Traffic Spikes and Traffic Ramps – Measuring What Matters

This is a guest post by Danny Iny, an author, strategist, serial entrepreneur, and proud co-founder of Firepole Marketing, the definitive marketing training program for small businesses, entrepreneurs, and non-marketers.

Traffic spikes are awesome!

If you’re like most bloggers, you watch your stats daily, if not several times per day. And if you’re like most bloggers, you know how awesome it can feel to have a massive influx of traffic.

Sometimes that rush of traffic is created by your targeted efforts – maybe you published a guest post on an authority bog, or you’re running a pay-per-click campaign, or you produced a piece of exceptional content that went completely viral.

Other times, it seems to happen out of nowhere – maybe a big blogger randomly links to you, and suddenly the floodgates open.

Either way, when you see that traffic dot shoot up, and up, and up, it can be exhilarating – you might even be tempted to sit there and hit the refresh key over, and over, and over again, to watch it keep on rising.

Sometimes, that traffic sticks around; the initial spike lasts two or three days, and when it comes back down to earth, it doesn’t come as far down as it was before.

But other times, it comes all the way back down, and you’re back to square one, wondering “where did everybody go?”

The traffic spikes are sexy and seductive, but once you’ve had a couple of them, they lose that appeal. You realize that they aren’t that hard to manufacture; write a guest post for a big blog, or if you really just want to see the spike, spend a few hundred dollars on AdWords and you’ll get one.

The truth is that the traffic spikes don’t matter – not even a little.

Traffic Spikes and Traffic Ramps

See, anything you do to get more traffic to your site is a kind of marketing, and the smarter marketers out there know that when you measure the effectiveness of a marketing campaign, there are two important numbers that you want to track:

1. The Bump: This is the extra business that the campaign brings in the door. It is immediate and measurable, and what most business owners are after when they track their marketing.

2. The Ramp: This is the growth to the business’s regular operations, after the spike is over. This is harder to track, but so much more valuable, because it keeps on contributing to the business’s bottom line.

The traffic spike is sexy and exciting, but not important – what matters is the ramp. After all, steady traffic and regular visitors are the real lifeblood of your blog!

Converting Spikes into Ramps

The real trick in growing a blog isn’t just to get people to see your blog once, but to get them to keep on coming back for more – in other words, you want your visitors to “stick”.

It isn’t that hard, as long as you’ve got your bases covered. Here are the bases:

1. First base: Get the right visitors. If it’s the ramp that you’re after, then all spikes are certainly not created equal. The spike you want is made up of visitors who fit your customer profiles, and at least potentially interested in what you have to say. To find these people, first figure out who they are, and then where they hang out. In the blogging world, this means finding the authority blogs that your audience follows.

2. Second base: Prime the visitors. Before these people are sent over to your site, you want to make sure they’ve already been given a good impression of you. This doesn’t happen when you run ads, so you’ve got to guest post, or get the blogger to link to you with a favorable review.

3. Third base: Reward the visitors. When the wave of track crashes on the banks of your blog, you need to put your best foot forward to greet them. Make sure you have the most compelling, relevant and high quality content you can waiting for the new visitors. This might mean creating a special landing page just for them, or writing a post that follows on from the message that originally sent them over.

4. Home base: Invite the visitors to stay. It’s sad to see a blogger get the right visitors, prime them, and reward them with good content when they arrive, but make it difficult for them to subscribe for updates – but it happens!

Speaking from personal experience, there are a few otherwise excellent blogs that I’ve visited, enjoyed, and left frustrated when I couldn’t find an email subscription option. Everyone has their favorite way of following a blog – make sure that the different options are available on yours, and that there are many clear opportunities for new visitors to opt in (tip: if you aren’t already doing it, then add a WP Greet Box to the bottom of each post saying “if you liked this, then subscribe”).

That’s it – four bases to cover, and if you cover them well, you’ll convert those short-term spikes into indefinitely rewarding traffic ramps.

What’s your experience with spikes and ramps? Do you have a favorite way of converting a first-time visitor into a loyal subscriber? Please share it in the comments!

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  1. says

    Daniel Son!

    You always have an interesting way of explaining the details of strategies for growth and retention. You’re doing a lot out there, keep up that hard work. Viral is always fun.. in fact, it’s addicting! Takes a lot though, in enchantment and purpose, not just strat. Solid post though, man.

    • says

      Hey Ryan, thanks, man! Yeah, you’re right – it isn’t *just* about strategy, the content has to make it work, and that won’t happen if you aren’t authentically behind what you’re doing. :)

  2. says

    I am definitely one of those folks mentioned who watches their site views/plays/whatever numbers rise and fall on analytics graphs every day, watching them rise and fall seemingly randomly. You can’t take the day-to-day changes too seriously because they’re actually just normal fluctuations!

  3. says

    Dear Danny

    What a clever (“Sexy) way to jazz up the material! Loved it.

    Thanks for reminding me that the spikes are not what really matters. Will add the WP Greet Box after my posts :) Great tip!


  4. says

    That first point of getting the right visitors… I had false alarms because of that, a lot of times. After some time, it started to become funny. :)
    One of my posts would get really popular on StumbleUpon or Digg, and then a massive flood of visitors would come for that day… And the next day… Gone. 😀
    The best visitors, from my experience, are those from Search Engines and relevant blogs that link to yours.
    Dennis just posted Add Your Friends From Facebook To Google+ (Plus)

  5. says

    Your advice put a smile on my face. I’ve been online writing since 1994 and it’s funny to see new bloggers coming online that have not learned these lessons yet.

    Just as a matter of sharing the other lessons that seem to be learned by all newbies is to understand the Google dance and that you can’t sit back and feel comfortable you are ever done creating the best site. Everything you knew two years ago has changed, new algorithms come out and new devices change the way people interact with the world.

    It’s an interesting and dynamic adventure to deal with traffic surges and spikes. And oh yes, from the locker of lessons learned, always make sure your server or host has capabilities for a burst.
    Get Out of Debt Guy just posted Is Bankruptcy After Divorce and Option? – Mandy

    • says

      Thanks for stopping by, GOODG!

      You’re right – things keep on changing and changing, and the only source of security is from an audience that loves what you’re doing.

      And yeah, it bites the big one if you get one of those huge spikes and your server can’t handle it!

  6. says

    Hey Danny, terrific read. I couldn’t stop laughing about “hitting the refresh button”. I was like, is there a camera here I don’t know about! Thanks for breaking this down into sections ( a baseball fan I see!). I will be focusing much more on first base, then work towards the others.

    To answer your question about first time visitors, I offer email subscription boxes on several locations throughout the site. This would include each blog footer, the blog sidebar, about me page, and why subscribe page. At some point I will begin adding some additional offers to entice subscribers.

    Thanks -Adam
    Adam Sokoloff just posted The Five Biggest Website Secrets of A-List Bloggers

  7. says

    I run over a dozen sites and I’ve found that getting that viral traffic spike rarely happens when you are actively targeting it whilst writing your content.

    The best way I’ve found is to write about a topic that you’re passionate about but perhaps have a different view on than the majority of people. When people see the title of a piece that “goes against the grain” it draws their interest much more than “[Popular product] is Awesome!”. You don’t have to be rude about it but if you can give valid reasons about your point of view it opens up room for discussion and increases the likelihood of others linking to your post.

  8. says

    I’m still a relatively small blog, and the first time I had a traffic spike from Stumble I almost had heart palpitations. Hey, that’s exciting stuff for small bloggers like me! But you’re right, in the long run it’s not the spike that matters, it’s what you do to get them to come back. Thanks for the tip on the WP Greet Box, I’m going to look into that next.
    Nikki just posted Author Guest Post: Bo Hoefinger, Our First Ever Guest Post by a Dog