Grow your CSS skills. Land your dream job.

Increase Traffic by Reducing Traffic

Published by Chris Coyier

What? Yeah sorry, dumb title.

Here's my point: when websites offer awesome things that seemingly would reduce the amount of traffic they get, the cumulative effect is increasing traffic.

APIs

Flickr offers robust APIs. With them, you can upload, download, browse, whatever. You could be a heavy Flickr user and barely ever visit the actual website. As such, it is a huge and successful service. It probably wouldn't be otherwise.

RSS

Nearly 40,000 people subscribe to this blog (according to FeedBurner stats) and can read every word of it's content without ever visiting the site. 20,000 people visit the site every day. Would I increase traffic by turning off the RSS feed and making those other 20,000 people visit the site to read? Nope.

Direct links

When you link to something, link to IT, not to YOU which in turn links to IT. We do this on Script and Style, and I even have the links from S&S which I syndicate on this site go directly to the source. Admittedly, the Twitter S&S account doesn't do this, because we just haven't figured out how yet. "Removing the hoops", as it were, makes you a more credible source.

Take it with you

I put "Add to Coda" and "Add to TextMate" buttons on all the snippets on this site. Now next time you need that snippet, it will be right where you need it, not on my site.

It's about visitors needs, not yours

The reason it works like this is because you are always better off accommodating the visitors needs over your own - even at the short-term cost of "hurting" yourself.

Comments

  1. You could almost have gotten away with the title, Why my site kicks ass! 20,000 people a day is very impressive.

    • Indicates that web designers are going to face huge competition. Even site owners may start to there own site themselves!

      I should prepare myself for something else!

  2. At first glance that title had me scratching my head, then I read the article. It does seem counter-intuitive that less traffic = more traffic but you are absolutely right. Perhaps your next article could be “How to increase readership through catchy titles”.

  3. Andy
    Permalink to comment#

    Nice article, I thnk you’ve hit the nail on the head with this one! Just goes to show that everything is not about chasing visitors hits and actually providing your content in various forms ( rss etc. ) increases the visibility of your site despite reducing “official” visitors to your site.

  4. boriscallens
    Permalink to comment#

    There is the middle way too: Offering summaries through RSS and requiring the users to go to the site to read the entire article.

    Although I’m no personal fan it may be worth mentioning for completeness’ sake.

    • Permalink to comment#

      There is at least one site that I follow that does their RSS this way. I didn’t realize there was more article to read until about a week ago when I accidentally clicked the title in reader.

      Now I just feel silly for not realizing there was more article to read (I’ve been following this person for at least a year). I’m also peeved that there was no indication that there was more to read.

    • Ginger
      Permalink to comment#

      Either go for RSS all, or don’t use it.

      The power of RSS is that it enables me to NOT visit 500 sites everyday (of which a lot don’t publish content daily/weekly, but less often, tho) – but instead have it all centrally in 1 (web/desktop) application.

      For example Gruml on Mac.

      It would be a bit against the (imho) core feature of RSS to only show summaries.


      Gringer

      PS: A commons argument against full-text in RSS is content-stealers. I’m not sure how good that argument is. Anyone can elaborate on that ?

      @Chris: What’s your opinion on this ?

    • My opinion is that I don’t read sites with partial content feeds. Like you, I don’t have time to visit 500 sites a day individually, that’s what I love RSS. The only reason for a partial feed is to increase click-throughs. That is for YOU as a site-owner, not for YOUR READERS. That’s the point of this article, don’t do things for selfish reasons like that. Do things for your readers, not yourself, and you’ll benefit in the end.

    • It is true that RSS provides a very easy method of content stealing. As all the content is compiled into one place, it is very easy to code a PHP script to pull all the content. So, yes it is very easy.

      In practice however, I feel that RSS-scraping isn’t really used that often. Nowadays, when black-hatters want content (which they use to generate millions of pages filled with ads etcetera) they have this really open resource called Twitter’s API.

      Twitter’s API is bliss; they can use the streaming one – creating pages of content almost instantaneously after the tweets are made.

    • not that I disagree here Chris, I’m all for doing the right thing by the user, but I’m missing the one finishing link.

      How do you benefit? You are dropping your traffic which at the end of the day unless you are putting out a sell-up product is directly hurting your revenue.

      On our site we made the decision on the RSS to use snippets. The reason was simply this: the user can see if this is an article they are interested in, if so they can click through to the website.

      They dont have to frequent us manually, yet we still get the hit if they want to read it. I kind of stand by that decision in that we will never -ever- reach ad-worthey number and generate any income from out efforts if we allow people to access content off site. We already are offering the content for free despite it being our business and livelyhood. Is it too much to ask to get that free information directly off the site?

      I personally don’t think so.

      If I was getting 20k hits I’d maybe be inclined to agree with you, but sadly for us, every single impression on the site is like gold dust. We simply cant afford to lower that number.

      And I dont see how letting people access all the content remotely would ever be of a benefit to us as a business.

      I’d love to agree, I’m keen on usability, but at the end of the day. I gotta eat, my boss has to eat and it’s a constant fight to keep the numbers up as it is.

    • it’s a constant fight to keep the numbers up as it is.

      That’s the magic sentence right there. You think that you keep numbers up by forcing users to visit for the content. That might seem true on the surface, but it’s my opinion that it’s not. The more you do for your users, the easier you make things, the more generous you are, the better source you become in their minds and the more often they’ll come back for more.

    • or the more often they will read your RSS and not contribute to your income?

    • Hey you can think what you wanna think and do what you wanna do. And if that’s focusing on your own needs over your visitors, go for it. I’m just saying I’ve been very successful taking the opposite approach.

    • I’m just trying to figure out how by lowering hits you can improve traffic. I don’t particularly disagree with what you are saying at all, in fact i feel quite forced to keep it as such to protect our stats :/ and I find that very sad also, that our site is being compromised by $$$.

      I dislike the fact that the site uses snippets in the RSS, I have looked at it on many occasions and been tempted to alter it on the spot. I’m definitely not in defense of running RSS like that, but as I said. My hand feels somewhat forced to do so.

      What with the content being maybe 60-70% screencasts of which we will obviously have to shell out for bandwidth the more it’s used. Sacraficing hits on site seems to be suicide.

      I’m being a fence sitting skeptic at the moment as i’m close to the issue, forgive me if it sounds argumentative!

      That’s not the intention at all, could you elaborate on the benefits for me, obviously you understand the process a great deal more. We’re just rookies trying to find the best path.

      Maybe we are turning a lot of people off with it as it is (more than I realise)

    • Greg, if you are so unsure why not do some A/B testing? Run full articles for one month and see if there is a dramatic difference to previous months.

    • Yes, that’s a great idea and I’ll do just that. The feed looks so much richer and healthier already I’m finding it hard to feel bad about it.

      I’ll take the advice and see how it goes.

      Thanks Benjamin, Chris

    • You can say what ever you like. But I think you know Chris- screencasts will force every one to visit your site.
      You already have something that cannot be access through rss.

  5. Good call Chris. The hard part about all of those things is convincing the people that have been doing marketing for years. It’s all about control. They just don’t get that allowing more freedom will bring users and more dedicated ones. It just takes a bit more time that way.

  6. I never understand why people provide partial feeds. Most people don’t subscribe unless they get the full feed, and fewer subscribers means fewer visitors.

  7. Permalink to comment#

    Nice… I love that Man… Another interesting article :D

  8. Permalink to comment#

    Is the last paragraph correct?

    “accommodating the visitors needs over not your own”

    Looks like ‘not’ should be removed.

  9. I provide three feeds at my site; one populated with just articles, one populated with just forum posts, and one which is the result of boths feeds merged.

    On those feeds, I shorten forum posts, which is only because that is the forum software’s default and I haven’t bothered to change it yet.

    In articles, I only give partial content by removing forms and flash content. All text/imagery remains.

  10. Permalink to comment#

    “What? Yeah sorry, dumb title. ”

    hahaha the best intro ever! <3 chris

  11. Permalink to comment#

    this article started a brainstorming for me. it’s short but the points you drew attention to are brillant.

  12. Permalink to comment#

    The reason people don’t use these technologies is that they don’t put the work into making great content and just try to get the page view with a catchy title. If you make great content and make the content accessible to your readers/users, they will be loyal.

  13. Haha, when did readers become so greedy?

    After a good post only a few of them actually takes a min to say thank you in the comments, after a bad post that number increases A LOT, they all want to say that the post is crap.

    They all want to read good content without visiting the site, they all want it in their RSS Reader and all they need to do to give something back to the writer is VISIT the article page. That’s greedy.

    What’s next, should the writer call you on your phone in the morning, say “Good Morning” and read the article for you, because you are just too lazy to read it yourself?

    It takes time and effort to write a post (more then you need to read it), so don’t be lazy, when you see a new post in the RSS Feed click the link and read it on the website, that’s all.

    Anybody agrees with me?

    • Desktop Yes. Mobile No.

      Interestingly, descriptions were the original idea for RSS feed; putting your entire content inside the feed isbactually going against semantical usage.

    • Permalink to comment#

      I use Google reader to group all of the feeds that I’m interested in (Including this one, thanks Chris) and find that most of them syndicate the entire article.

      One thing that I find interesting though is that this isn’t the factor that decides whether I go through to the site or not, the content itself is.

      If I’m reading a review of a piece of software then I’ll read it in Google reader, if I’m reading a tutorial on how to achieve something in Illustrator then I’ll visit the site, despite the tutorial images appearing in the feed. I don’t know why, but I prefer to read it in it’s original environment.

  14. Permalink to comment#

    I call BS on most of the article, but what do I know. I do think a few good points are made.

    I honestly don’t want all the crap on everyone’s site. I have stopped linking to RSS feeds because they would give 4 or 5 articles a week (And only one was worth reading, if any). I would rather have a summary once a week that is important.

    • Permalink to comment#

      Actually I salute Chris for putting down on paper some pretty solid guides towards making a site an excellent resource and thus increasing the faith it’s users have in it – and thereby its own real end-value. I don’t think any of the above would count as ‘BS’.

      Giving Direct Links is just good manners and good, modern Useability. The API’s and the Take it with You arguments make perfect sense for a resource site competing against other resource sites.

      As for the RSS, well, I’m no judge. I only subscribe to services that ask me to in order to support the continuation of that service – I never even read the thing.

      Placing a user’s needs over your own? Well, meeting them half way is probably a better way of putting it. Common Sense at the very least.

  15. Jillian
    Permalink to comment#

    It’s nice how it works out, that its always in website owner’s best interest to do things with the best interest for their readers. Same goes for content. The people at my full time job want to write content for search engines, by using “keywords” and other little “tricks” that they’ve heard of. But the beauty of search engines is that they’re designed to reward those who write valuable, unique content for their users, and not those who just knew the right “tricks”. Good topic!

  16. Haha, this was a fun read.

    I thought the point of RSS was to provide a way for you to group sites you love the most, and know when new content was released. That way you can see a bit of it, and go to the site to see what’s happening.

    I guess people just don’t have the time anymore to do that, but I can’t stand reading articles in an RSS reader without the actual site around it. Maybe that’s just me.

    I love API’s though, it does offer more traffic though. Flickr for example, requires you to link each photo back to its page on Flickr itself. Also when you’re using an API, you would usually want to credit back the source somehow, at least I would because I was able to build that app and also the user will trust you more if it’s from a popular site.

  17. Permalink to comment#

    Feedburner seems a neat thing, but each time I post an article on my blog (and its about 30 daily visitors…) I have to wait 6 to 24 hours before I see it in my RSS reader. And I use NetNewsWire via Google Reader, another google service.

    Weird and annoying…

  18. Permalink to comment#

    I agree with everything you have said Chris… I absolutely hate it when I have to click to a site and then to another site in my rss feeds. For example, css galleries… I really dont give a shit about the css gallery itself, I just want to see the websites it is showcasing. I unsubscribe from sites that are “too much work”

  19. Permalink to comment#

    Good article and very good title.

  20. One thing that annoys me more than anything on the web, on twitter, whatever, is when someone posts a link back to their own site where they have a link then to the real site. I mean come on, are you that desperate for someone to visit your site?

  21. @Chris,

    “I even have the links from S&S which I syndicate on this site go directly to the source”

    Err, no you don’t. The blogroll links go to the Script and Style pages that link to the source.

  22. Nice and short reading. Thanks for lesson.

  23. Havvy
    Permalink to comment#

    RSS makes more sense for showing the entire article, and having the page it links to include comments or other ways for interaction to occur. I don’t want to go to your webpage to just read one person’s writing; I want to interact, or see what everybody else says on the article. If I just wanted to read one person’s writing, I know where the library is (actually, I’m in one right now!) and I know where the bookstores are at.

    • True, while interactivity is nice, for some people it can be big pain without RSS. Think if you were on a mobile device and for some reason weren’t able to load big pages well. RSS can get rid of all the fancy images and just show you what you want to read (the article)

  24. Permalink to comment#

    Yeah, I also see this on Gmail offering Imap or POP3 so you use a client let’s say Thunderbird and you almost NEVER open mail.google.com !

Leave a Comment

Current day month ye@r *

*May or may not contain any actual "CSS" or "Tricks".