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Job Board Definitions IV

(May 03, 2004) - There is a subtle little catch in the Traffic acquisition story. The only way that traffic matters is if you have some way to "catch it." Traffic that stops in for a quick visit and then leaves without offering any information is either useless or evidence of bad targeting. This is not really a function of the website's technology, but of the market thinking behind the website.

In a recent conversation with Steve Pogorzelski (Monster's President), he repeatedly pointed out that visitors to Monster stayed longer, on average, and that "a large percentage of visitors to Hot Jobs and CareerBuilder only looked at one page before departing." The specifics are unimportant, but the underlying principle is everything.

Traffic acquisition means buying advertising on other sites. It is a complicated game and beyond the abilities of most advertising agencies (except, perhaps, Hodes). Traffic acquisition must be done in-house by any firm hoping to really succeed in the traffic reselling business. It is a core competency for any job board, corporate or commercial.

A clever ad that points to a "home page" will draw a percentage of the visitors, who see it (usually around 1% to 5%). Whether or not they continue to investigate and participate in the advertised site is entirely a function of what they see when they get there. While the language remains cloudy, there is a world of difference between a visitor, who sees one page and then goes back to what she was doing, and one, who sees the page and clicks further into the process.

The point of a website is to catch momentary visitors and convert them into longer term players. That way, whatever is being sold can be sold. (It's worth a bit of time to take a look at the amazing website at Salary.com. At each step of the process, the visitor is offered either more information leading to a sale or an opportunity to leave in a way that generates revenue.) The most successful operations review visitor behavior very regularly and modify their offering so that a larger percentage of the initial visitors stay awhile longer.

It's an ongoing process of experimentation and incremental success. The website, like other forms of quality we've discussed, must always be in the process of improving. In this case, "Yield" can be improved by closely monitoring behavior and associating it with its source and its consequences. The idea is that improved website performance equals reduced traffic acquisition costs and more effective audience "reach." Website performance, on this level, is a competitive advantage when executed continuously and well.

It's important to underline the fact that we are not discussing a technical attribute of the job board website. Traffic flow planning begins with the very first page that a visitor hits in response to the ad that brought them there in the first place. Visitor experience is a marketing task, akin to but not the same as usability. The goal is to shape the visitor's experience in the direction that you want it to go. The process takes planning, experimentation, improvement and constant watching. It is the part of traffic acquisition that converts a momentary visitor into a useful acquisition.

John Sumser

The Job Board Definitions Series:

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