Even in the new Twitter/Facebook/Foursquare/Digg/Reddit Social Media onslaught, for an ethical marketer search engine traffic is still by far the BEST source of traffic for most sites, especially newer sites. You sometimes read other places about sites still doing fine after getting canned from Google rankings because of some grey hat (more on that later) technique they used, and I say best for most sites because there are always exceptions, but Search Engine traffic is still king because it is ACTIONable traffic and actionable traffic converts to $$$ better than random traffic.
Think of it this way. How did you get to this site today? Maybe a friend sent you a link about a scam on Facebook, or you came through someone pointing out an article on a forum post you were reading. I would consider you a passive visitor. You came because you were interested in the link, but you were not ACTIVEly looking for information at the time.
The likelihood of you clicking on an ad here is lower than someone who came here by specifically searching for information. Say you typed in “work at home” into a search engine and arrived here. You are ACTIVEly looking for information, and thus far more likely to take ACTION on an ad you see on this site for anything related to working at home jobs, since that is what you came looking for. Your mind will almost subconsciously be scanning for terms related to what you searched for, and you might find it in a context sensitive ad.
These terms are important to remember; passive traffic is not bad at all, it’s just likely to not as good as ACTIVE traffic. And Search Engine traffic is ACTIVE traffic.
NOTE: Targeting your site niche is extremely important here toward your “conversion rate”. Conversion rate is the percentage of visitors that turn into revenue. For example, if you get 100 visitors and 2 of them click a pay per click ad or buy a product, your conversion rate is 2%. Some search engine traffic will always convert better than others, but no matter what you need to carefully target your advertising. A search for “who won american idol” isn’t someone who is going to convert for an affiliate program for earning money online. However, they may convert for albums or DVDs of American Idol winners.
For example, we have one site that targets and gets over 75% of it’s traffic from search engines for people looking for generic terms. For example, they are looking for generic terms, things like “rechargeable power tool”, not “black and decker storm”. And in these cases, the ads on that site get a 8-10% click through ratio, vs a 1-2% ratio on sites that target specific products. Anyone searching for “black and decker storm” has likely already made a decision and is looking for product info or to buy. Anyone looking for “rechargeable power tool” has no idea what they’re looking for and want advice, will click around and be more likely to be interested in a targeted ad for power tools.
Again, search engines aren’t the only game in town, not by a longshot, but if you want free targeted traffic, Google is still king.