When Sex Refuses to Sell

When Sex Refuses to Sell

Reader Comments (67)

  1. No that’s not what he’s trying to do, because this article is completely relevant to this audience. It’s not off topic just because it has “sex” in the title and a provocative photo.

    Now, posting about Linsday Lohan’s sex life with no online marketing tie-in would be completely off topic. It might produce traffic, but it would be the wrong kind of traffic.

    Easy, right? 🙂

  2. I agree totally – there is traffic that can do wonders with your click through rates and there is traffic that has a CTR of 0.001%.
    The thing is – getting targeted traffic is a lot harder than just getting traffic.
    You have to think a lot more 🙂

  3. I couldn’t agree more. I’ve often told the story of my ability to generate a million hits in a single day to a web site, but that the traffic was pointless and wouldn’t lead to a single sale. Not all traffic is created equally. In fact, if you watch your Analytics carefully you’ll be able to tell which traffic is worth $$ and which is simply sucking up bandwidth.

  4. Dan, I’ve noticed that every time we post a hot photo, you comment like clockwork. You’re obviously a man who is passionate about his work. 🙂

  5. I totally agree that sustainable quality traffic does not come from shock value articles or periodic spikes. Sure you might maintain a small handful, 1% at best..who knows, but the awesome feelings of a huge traffic spike are always tempered with an almost equally dramatic drop.

    My wife has a blog in the health/wellness arena and she wrote an article about calculating how many calories a person should eat to lose weight. She submitted that article to an article submission site which eventually landed the article on the Yahoo home page a few weeks prior to the New Year. When the New Year hit and all of the “resolutioners” started searching the web for weight loss articles her traffic spiked from a typical 1000 page views a day to over 30,000 each day on January 2-3. We were on cloud nine and our adsense account was going berserk. On January 4th the traffic settled down and came right back into the 1000 page view per day area.

    Building good quality content brings a loyal following. Writing about Britney Spears not wearing any panties will get you notoriety for a minute, but it will be fleating at best.

  6. The first huge jump in hits we had on any of our sites in the mid 90’s (yes,over 10 years ago) was when I posted an innocent song called “Girls, Please, Girls”. Search engines, parsing out the commas, made it appear as “Girls Please Girls” to the horny hordes discovering the early Internet.

  7. LOL Indeed Brian. You know what they say, “follow your passion”. That’s what we do… I LLOOOVVVEEEE what we do. 🙂

    What can I say, I may possibly sort of a little have a weakness for hot women – as long as they’re super smart and tough too, but you can only do so much with a photo and that’s for another day.

    In all seriousness, Jennifer and I do follow our passion with what we do and that’s very powerful. we actually both re-evaluate our core passions every January 1st – and good news, we’re still in sync, so staying together at least another year!

    Don’t know if you caught this very candid and revealing post on our new personal blog last wk, but we got very clear on our vision and our mission this January… it’s going to be an amazing year.

    We’re taking Ask Dan and Jennifer to the next level, and also broadening to a Personal Development site (something we’re also very passionate about), and starting our Help Doggies Foundation (another passion – doggies!).

    Oh, just to revise to my original comment above, this is a better version: “targeted, high quality useful takeaway content, AND sexy”.

    — Dan

  8. This might be the single biggest lesson that I’ve learned writing online. I used to believe that the quality of my words would be enough to carry me. It isn’t. It’s in the precision of their target. It doesn’t matter how many are there, it matters who they are.

  9. Perhaps a little off topic, but I really like your new clickable “THESIS” link. It stands out and draws in. I clicked it!

  10. I’d rather have 10 daily visits by people who read and interact (and perhaps subscribe to) my blog and for whom my words have some kind of impact than 10,000 daily visits by people who see my blog, say “too many words!” and go back from whence they came….

  11. I fairly recently left a mainstream media site where folks would be euphoric if a story got Farked. When a nonimportant video wound up linked on the FOX news homepage and the one-click wonders poured in, the giddy emails flowed for days. “Traffic’s at an all-time high!” Well, yes it was. But a year – or even a day – later, none of those folks was coming back.

    Getting a Fark spike or a Digg spike is easy. Driving unique visitor stats higher is not hard. Sustainable growth is not hard either, but it does take more time, effort and patience. It’s worth it in the long-run, though.

  12. 15 minutes – or is it 15 seconds on the web – of fame isn’t worth it selling sex unless you are selling sex. You’re so right, don’t do it; it can back fire on you. However, I wish I knew what to do to generate traffic for my site – I write blog that are very pertient to my audience, but don’t have much audience, yet. Sometimes I feel like I’m blogging in a vacuum – maybe I am!
    Thanks for the article.

  13. Hi The Story Woman,

    Maybe this is something you want to try.

    I mentioned my wife’s blog earlier in this comment string and how she got a huge spike right after New Years. Since then things have settled back out to normal and even dropped a little bit. She was frustrated and we spent all kinds of time trying to figure out what was going on. So, we decided to just ask the audience by giving them a survey. By doing that we were able to get some really good feedback on what people do want to see and what they do not want to see. So, we are going to implement those changes and see what happens.

    I think the big thing is to be open minded and to be willing to try things differently and roll with the tide as far as the future of your blog goes.

  14. This is a great example of why it makes me crazy when people pour hours and hours into getting to the front page of Digg if their site isn’t a site that the Diggerati are going to care about.

    It’s easier to see in meatspace that 50,000 clueless teenage boys shuffling around for 15 seconds isn’t a very useful thing to attract to one’s store, unless one happens to have a product that’s irresistible to clueless teenage boys.

  15. The Story Woman,

    My wife’s site is Live Well 360, but she has not posted the particular survey I mentioned regarding blog content, just yet. First, she sent it (yesterday) to her e-mail list to get the opinion of her regular readers, before releasing it to the “general public”. She will be posting the survey on the blog later today so she can get the view point of the rest of her readers. This is the first time we have done a survey of this type, so we are testing things out here as well. This may be a good way to do it, it may not we dont really know just yet. It is all one big learning process that never ends.

  16. This issue also reminded me of this post on Social Media Answers, specifically the part about Tila Nguyen and her bajillions of Myspace ‘friends’ and how only a small portion of that group was willing to actually buy her ‘music.’ Ties in to both the idea of a lot of low quality traffic and selling sex, actually.

  17. We have a new mom blogging network and there’s a post on it that’s a good example of combining “sex sells” and “target market”.

    The target market for the blog is Moms who aren’t afraid to step outside of the Soccer Mom box and be real, discussing topics (including sex) that are almost taboo for Mom bloggers.

    So we presented our readers with a giveaway that consisted of a package of adult toys and accessories. Traffic was amazing. More visits in one day than some of our Moms see in a month. We’ve even had men entering the giveaway.

    Yes, it involves sex but its not off-topic and it was relevant to our target market.

  18. As a veteran direct marketer, I can tell you that I have this conversation repeatedly: convincing clients that the best traffic is targeted traffic (not just traffic), that lists should be purged for bad names (size doesn’t matter, relevancy does), and that it’s better to reach 500 of the right people than 5,000 random people.

    Oh, and you can’t (and shouldn’t try) to sell to everyone.

  19. This is so funny. I literally was just going to send an announcement to my entire email list of webmasters to inform them about the site I discovered yesterday, “Copy Blogger.” As I had the thought, I decided to see what the current post was here.

    When the big breasts were staring me in the face, I made an immediate decision, “NO ! I AM NOT” going to direct my entire email list to this site because it will reflect on my credibility.

    Thanks for the live demonstration of how it can have a negative effect on the traffic that comes to your site.

  20. Unfortunately or fortunately, however you want to look at it sex does really does sell well. Businesses needs to include this in their marketing strategies.

  21. 3 observations…

    An interesting post that clearly defined one issue:

    Traffic for the sake of traffic is worthless! It’s targeted, pre-qualified traffic that serves best.

    And… clearly demonstrated one issue:

    While there’s nothing wrong with the imagery or content of this post but, I know of a few current clients of mine that would think it unprofessional of me to use sex as a selling tool. I’d certainly not blast the link and brief description of this post to them.

    But this post clearly attracted attention and traffic. Would be interesting to see how this post compares traffic wise to another post with essentially the same content, minus the sex and boobies. Anyone able to provide such stats?

  22. BloggerSavvy (if that *is* your real name), this post is about on par with any Copyblogger post so far. It hasn’t seemed to benefit from the added prurient interest (dammit!).

  23. Nothing like the thrill of getting a spike in traffic but you site all the important reasons about thinking of your primary audience.

  24. “BloggerSavvy (if that *is* your real name), this post is about on par with any Copyblogger post so far. It hasn’t seemed to benefit from the added prurient interest (dammit!).”

    Come now Brian, surely it got SOME extra traffic love; it certainly got My interest. Call it professional curiosity. 😉

    — Dan

  25. Well argued.

    Most blogs that do well are niche blogs. Though, I hope to see in the future, blogs that are not razor sharp niche blogs rise to the top – nevertheless.

    I welcome that development in the blogosphere.

    We shall see.

  26. I’m sure somewhere a Catholic priest is typing into google right now “14 year old boys in their bedrooms” and guess who they’re going to find….

    On the reals, I like traffic but I would prefer 10 targetted visitors anyday to 1000 bouncing on my site.

    Good post and yes, I came here for the sex. I think that in itself is a very powerful word to use in ANY headline especially when the content is directly related to the target audience.

  27. Hey, I would admit that a little sex does sell. When I saw the photo and read your opening paragraphs I was intrigued. So, I kept reading. I enjoyed the post and liked the ending.

    You illustrated your point perfectly with the eye-catching photo and opening paragraphs. Thank you for the lesson.

  28. The content from the site should always target your loyal readers. If you veer to far away from their interests you’re not being true to your mission statement.

    I do think that sex sells if that is a consistent part of your site. Same is true with celebrity stories. Those who can work that content in a few times a week will attract and keep those who pop in for the one story.

    It just doesn’t work for most blogs.

  29. Really!?, “Dutch women had the largest breasts in Europe.”??, they must have overlooked Robert Scoble from Scobleizer on his last trip??;).

  30. This is a very good article for the website developer and reseller. I know that when selling a site there are two types of people who are interested in buying it. There are those who want to see a bunch of traffic at your site, and those who want to know what your conversion rates are.

    You guessed it, the people who want the conversion rates pay much more for your site. So the trick is to get a good amount of traffic, and a decent conversion rate.

    I would say the best way to do this is to target a niche and write good articles. I don’t think that there is any secret.

  31. This is one of the first really good articles I’ve come across that explores the subject of increasing site traffic in a way that means something to the bottom line – and to your goals.

    Thanks for helping me start my day on the right foot!

  32. Great points. I’d never really thought about the things you pointed out. I guess I’ve always been guilty (on some of my sites) of selling my soul to the devil for traffic.

    Thanks for giving me something to think about. I have an appointment with Mr. Forked Tongue to get my soul back.

  33. It was funny how you put your experience to the breast article. In this case, targeted searchers will be the people wanting to know more about sex (which is one of the most search term in the world).

    Thank you for sharing, and I will be careful what to write, and will concentrate writing for viewers.

  34. Is there a wordpress widget that you can install (me too!) that would show how many visitors came to this page? With the word “sex” in your title it would be interesting to know if traffic to this page spiked compared to the others. It just would be interesting to see how many people came to each posting compared to how many subscribers you have.

  35. Can’t broach this subject without bringing up GoDaddy. Sorry to name names, but man there super bowl ads just hit an all time low. Even if they were never smart, they at least used to be funny.

  36. About a year ago I put together a post on Firefox Shortcuts. I wasn’t aiming for traffic as much as I was just trying to get something posted. But with about six hours my site had more than 28,000 visitors from StumbleUpon and Delicious (where it made the front page). For several days after that I had thousands more visitors.

    Very few subscribed, left comments, or returned.

  37. You’re right. Some of my visitors can be 14 year old kids…or younger. I’m thinking it’s probably time to sit down and decided (now that my site has been up for a few months) how old my target market is, and aim towards them.

  38. I ABSOLUTELY have found that a catchy, intriguing TITLE is key to bringing in busy readers. Oh, and don’t forget about alliteration. Better Bloggers Believe.

  39. This is such a tricky business. I’m a high-end corporate copywriter who likes to design t-shirts. I want to promote both, but my audience for one may baulk at the other. I’m still trying to find my way on the best message for each. But what I’d really like is a niche audience who likes both. In other words, groovy clients. Do you think this is possible? Best regards, P. 🙂

  40. I really enjoyed reading this. I have a niche site that is definitely growing. Because it covers community and charity efforts in sports, I’m conscious about doing things above board. Adding a sexy side to it may not always work.

  41. Simon,
    Great rules at the end of the post. I am glad that you pointed out that the focus needs to be on targeted traffic. Seeing the traffic spikes on the major sites like Digg makes it tempting to cater to the masses at times, but sticking with the focus really brings in visitors who will take action.
    I mean traffic is nice, but sales are better 🙂

  42. To Paul Hassing – for what it’s worth, I think it should be possible to find “groovy clients” Maybe not so easy in the Fortune 500, but there surely must be lots of businesses doing interesting stuff – cool, groovy stuff – who are aching for a good copywriter.

  43. As an experiment I wrote a blog post “What would be the best netbook for viewing pornography?” to test the sex headline waters.

    It got considerably less traffic than the average post. IN fact, there wasn’t a single reply or comment. My conclusion is that, at least from my Knowledge Workers blog, sex is a turnoff.

  44. To Bill Bennett: I think it illustrates that when you do build a following among targeted readers that any headline that is inconsistent with the brand will be a turn-off – and a source of lost readers.

    (And anyway, everyone knows that a netbook isn’t good for the purpose you describe – you need at least a 12 inch screen.)

  45. Yes Simon, I think that’s spot on. Mind you, I get at least half my traffic from Google and thought a few stray smut seekers might stumble on my post… even by accident. I’ve previously worked on tech news web sites where the staff sometimes goes through the roof if risque word appears — even out of context.

  46. I’ve kept this link for a long time because I’d wanted to respond to it; I guess I’m really late to the discussion.

    I’d like to take a slightly different point of view on this general topic; not the breasts part. Whereas I do believe it’s best to write about your topic most of the time, I also believe that every once in awhile, if your niche is really finitely defined, that you have to branch out and say something new.

    The reason I say that is because I’m now writing the content for this guy’s blog. His niche is staffing company issues. He had no comments on his blog; not a single one. I took over, writing on the same topic, and still not getting any visits.

    I decided to shake things up, and I wrote one article on a topic that wasn’t within staffing, but had something to do with one of the industries he supplies people to. Finally some people started showing us and making some comments.

    True, if you’re targeting to a specific market, you want to keep that market happy. But you have to first develop a market, and that might mean changing up from time to time.

  47. Hi Mitch,

    I think agree with you.

    If you’re writing your post to shake up your existing market, then I think that’s a good thing. Opinions and controversy are useful – they engage readers. All blogs should have them, even if they’re not 100% on topic.

  48. It is good once in a while to add some spice and have fun, your readers might actually like you for being human. However, overdoing this might do more harm than good.

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