How to Find the Gold in Your Business

image of gold coins

I was talking to a concerned client recently.

After taking my advice, his traffic and blog comments had started to decrease. We’d had three or four sessions, and he’d diligently done all I suggested, and he was implementing and enjoying himself and excited about his business.

But that graph kept trending downward. And it was starting to get to him.

Honestly, I could see where he was coming from. You hire a coach, and he tells you what to do, and your numbers go down?


But here’s the flip side:

During that same time that he was sweating readership and some zeros above his comments sections, he got his first big sale. Then his second big sale.

His number of customer inquiries went up, too — a growing pool of people who hadn’t hired him yet, but were on the right track to do so.

I told him to stop worrying about traffic. His goal wasn’t to attract as many eyeballs to his site as possible. What he really wanted was to find the action-takers and the customers — people who loved him and would prove it via their wallets.

No matter what your business, the goal isn’t to amass as much raw material as possible. (For a business centered around a blog, that “raw material” is typically traffic.)

The goal is to sift through that raw material, discard the junk, and find the small amount of true gold inside.

Small and engaged is better than big and vaguely interested

When the Third Tribe opened its doors earlier this year, Sonia and I talked in the very first seminar about the smallness of our lists. Sonia said that the big gurus would laugh at the size of her list, and I told Sonia that she’d laugh at mine.

Since that time, not much has changed. Relatively speaking, I still don’t have a large email list. I don’t have huge traffic to my blog.

But I don’t care in the least, because what I do have is a connection to a relatively small group of people who are pure gold.

They’re like me. They like me. I like them. I can talk to them like old friends. I can tell a borderline joke and nobody leaves, because we all have the same sense of humor.

I can make them an offer that I think is great and be pretty darn sure that they’ll think it’s great, too.

My people and I feel more like a club than a crowd. We’re not a huge group, but I’ll take close bonds with a few over a larger but more disconnected group of people who “read stuff from some guy online somewhere” any day. We’re small, but we’re a unit. Team Johnny, if you will.

That didn’t happen by accident. I had to sift and sort to find these people, and doing that is a lot harder than “increasing traffic.”

I don’t care about traffic if it’s unfiltered and nonspecific. Hell, I could increase traffic tomorrow if I wanted, but if it isn’t traffic that converts into sales, what’s the point?

Asking for more traffic is like asking for more vaguely interested people to shout at over a megaphone. I don’t care about that. I want new members to Team Johnny, so I only care about that big crowd for as long as it takes to sift through it to find the gold.

A simple, 2-step plan for finding for your own gold

Regardless of whether your traffic increases or decreases — or whether your number of comments goes up or goes down — the question you should always be asking is, “Am I getting more gold in my pan, or am I just collecting meaningless rocks and dirt?”

Commenters are more interesting to me than raw traffic, but even commenters are the wrong people if they’re just hanging out.

So if you’re out to find the gold in them thar hills, here’s how to go about it:

1. Get a guide

You don’t just need to know where to go to find gold. You also have to know what specifically you’re looking for (i.e. gold is usually in small flakes, not giant nuggets — and correspondingly, your ideal people may not be who you think they are) and how to tell the real stuff from fool’s gold.

Your guide in the quest to find more of those best people is intimate knowledge of your ideal reader.

Writing content is the blogger’s way of hiking through the trails and kneeling in the rivers to look for that glint of gold. That sketch of your perfect person is your map, so stick to it and don’t wander around trying to write for everyone. Think narrow and precise.

If a prospector’s map showed a hundred-mile circle bearing the legend, “Gold is in here somewhere,” it’d be pretty useless as a treasure map.

2. Sift and discard the junk

People look at traffic and blog comments because they’re incredibly easy stats to see and to measure. But people also forget that they’re largely irrelevant.

You don’t care how many people come to your site; you care how many people LOVE your site — and go on to take the action you want them to take.

You don’t care how many people comment; you care how many of them come back again and again, and use your comment section as a way to know, like, and trust you.

You don’t care how many people look at your products and services, or how many eyes see your offers.

Don’t turn down traffic that comes by chance, because more eyes means more potential customers. We all need traffic. But what you ultimately care about is how many people buy your stuff, not just the raw number of visitors.

Put all of that riverbed dirt through your sieve, and let go of everything that isn’t gold.

Don’t be afraid if people leave your site or unsubscribe from your email list, because those people aren’t the ones you’re looking for.

The question you want to ask is, is your connection to your ideal people increasing? Are you seeing more sales or more inquiries about possible sales? Those are the metrics that matter.

One quick warning

Do you know another reason for decreased traffic and decreased comments?

Those things also happen when your content sucks. So it doesn’t always mean you’re doing things right if your stats go down. Far from it, actually.

The lesson here isn’t to ignore or scorn traffic, but instead to pay more attention to the numbers that really matter.

  • Are you generating more true fans?
  • Do people buy your stuff, or buy on your recommendation?
  • Do they tell their friends about you?
  • Do they ask questions about your products and services?
  • Do they tell you that they really love your incredibly awesome free content?

If they’re doing more of that, you’re finding your gold, and traffic becomes a bonus.

Now get prospecting!

About the Author: Johnny B. Truant is setting up WordPress blogs for free this week. Get yours before time runs out!


If you’re looking for a map to the gold in your online business, sign up for the free Copyblogger email newsletter, Internet Marketing for Smart People. It kicks off with a 20-part tutorial on how to boost the numbers that really matter in your business.

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Reader Comments (57)

  1. says

    I like how you started the post. While metrics are important, are we accomplishing what we set out to do – make money?

    The size of the lists may not matter, as we find our ideal niche. What matters sometimes is quality and repeat customers. You managed that with Sonia.

    Nothing can cure bad content, except for making good content.

    Today’s post is very thought-provoking.


    • Dian Kjærgaard says

      Conversion rate (from traffic to sales – or community) is also a type of metric…

      The post is brilliant – albeit a tad too long.

    • says

      In any business, especially nowadays – recession blabla, the customers that keep your business alive are the ones that LOVE you.

      I used to own a small telecom-store (I sold it now) which used to be part of a big chain of stores. The umbrella corporation went bankrupt a couple of years ago. But because I actually bonded with my customers and they TRUSTED me they kept my store alive. Which made it a great idea to buy the store myself. Till the day of today (after I sold it) the stores still alive on its own, thanks to the customers circle we build over the years.

  2. says

    Makes sense.

    If your site is unfocused and tries to cater to a boatload of different interests, you’ll get a bunch of different people but not have many conversions. Once your site becomes more focused, the traffic becomes more focused, and naturally decreases…but, conversions go up.

    • says

      For my first blog, I basically wrote about whatever interested me and tried to get each article out to their relevant groups. I got a good amount of traffic, but no one was *sticking*. It took me a long time to find out that in order to convert sales I would need to be more “holistic” about how I created content.

  3. says

    Traffic and comments to your client’s blog may have decreased as a result of him tweaking his content. His old content may have appealed to a broader audience, but that audience wasn’t buying. His new content is hitting his target audience, who may not be as broad or engaged, but they are buying. Different audience. Different behavior.

    I’m with you. If I had to choose between a boat load of Twitter followers, Facebook fans and blog comments OR paying clients, I’d take paying clients every time. That’s my goal.

  4. says

    Well put – increasing traffic is good … increasing buying is better, as a yardstick of real progress. Great analogy that the ‘sketch of your perfect person is your [treasure] map’, so stick to it.

    I also clicked over to the post about ‘Your Content Sucks’. It’s been a while since I read it – Ouch!
    Too much in there is still true for me.

  5. says

    What a great post. This should be a must read for all small business owners. The numbers,subscriptions,comments,retweets, followers, on and on. I realize the importance, but it can be overwhelming. Bottom line will tell you if it is working. Really enjoyed reading.

  6. says

    Hey Johnny,

    Reading your post, I thought it interesting that you dance around it quite a bit, but you never quite call it by name. In other words, sounds to me like you’re talking about key performance indicators (KPIs).

    You’re not so much saying, “don’t look at metrics,” but, instead, “look at metrics that matter.”

    Setting appropriate KPIs and, more importantly, continuously revisiting your content and viewing it against those metrics, is an art done by few. But, as you put it, the reward is great.

    Great post.



  7. says

    I’ve been really trying to increase the number of e-mail subscribers and my numbers are pathetically low. about 1% (if that) actually subscribe.

  8. says

    Nicely said. Building an authentic list is so important. I get so sick of internet marketers promoting list building funnels. Half the people funneled in probably don’t give a rip about what I would have to say. List building is important but you have to know who your target market is first. Those are the ones you want on your list. It takes time.

  9. says

    I hear you Johnny. The big question is “How do you build a list of responsive subscribers when people suffer from information overload and are easily distracted?” How do you weed out the tire kickers who just want free content and never buy anything?

    • says

      You just slowly build the relationship, and accept that you’re right… a lot of them will never buy. And that’s fine. A large percentage of my people never buy, but that’s totally cool. They’re spreading the word, saying good things about me, and saying good things TO me. Sometimes I get emails saying that I’ve really helped someone with something I’ve written. And that’s as good as a sale.

  10. says

    Very good stuff, reminds me of Differentiate or Die by Jack Trout, you dont have to appeal to all masses, focus on what you are good at and what is profitable

  11. says

    Johnny – Content will always be king and traffic will always be queen. It’s like you said, if your content sucks then it doesn’t really matter how much traffic you are getting because no one will be interested in what your site has to offer and your bounce rate will be sky high. Thanks for the advice on sifting and discarding the junk to find Gold in your traffic. I will definitely keep this in mind.

  12. says

    I agree that finding your ideal reader is key to narrowing down your audience and “finding more gold”. I’m currently working on rebranding and refocusing my blog to do exactly that. It’s not an easy task. I guess the challenge is to find a balance between who I want my ideal reader to be and what my potential ideal reader is looking for.

  13. says

    Well said Johnny B.

    “You don’t care how many people come to your site; you care how many people LOVE your site — and go on to take the action you want them to take.”

    That pretty much sums up my conversion strategy.

    Joe 😀

  14. says

    This is so true, Johnny!

    What you explain in this post also applies perfectly on Twitter. Getting gazillions of followers is rather easy. There are so many auto-followers, bots and spam-ish users that follow every body. But no one wants them, right?

    As you said, it’s not about having large numbers on your mailing list / twitter followers / facebook fans / “put whatever you want here”. This is also why I started to reduce the number of people I’m following on Twitter to have concentrate on those that make sense.

    It’s a shame that there are only few metrics to qualify traffic. Quantity is not that important, as long as quality is there. And you can’t buy such traffic.

    • says

      Thanks for mentioning Twitter. It’s amazing how many schemes there are out there to maximize your Twitter followers. How stupid is that? I’d rather have 100 true fans and friends on Twitter than 100,000 random followers.

  15. says

    Your post reminded me to have a real goal, a plan to achieving it, and the balls to adapt when things don’t go as planned.

    I recently had a client that saw their numbers wobble a bit when they refined their content. Now I will dig deeper to find their “real goal/gold”

  16. says

    Really enjoyed reading your well written article, It’s a bit like the dreamers in the car yards “just looking” they say. How many of the lookers turn into sales? A low percentage I would imagine. The ones with the flashing beacons on their heads :) are your target customers looking to purchase. It would be great if it were that simple. I am new to writing blogs so I am still in the process of soaking up all the information I can gather, so please keep it coming, it is appreciated and valued.
    Thank you, very best regards

  17. says

    Great reminder that it’s not all about the raw numbers. I’ve been surprised at how much variance there is between some of my properties that have similar income, but vastly different subscribers. Some people are just far less engaged and some audiences are more valuable than others.

    Figure out what your key metric is, and focus on that first. For most people, that’s probably revenue, uniques, pageviews, or subscribers. Yes, they’re all related, but as this post shows, the correlation isn’t perfect.

  18. says

    In the “olden” days, before there was such a thing as the Internet and we couldn’t measure web visitors and virtually no one “commented” on anything we did, we still, believe it or not, ran businesses. In a lot of ways it was easier then (although God forbid, I AM NOT saying i want to go back there!) because we weren’t misled by these kinds of stats. All that mattered was the relationship and the sale. It kinda helps to remember that today, even though we have all the new tools, we still need the relationship and the sale — they are, after all, what make a business a business.

    Good job, JT.

  19. says

    Hi Johnny!

    You hit the bull’s eye here. Honest assessment of what works and what doesn’t. Small but sure is way better than many but hazy. That’s where we’ll find the gold.

    Great post.

  20. says

    Great article. As a beginning blogger it’s sometimes very pleasant to see your traffic peaking.

    This article seems to be for more established blogs/websites though. As a beginning blogger I am very happy when somebody leaves a comment or I see my traffic raising the roof (which is like 200 at the moment :P)

    I guess in the beginning comments, traffic peaks, facebook likes and retweets are a great motivation (at least for me) to keep going. Although I do keep in mind the BIG goal, which is where the gold is – I think. Offcourse we learn along the way and focus needs to be adjusted at times.

    Again, great article! Thanks a lot!

  21. says

    Hi Johnny

    A very detailed post on a very worthwhile subject. The trap many people fall into when blogging (and I know – I did it myself when I first started) is trying to be all things to all men. Lots of hits – but very little that ends in conversion.

    Niche and focusing on a key subject area with the correct content is the way to go. Of course, this takes practice and constant fine tuning – but it always comes good in the end. Better to write less frequently and well than often and badly!


  22. says

    The word specificity keeps coming up in everything I do this week

    I talk about marketing – specificity
    I talk about hiring people – specificity
    I talk about managing expectations – specificity
    I talk about keyword management – specificity

    I read this article…..

    Someone is trying to tell me ‘something’….

    All the best, Matt

  23. says

    Hey Johnny.

    Conversion is the name of the game. To get conversions you need people to convert in the first place (traffic).
    The more people there is to convert or to LOVE you the better off you whole business will be.

    However I get what you mean about paying attention to the wrong stats. Comments, visitors to your blog etc. These mean nothing if they are not buying, sharing, promoting you.

    Great post

    Chat soon

  24. says

    Great post! You hit the nail on the head with it doesn’t matter how many people get to your site, it’s how many that get to your site and take the desired action you want them to take. Well done!

  25. says

    Good point. It’s more important to focus on quality readers and generate quality content rather than just trying to churn out material to a large group of visitors who just come and go. You want visitors that take the time to read your content and then respond to your calls to action.

  26. says

    Although I will never stop trying to generate as much traffic as possible, you are absolutely correct in pointing out to us that we should focus on the quality as well as the quantity of traffic

    Thanks for the read.

  27. says

    Traffic is one thing, customers are the other. This goes hand in hand with the Pereto’s principle: “80% of your sales come from 20% of your clients.”

  28. Archan Mehta says

    So, Johnny, your post reminded me of what they say in the corporate world.

    “No matter what, focus on the bottomline, we don’t care about anything else.”

    That’s what the tweety-bird whispered in my ear, but I’ll leave that story for another time.

    Thanks for contributing this guest post. It is a pleasure to read your work. You deliver the KO punch every time.

    Cheers to your fab life and have a good one. Keep up the good work.

  29. says

    What you’re saying makes total sense, and it boils down to a well-recognized concept: target marketing. It’s not about pure numbers, it’s about focusing on the people who will either buy from you or who will bring you business.

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