Capturing Traffic vs. Generating Demand

I tweeted about this last week and it seemed to really resonate so I thought  I’d write a post about it.

Anyone who has worked in PPC long enough has probably run into this issue with one client or another. It usually begins with a general conflation of capturing traffic and generating demand. Let’s start with the basic definition of  each term:

Traffic – refers to impressions and clicks or click-to-calls within your PPC campaigns.

Demand –  refers to the general need  or desire for a product or service in the marketplace.

We have found that clients often believe that capturing traffic and generating demand can both be achieved via solely traditional PPC (defined here as search networks only and not display networks or remarketing). This can lead to unrealistic expectations on the part of the client as to what is possible to achieve via traditional PPC for their business.

When traffic levels are in line with clients’ expectations, they are generally thrilled (if you’re doing your job right) during times of high demand. When they become less thrilled and/or more anxious is typically during periods of lower demand and the resulting lower traffic and conversion levels – especially when a lower demand period  occurs during a time of expected high demand and high traffic.

Many businesses with strong seasonality recognize that there will be a significant drop-off in demand and do not expect the same level of traffic during their offseason. But, even during busy seasons, there can be significant variations in both demand and traffic due to circumstances outside of anyone’s control, such as intense weather conditions.

For clients that are not necessarily seasonal but you do see variations in demand level, the desire to generate traffic can sometimes be more intense. Often during these low demand periods, clients will ask their PPC pro to increase bids, add very broad keywords, etc. to try to capture traffic at the same level experienced during high demand periods.

Let’s look at one of these scenarios in more detail.

Regional HVAC Service Company

Summer has begun, which is great news for an HVAC service company. In this highly competitive industry, PPC is no longer an option, but a requirement. On days when the temperatures creep into the 90s, phones will be ringing off the hook. Our job as PPC consultants is to make sure that when the demand exists our ads are compelling and result in clicks,  which can then result in calls and booked appointments. But what happens when that heat wave breaks?

Getting more calls for air conditioning service, unfortunately is not quite as quick/easy as simply increasing the budget (unless you are consistently losing impressions due to budget limitations on a daily basis). If you’re not maxing out your budget, increasing that figure will not significantly increase your traffic, if it moves the needle at all. The issue at this point is not one of traffic, but of demand. When the heat wave breaks, fewer people are using their air-conditioning systems and therefore the potential number of service calls diminishes. There is no aspect of PPC that can change this fact.

PPC exists to take advantage of existing demand and to be sure that your business shows up at the top of search results when a potential customer enters a relevant query into a search engine. Everything we do as PPC professionals is about enhancing the performance of a client ads in response to potential customer’s desires or demands.

Generating demand, is it entirely different animal, which requires the use of tools other than traditional PPC. Understanding this dynamic is critical for both PPC pros and our clients. Being able to explain this concept is an important part of any PPC project.

What about you – have you experienced any issues or confusion around these topics with your clients?






  1. […] Capturing Traffic vs Generating Demand: A distinction most clients have a hard time making is between traffic and demand. Julie Bacchini does a great job explaining and gives a real world example to help get the point across. […]

  2. check this out

    Capturing Traffic vs. Generating Demand | On the Web & On My Mind

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