Can you buy your visitors?

Can you buy your visitors?

21st April 2010

Money is what makes the world go around. And money could also be the trigger for many to take a step they otherwise might not have taken that easy or to get the attention of those who are otherwise hard to reach. So if you want traffic to your website, but it isn’t going fast enough, why not throw in some money?

Its a concept which many sites have tested, with different success. Some ‘bought’ traffic by paying for advertising, others have tried to give away stuff to get visitors to come back to their sites. Microsoft is probably the best or at least the biggest example of a site, in this case even a search engine, trying to ‘buy their way in’ by throwing in hard cash for every search with their cashback program. The most recent one going this way is real time search engine Leapfish, where you can win $100,000 in cash and prizes if you help the search engine reach the 20 million searches they want in 2010.

Leapfish is giving away $100,000 in gadgets, prizes and cash to Internet users who “participate in leveraging the search engine in unique ways”. In their efforts they smartly rely on the social media efforts their users can perform. In stead of putting the attention on doing searches they are trying to persuade the participants to blog, tweet, create home pages, refer friends, make videos and use other ‘social’ tools. Each effort will earn the participants points which can be traded in for prizes.

What Leapfish is doing is in a way not much different than what Microsoft did, and what many other sites have done before. The biggest difference is that they are wisely using the social media for their efforts, making it easier for users to participate. They are trying to reach the participants in places they hang out, they dared to step away from their site (a little).

Still, there are many people making objections to these kind of efforts to get more visitors and brand awareness. But are they right? Let’s take a look at some plusses and minuses in trying to get people to go to your site.

The minuses

There are a few minuses to getting the visitors by simply throwing in the money:
Quality of users: you will get traffic, but the question remains, is it quality traffic? How do you know the users aren’t in it ‘just for the money’? Will they come back? Chances are you might win 100s of visitors, but will lose them as fast as you’ve gained them.
Your brand might be harmed: Some people might think its ‘cheap’ if you just throw in the cash and might take a different perspective on your brand than you hoped for. Especially in Europe there are many countries in which the ‘elite’ believes that doing specials like this devaluates your brand, so beware, it might harm your brand also.

The plusses

But off course, every downside has it upside and there must be plusses to it, otherwise nobody would do it:
Traffic: It will get you a decent amount of traffic. Chances are you will be getting the traffic you are aiming for, which off course is why you started it in the first place.
Some will stay: There will be a percentage which will stick around: from the big boost in traffic you create many will be almost useless, they will come and go and never return. However, chances are you will also keep a percentage of them. Depending on the way you ‘bought’ the traffic and depending on the quality you deliver afterwards (Leapfish for example must have their searchresults in order) there always will be those you reach who believe in your product.
Backlinks: it will get you backlinks: Leapfish now knows that because of the prizes they are giving away they will receive an interesting amount of backlinks. After all, one of the ways you can earn points is by blogging about the search engine and I’m blogging about them now, which also shows that other websites who noticed will write about it.

Does it work?

So there are plusses and minuses. But does it work? Will it get you the traffic you want and get you the attention you want? I think it will, but only if you do it right. For that you have to get things right and think about the consequences.

Things to think about:

don’t push it: don’t try to get the users to do things they don’t like or are not used to be doing. For example don’t create another service they have to sign up for. Keep it within their own circle
reserve the quality: remember, your aim is to get visitors and to keep them. So you must reserve the quality of your services. If you ‘sell’ searches like Leapfish and Microsoft, be sure that your search results are worth the second visit. If your results are not in order your money will be lost.
“we want more”: people might come back to your site expecting more. So if you do it once, you might be forced to do it more times, to keep hold of the visitors.
beware of your brand: make it fit. If you do something like this, be sure that you make it fit to your brand. Don’t do anything which your visitors would hate because its ‘so not you’. It will affect your brand if you do it so beware of the consequences. If it doesn’t fit in with your brand don’t do it.

So, finally, what about the user? The one being targeted. Would you do all the things the service asks just to get to those prizes? Many will I’m sure of that. After all, we are all human. If we get the chance to get stuff for free, we will not hesitate. So yes, I think you will. As long as it ‘fits’, right? As for Leapfish. I’m gonna give it a try, who knows, maybe I’ll win ;).


Written By
Bas van den Beld is an award winning Digital Marketing consultant, trainer and speaker. He is the founder of State of Digital and helps companies develop solid marketing strategies.
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