“More traffic is always better!” is a thought pattern that just won’t do the web a favor and crawl under a log.

Yes, websites need traffic to accomplish anything. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned in years of doing research for clients it’s this: the bulk of websites either parrot the same information or talk about things that don’t make sense for their audience in the vain hopes of extra traffic.

Ego marketing in confused messages


Take a cleaning company blogging about fun facts and tips about home cleaning. Commercial cleaning and home cleaning are not the same audience, first of all. If the point of your website is to persuade people why they shouldn’t be doing the cleaning, does giving them cleaning tips make any sense?

“But we talked about cleaning, so now we’ll rank better for that!”

Sigh… maybe. But if I’m actually doing a search for cleaning tips, I’m not looking to hire someone. Meaning I may stumble on your page and grab a few tips, but then I’m out. I’m not your target audience, yet I am the target of your content. And before you claim altruism and for the good of spreading information, we should point out that you shared information that appears a thousand other places.

If it were truly about spreading the word, why not share someone else’s work rather than rehash it for the 863rd time? Because rankings.

It’s serving ego.

If that sounds harsh, here’s why. It serves no one. It’s not useful to the kinds of folks your site is actually for, and if we’re honest it doesn’t really even help you. So your traffic numbers went up a bit this month. And then nothing else happened. What was the value?

Look, I feel like I should disclaim something. I’m not saying you can never write content just to help someone and enrich your blog, because you absolutely should. But in this example there’s a difference between occasionally sharing loosely related topics to fill out the post diversity and making a pattern of talking to the wrong audience.

If a pizza place is constantly telling people how to make pizza at home, if a quick lube shop is constantly teaching people how to change their own oil — and so on — they’re confusing their message. Not to mention competing against themselves. They’re actively persuading readers away from their service!

(And if you’re wondering, this is inescapably prevalent.)

This is a big piece of emotionography — understand the feelings and desires of your audience, and stay in control of your message.

Here’s another good example of a confused message. Don’t share how much money your industry is worth as a fun fact in a post trying to persuade someone to buy your services. If I tell you commercial cleaning is a $78 billion industry, your mind is now focused on how much money cleaning companies are raking in.

I’ve created the perception that cleaners are all in on some price gouging scheme, and it’s going to be harder than ever for me to justify my price to you. Once again, the message worked against the goal.

So how does this relate to SEO and rankings?

Inexperienced SEOs and business owners trying their own web marketing often think that as long as Analytics shows higher traffic numbers than last month they must be doing the right thing.

But most businesses are in business to make money. There’s no shame in that inherently and we shouldn’t hide from it. Your website is a tool to generate revenue. Traffic that doesn’t do that is meaningless.

It’s an ego thing to fruitlessly rank for every variation of a given search term under the sun just for the sake of it. It’s ego to say “my website gets sooo much traffic” just because a number makes you feel good. We all have egos, but they shouldn’t steer our marketing.