Different kinds of traffic
So, here's your choice:
You can have a billboard in Times Square (seen by 2 million people a day), or you can be the keynote speaker at the Allen & Co. annual millionaire media mogul retreat, listened to by about 150 people for an hour.
A no brainer? I hope so.
Of course, it's not just the demographics. I think it's the quality of the interaction.
Here's a comparison between two hot properties (MySpace and Facebook) and Amazon.
Should Jeff Bezos be in mourning? After all, MySpace is killing Amazon in traffic.
Of course, this is all irrelevant. Not surprising, but irrelevant. It's not surprising because it's just human nature to measure a simple metric, and to want to improve it. It's human nature to believe that the more people get exposed to your idea, the better you're going to do. It's human nature to want to 'win', however you define winning.
The problem here is that Amazon users visit to buy stuff, and MySpace users visit to flirt.
Last time I checked, flirting was a fairly unprofitable activity.
There's a long list of high-traffic sites (beginning with theglobe.com and extending to hotmail and many others) that couldn't monetize. They were stuck because the bait that got them the traffic had no room for a reasonable hook. You could use a TV like model and interrupt with irrelevant ads, but it doesn't work so well.
All a long, long way to say something simple:
Whatever your website, I think you want better traffic, not more traffic.
You want to figure out why the right people will come, not build a sideshow that attracts exactly the wrong people.
At trade shows, there's always a few booths with magicians, fire-eaters or bikini-clad models. And post-show, there's no evidence at all to indicate that the noisy attractions did very much to improve the actual metrics of the booth.
So, maybe it doesn't matter how your site does compared to a site in a different category. What matters, I think, is how your site does compared to last week or last month, and what's happening to your conversion.