays ads while you surf. You are paid or otherwise rewarded for the time you spend using this software. An example is AllAdvantage.
THE ROLE OF CONSUMER CHOICE
Once a user gets beyond these built-in features vying for his or her attention, it becomes more a matter of choice. The Internet user can type in a URL and go to Web pages that have come to the user’s attention through word of mouth or some other media. From there, the user is likely to follow links to other similar pages. As memories may fail, typing errors may occur and links may be outdated; this process only takes the user so far. The next thing a user looks for on the Web is a way to directly find things of interest to him or her. Search engines fulfill that function and have been the most popular sites on the Web. Yahoo! was the original Web search engine and thus, by mere force of history, has been one of the most popular sites on the Web. As a general rule, search engines and the large digital environments of the media companies (such as AOL, Go.com, MSNBC, etc.) maintain the top traffic rankings. Because search engines exist, the choice and interests of the user are a strong factor, dispersing Internet traffic according to demographics. That is, unlike the traditional broadcast media, traffic branches off to different sites according to people’s interests.
Stephani Richardson, the administrator of the SFI Discussion Board and one of the most successful affiliates in SFI, advises that you put yourself in the position of the persons you are trying to recruit. Think from their perspective rather than your own. This, of course, is excellent advice! People on the Web are looking for content. They seek information applicable to themselves. To be a successful Internet marketer, you must take time to think about how people use the Internet.
When staring at their Web browser, people have these choices: They can type in a URL that someone told them about, they can read their home page and follow links from it, they can look at a page in their history or in their favorites, they can go to one of the very popular sites and follow links, or they can go to a search engine and follow links or compose a search phrase.
In order to be the target of a link or be listed in a search engine, you must have a Web presence.
TWO IMPORTANT PRINCIPLES FOR YOUR WEB PRESENCE: VALUE AND FLOW
The first principle illuminating how people use the Web is that it takes value for a Website to be “sticky.” A 1998 article in Science magazine stated that Web surfers are constantly making a judgment about continuing to visit a Website or exiting the site. Two factors come into play: the value of the current page and the promise of value in future site pages. That is, even if the current page has a low perceived value, if there is an indication that the quality of pages may improve, users will stay on the site for another page or two more. But if there is no value, they will leave the site very quickly. This is why we hear so often that “content is king.” When they leave for lack of value, they are never coming back.
The second principle is that there must be a balance between the difficulty of using a Website and the rewards the user obtains from the Website. The term “flow” has been used to describe what occurs when a user loses himself in a Website. Flow occurs when the user becomes so absorbed that time and task temporarily become unimportant. Whatever the user started out to do online gets temporarily forgotten while they enjoy your site. When flow occurs, direction, inhibitions, and caution give way to impulse, and the user is much more likely to join or buy something promoted on the site. The site must be both interesting and easy to navigate for this to occur.
Flow is also a concept that applies to movement from one Website to another. Banners or textual links must be in context and create a smooth transition from one site to another to be effective. Otherwise, the flow is broken and interest is lost.
Once you have planned a Website that has value and creates flow, you need to direct traffic to your site. The four important goals of traffic building are: 1) obtaining the right domain name, 2) obtaining good publicity, 3) obtaining an effective portal presence, and 4) utilizing and maintaining flow in the placement of your Internet ads. Ads, of course, can be free, exchanged, or paid. All of these will be discussed in detail in future lessons.
To be an effective Internet marketer, you need to analyze and understand Internet traffic and, very importantly, you must understand that the “traffic” consists of human beings with feelings and interests and desires. You must understand that they are looking for what they want to find – not what you want them to find. You must understand that they will get there through their methods – not the methods you may prefer for them to use. The old broadcast media methods of controlling attention do not work so well on the Internet. It’s a new game. You must use valuable content and ease of use to create flow. You must properly position your site within the flow of Internet traffic. Once you get this right (and you will), you are on the road to becoming a very successful Internet entrepreneur.
WHAT’S COMING NEXT
In previous lessons, we have introduced you to Spam and the exciting potential of Internet income. In this lesson, we introduced you to Internet traffic patterns. With this foundation laid, our next lesson will address some nuts and bolts to get you started right away with Internet marketing. We will list the ten most common Internet marketing methods and give you a brief overview of the first five. We will point you to resources to help you get started immediately on this exciting and profitable venture.