Site traffic is one of the most common metrics used to judge link quality.
But is it actually useful?
Or is it just another phantom “quality signal” created by the industry to make itself feel better?
I think it can be useful, but not in the way most people use it.
There’s also a few major pitfalls you’ve gotta avoid.
I’ll break it all down for you in this article.
Why is site traffic such a popular quality signal?
Simple: It helps to ease the mind of anxious site owners.
Let me explain…
Everyone knows they need links to be successful with SEO, yet are also terrified of catching a Google penalty for doing it poorly.
The logic goes:
“Google sends 1000 visitors per month to this site… so surely they think it’s bangin’ and won’t punish you for getting a link…”
Site traffic is also used as a signal that the link will be impactful.
Replace the above with “…they think it’s bangin’ and will pass juice through the link” and you get the idea.
Site traffic IS useful (but be careful)
Despite making some fun above, I do think it’s a useful quality signal.
(With some major caveats, discussed later).
The logic of “Google sends traffic, so they must like the site” doesn’t hit right for me.
But the opposite of “Google sends NO traffic so they must dislike the site” does seem closer to the mark.
So if a site gets any amount of traffic from Google, I’d consider that a baseline positive signal.
That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a good site, but hey, at least it’s indexed by Google.
There’s a second, much larger benefit…
A site getting decent traffic indicates that it has a good link profile.
Which means more of that sweet, sweet link juice to be passed to your site through a link.
As with all things SEO, this is all based on assumptions and best guesses, but it has seemed to hold true in my experience building over 13,000 links for our clients.
And we use traffic as just one factor in our quality vetting process.
Major pitfalls you need to avoid
Firstly, don’t use site traffic as an isolated signal of quality.
You’ve got to use it as just one factor in your quality assessment – Our vetting process linked above is a good place to start if you’re unsure.
Secondly, beware of faked traffic metrics.
Traffic in any SEO tool is a best guess by the software, and often a pretty poor one.
And websites can inflate their traffic in a SEO tool with simple trickery.
They’ll rank for a keyword which SEO tools think gets a lot of searches, but which in reality has no competition and very few searches.
But the tools think “oh it ranks 1st for abc keyword, which has search volume of xxx, therefore it gets xxx traffic”.
The SEO tools think the site gets decent traffic.
But it actually doesn’t get any traffic, and Google sees this reality…
Which makes it entirely useless as a quality signal!
The fix is simple:
In your SEO tool, check which keywords are producing the traffic and judge whether it seems legitimate or realistic.
In most cases it’ll be very obvious either way.
You should use site traffic as a quality indiciator, but use it cautiously.