Negative Traffic: Here’s the Thing…

A couple of weeks ago on Freelance Writing Jobs I wondered if all traffic equals good traffic. Specifically, did I want to purposely stir up negativity and controversy as a way to increase traffic? Though I already knew the answer, I gave it a little test. Here’s what I found:

  1. Negative traffic stays long enough to make a negative impact and then it goes away. You can get on the front page of Digg as the result of a negative or controversial post, but as soon as your new visitors have had their fun, they’re gone. Very few will return on a regular basis. Most only come by to tell you you’re wrong. I’d rather focus my efforts on creating content that will keep people coming back for more, and stimulate intelligent and useful discussion among the members of my community.
  2. My community doesn’t like negativity. The members of my community at FWJ want to discuss freelancing, specifically freelance writing and blogging. They’re not so much interested in a lot of “you’re wrong and you suck” type comments. A couple of weeks ago when I received a rush of negative traffic, a couple of my regulars told me they weren’t comfortable visiting my blog when people were cursing and name calling. Though I deleted all the offensive posts, I would have alienated my community if I allowed it to continue.
  3. Negativity doesn’t mean ad revenue. When I received the negative traffic I didn’t do well, revenue wise. People who come to your blog to insult you and tell you you’re wrong aren’t going to click or buy anything. In comparison, I had major Stumble Upon traffic a few days later and revenue went way up.
  4. Your reputation is at stake. Do you want to be known for teaching something useful or for writing linkbait? See item number one above. Negativity begets negativity. Don’t expect something positive to happen at your blog when you’re stirring up the pot or doing your best to offend. If you want people to consider you an important resource, you’ll write important blog posts. If you want people to think you know how to attract negative publicity, continue to find controversy.

I think it’s possible to write good, link worthy posts that enlighten, inform and entertain without having to resort to negativity or controversy. Remember, when it comes to blogs, you reap what you sow. And that’s not always good.

13 thoughts on “Negative Traffic: Here’s the Thing…

  1. .. But, a great life lesson i.m.o. I know deep down I want people to see me [HART (1-800-HART)] online and believe I am down to earth, approachable, and seems to get along with everybody. My name is on all my sites and my network name .. and I try to avoid negativity if I can. Controversy that could bring negativity just doesn’t seem like worth it for the instant 15 seconds of fame.

    Thanks for sharing insights Deb!

  2. That is good stuff, and Aaron is a master at whacking the hornets nest with a big ol stick when he needs to

  3. This post reminded me of an Aaron Wall post

    A quote from the post:

    If you are trying to build a profitable and sustainable brand it is much easier to talk about how smart people are rather than how dumb we are. When you are negative it cuts directly into your sales. Not only does it lower your immediate sales (you can see it in the conversion rate numbers), but it also sacrifices a portion of your authority and credibility (future distribution and sales), while drawing a cynical following that is unlikely to buy much of anything (beyond a good conspiracy theory, at least). As an added bonus, if you get too many cynical people in your community they will also prevent others from wanting to join it. Perceived success or failure becomes a self fulfilling prophecy.

  4. Deb. I think that I’d take it as a sign of accomplishment, knowing what I know about human nature.

    Seriously. Popularity breeds contempt. So if success is a goal, then its reasonable to expect contempt to follow.

    The key is to differentiate between contempt that is justified and contempt that is childish. Once you make that distinction, it should be obvious that the next step is to ignore childish contempt.

  5. And what if Google returned 8,560 results saying Performancing sucked? Would you be comfortable with that? I’m guessing not. Not all publicity is good publicity.

  6. Chris,
    Branding: to be honest, my only interest is branding myself as someone who tells the truth and is fully human. There are plenty of professionals out there who come across as 1) dishonest and 2) cold and machine like.

    I’d rather make mistakes and get take to the woodshop, then be paralyzed by a fear of making “errors of judgement”.

  7. Two things:
    1) Reputation management – If your name serp is all “so and so sucks” or “your name is a ____” then that isn’t great

    2) Branding – What do you want to be remembered for? Are you trying to cultivate a professional image? Professionalism and errors of judgment don’t go well

  8. I’d rather not have any links than to have 20 people link to me and say, “That Deb Ng has no clue what she’s talking about. Take this post, for example….”

    So if you’re getting all the links, what are they saying? I’m all for new traffic as much as the next guy, but I also have to keep my reputation in check.

  9. One thing Deb: if you actually take the time to read the comments at Digg/Reddit, often, they are negative criticism. If someone’s negativity makes them feel powerful, but in the end gives my website more power, I’m willing to make the sacrifice.

  10. This is a good question to ask, Deb. I go back and forth on it. I don’t like negative attention, but at the end of the day, if negative attention gets me a few dozen links, I’ll take it…and put then try to forget what all the stupid people say;-)

  11. I’ve read blogs where the blogger seems to stir up trouble just for the sake of stirring it up (or at least it seems that way) and frankly it seems like a lot of work. Not fun work to boot. I think in the web world you don’t have a whole lot of chances to make impressions — unless you blog under different names. People are going to know you from how you come across at your jobs. I don’t like being thought of as mean, negative, or worse obnoxious. I’m not nice all the time; like I’d never sugar coat greenwashing but overall I like nice people and mostly chill blogs. That environment is less stressful for me.

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