What should I focus on first: more traffic or improving customer experience?

The question of quality versus quantity is extremely relevant in the digital world. What should businesses focus on in order to reach their objectives? Should they devote resources to generating more traffic or should they focus on satisfying their existing customers in the hope of attracting a loyal following that organically spreads the word about their product?

It is, of course, important to prioritise the most relevant KPIs. Depending on the stage it is at in its lifecycle, a business is more likely to prioritise a certain set of KPIs over another. For instance, an unknown company might be tempted to focus on reach, while an established brand could be inclined to invest in improving user experience in order to increase conversions. But what should one focus on first, or is focusing on both, simultaneously, a better option?

In this article, we will explore the benefits provided by each strategy, highlighting the connections between traffic and user experience in order to assist businesses in creating a balanced digital strategy.

Traffic first

The main benefit of focusing on traffic metrics is quite obvious. Increased traffic means more users reach your website, and more users mean more opportunities to generate conversions. However, a poor user experience can render all traffic-oriented marketing efforts useless, wasting precious resources.

Neglecting user-experience can cause a high bounce-rate. If the website’s loading speed is too slow, or if it’s not mobile friendly, most users will click away in a couple of seconds. In fact, according to recent data, one in four users would abandon a website that loads in more than 4 seconds.

Furthermore, a poorly designed user experience will also hinder organic traffic in the long term by deterring new users from becoming returning visitors. Even if the user is patient enough to go through the required steps and does not bounce off the website immediately, he will most likely not return a second time. And, as we all know, returning visitors make up a large portion of website traffic. So, we cannot help but ask ourselves whether this type of one-time paid interaction is actually valuable.

Investing in traffic-focused campaigns will indeed help your message reach a wider audience. That said, since the average person supposedly sees between 6.000 and 10.000 ads daily, if the experience is not memorable, it simply cannot remain first in mind. This type of awareness is fleeting and it takes substantial efforts to constantly remind consumers that your company exists. Thus, due to the negative user experience and the intrusive campaigns, businesses can actually end up with the desired consumer attention, but with a negative brand image.

One might argue that investing in SEO could potentially attract users at a fraction of the costs required for a far-reaching digital campaign. However, as we will discover in the next section, search engine optimisation is a complex process where user experience plays a key role.

It’s safe to say that investing in traffic purely for the sake of generating awareness is not an effective strategy to begin with, and, if a company is additionally hoping to generate more conversions solely by reaching a wider audience, it’s best to be prepared for even more disappointing results.

A carefully crafted user experience helps users quickly find the products they are looking for. So, naturally, a poor user experience will ultimately also negatively impact the number of conversions. With so many alternatives available online, no one is willing to settle for a subpar user experience.

So, if focusing on traffic first without offering too much consideration to the user’s experience on the platform is not an effective strategy, one cannot but wonder whether investing in good UX first might provide better results.

User experience first

Creating a great user experience is about much more than crafting an aesthetically pleasing platform. It includes all aspects of the user’s journey on your platform, from the first seconds to the final checkout page. Page loading time, navigation features, information hierarchy and structure, responsive features and even the quality of the website’s content heavily influence the overall user experience. That’s why creating a quality UX experience is an intricate process that requires thorough testing and experimentation. However, according to Toptal, the results are worth the hassle, with 90% of users deciding to continue shopping thanks to good UX.

There’s really no denying that user experience is a powerful driver for increasing conversions, but does it also influence traffic? First of all, as we’ve previously mentioned, a memorable UX experience that provides informative content and a swift checkout process will most likely prompt users to return to the website, thus contributing to an increase in returning visitors. Nevertheless, a growing business also requires a constant flow of new users in order to develop.

Can good UX help websites attract new users as well? The short answer is yes. In fact, a good user experience has become essential for generating organic traffic. As we all know, search engines like Google prioritise websites that offer an up-to-date viewing experience, all in the interest of delivering the best possible results to their own users. Just think back to “Mobilegeddon”, when the Google algorithm started penalizing websites that were not mobile friendly as a reaction to the increase in mobile traffic.

For better or worse, user experience significantly impacts a website’s SEO score. And in order to understand to what extent, we must first clarify what search engine optimisation actually entails in 2021.

Today, SEO includes on-page SEO and off-page SEO, and a good user experience might help improve both. On the one hand, on-page SEO consists of a series of tweaks within the website’s structure, source code and content, that aid Google’s algorithm to properly rank the website. On the other hand, off-page SEO helps the search engine algorithm evaluate how relevant the content actually is for certain queries. Search engines such as Google base this evaluation on the popularity of the content and automatically equate a large number of referrals or backlinks to high quality content.

A carefully crafted user experience relies heavily on quality content that is relevant for users. This type of content naturally contains all the right keywords in all the right places simply because it offers great insights. However, high-quality content that includes appropriate keywords is relevant for search engines as well, helping websites rank higher.

User experience can also impact off-page SEO. When users share content and generate backlinks thanks to the perfectly positioned social sharing buttons, the website’s SEO score will also get a little boost.

A great user experience can help improve organic traffic by reducing the website’s bounce rate and by persuading users to become returning visitors. It can even positively impact search engine rankings, thus attracting more new users towards the platform. It can help users convert easily. But it is not enough to ensure business success. Generating traffic still matters when it comes to attracting an audience. Regardless of how much your audience enjoys your website, it is always going to be difficult to compete with other businesses that have already spent years developing their online following. Focusing on traffic can help you narrow that gap.

To conclude, traffic and user experience are interdependent, so focusing on one, while ignoring the other, will most likely not lead to impressive results. So, to return to our initial question, what should a business focus on first? The best approach is to pay attention to both traffic and user experience from the very beginning. A little can go a long way when it comes to user experience, as, most often than not, consumers prefer a standard experience to a more creative one. Plus, investing in traffic can help generate buzz about a brand even if you only allocate a small percentage of your total budget for campaigns. Striving for balance, and experimenting along the way, is the best strategy for getting the best ROI on your marketing efforts.

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