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What Is the Difference Between Earned and Paid Traffic?

Mar 21 2013, 06:00 AM by

In recent years, advertisers have had to readjust their marketing strategies to meet the demands of Internet-driven culture. These days, the primary aim of marketing teams is to transition from print to online promotion, in order to generate as much company website traffic as possible. This can be achieved via either paid or earned traffic, or through a combination of both. What follows is a discussion of the differences between these two methods.
Definition of Paid Traffic
Paid media is the more longstanding approach to generating website traffic. In this method, companies pay for ad spots on other websites or on television, just as they might pay to purchase space in a print publication. Some business owners and advertising teams favor paid media because it allows them to exert more control over their online identity and promotional material, though it is quickly becoming evident that paid traffic may not be enough for a business to keep up with the competition.
Examples of Paid Traffic
Paid traffic can be generated in a number of different ways. Companies can pay to have a web banner displayed on a related website, or they can offer to sponsor another business in order to gain increased media attention. Paid traffic can also be comprised of “pay-per-click” features on other websites, which are strategically placed advertisements that will take consumers directly to another company website.
Definition of Earned Traffic
Unlike paid traffic, earned traffic is less directly controlled by the business itself. It is web content produced by the consumer. Earned media can, of course, be stimulated by paid media, since a consumer might see a paid ad and then share information about a company via digital word of mouth. In large part, though, earned traffic remains out of the company’s hands.
Examples of Earned Traffic
The most effective forms of earned traffic include Facebook posts and Tweets, social media updates that have the power to reach a wide audience at a rapid pace. Blogs can also generate earned traffic, particularly if they include video feed or a frequent mention of a company’s name. Because these forms of advertisement appear less manipulated by corporations and are more personalized by the consumer, they are often considered to be a more valued or respected form of media promotion.
Pros and Cons
Paid media is the fastest way to generate site traffic and immediately reach a wide audience, though it does not guarantee customer loyalty. Earned traffic is a bit more difficult for companies to generate, and companies may need to conduct more research into the habits of their consumer base in order to establish a strong company/client relationship. When earned traffic is achieved, however, it can help a business “go viral” and can establish a loyal customer base more successfully than paid media.

To maximize website traffic, it is nearly essential for companies to use a combination of both paid and earned media. A company (especially a start-up) may only be able to create paid traffic in the early stages of promotion, but once word begins to spread, earned media can serve as a lucrative complement to paid advertisements.

Posted in Tips & Resources, SEO

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