image visualizing web traffic

Are You a Real Traffic Hacker?

The Silicon Valley is producing new job titles like nothing! Are you a “User Experience Philosopher”, a “Data Ninja” or a “Brand Story Warlock”? No? 😉 But if you are working in online marketing for super hot and fast growing Startups, then chances are good your title is at least “Growth Hacker”! Most people in this field don’t realize that “growth” as a KPI is somehow questionable. In this article, I will show, that “website traffic” is the better KPI for technical online marketing than “growth”. Based on that I will outline a new job definition, a role every commercial website really needs, the “Traffic Hacker“.

But let’s start with the common job title of a Growth-Hacker: this role defines someone who ignores typical conventions in marketing, to “grow” the user base of a Startup. It is actually a much cooler and more practical name for “tech-savvy online marketing specialist, in a small flat team, working in the fast growing startup economy, driving new users to the services of a company”.

What’s wrong with “growth”?

There is a problem with “growth”: from my experience, only in young companies and as long as teams are small and hierarchies are flat, you get a direct impact on the growth of a company as a marketer. The bigger the team grows, the more departments a company is organized in and the more complex a product matures into, the harder it will be to truly impact the growth of the user base via online marketing. At a certain level of complexity, you have to deal with hierarchies between management levels or the vertical borders between departments (eg. Classical-Marketing vs Online-Marketing vs IT department). You also have to fight with budget restrictions, meeting culture, company policies, diverse responsibilities and similar constraints.

Traffic as KPI in online marketing

This ultimately is resulting in a limited direct impact on the growth of most companies via the online marketing channel alone! Even worse, online marketing is mostly only one channel among many for reaching new customers. Therefore the metric “growth” doesn’t make much sense for defining the role of an online marketing specialist. In contrast to this, “website traffic” as a metric to measure “potential customers” or “new users”, is something any marketing specialist clearly should deliver.

chart about interest in website traffic vs growth hacking in online marketing
This chart is showing the interest in search terms “website traffic” vs “growth hacking” in the field of online marketing, according to Google Trends. While the interest in searching for “Website Traffic” is slowly shrinking, one can derive one important fact: people are interested in topics around website traffic up to 6 times more than in growth hacking!

One common critic on website traffic as KPI is that it would be somehow to unspecific and noisy to be relevant. More important would be sales, leads, app-installs, downloads and so on. But these parts of the sales funnel are hardly controlled alone by the people responsible for the website traffic. While these are the results to push at the end of the day, they are driven by the product team, designers, developers and also the management. Good news is, these KPIs will also scale if a website gets more quality traffic. So it is true that “more traffic” per se is nothing, but a website also has to attract the right traffic to fulfill their objectives. To grow commercial website projects, most companies are in need of specialists who could acquire the traffic to fill their funnel with new opportunities.

Fragmented topics like online marketing are in need for some “unification” of roles. That’s way so many job titles are created every day, but new ones should not only sound cool but represent how the industry is working. Therefore I would suggest the new job title “Traffic Hacker” for this type of general website traffic acquisition specialist.

What defines a “Traffic Hacker”?

First of all, a Traffic Hacker, like any other serious marketing expert, loves data. He also often needs to reach his goal with limited resources and he uses techniques which in his eyes are appropriate, not necessarily like everybody in the industry is doing it. In essence, a Traffic Hacker concentrates his efforts on the optimization and synergy of traffic sources like Search Engine Optimization (SEO), Content Marketing, Search Engine Advertising (SEA), Social Media Optimization (SMO) and whatever source is delivering high-quality traffic for the type of website he is working for. But there are more things about this role in a systematic way:

data driven

Here the real “hacking” begins: the Traffic Hacker loves data so much, that he knows how to dig the gold nuggets out of the raw data. (Which he, by the way, often has to collect across the company and the diverse technical systems.) He also knows how to implement, design, develop and run tools on large data collections. For him “Big Data” is not a mere buzzword.

technology based

A Traffic Hacker is adapting technology and software for his needs. He wouldn’t adapt his processes to fit some legacy software used in the company. For his work, he is applying the same technologies as a business intelligence engineer. He has to build traffic-intelligence infrastructure to gain the right insights from all that data he and his team are collecting. A committed Traffic Hacker sometimes even implements its own Data Warehouse with all the KPIs from the diverse traffic sources, acquisition costs, campaigns, ROIs, CPCs and so on. As a result, he will have all the relevant data on his fingertips for informed decisions on acquisition of the optimal traffic.


Traffic acquisition if done alone via paid advertising is not so much sustainable. If you stop paying the traffic also stops immediately. An experienced Traffic Hacker therefore also has to plan for the future. Regular investments in content creation and curation along with SEO are an absolute must. Thoughtful planning also helps to squeeze more visitors out of future campaigns. TV campaigns, for example, also resulting in a lot of search activity for brands, claims or products. Not to plan corresponding SEA campaigns would be a waste of money. Also, a common hack is to plan “parasitic” Google campaigns on competitors who miss this opportunity.


A Traffic Hacker also has to communicate a lot with the different departments to get things done. Because he is in a central position in the complex network of a company, he has to convince people to cooperate and help his team! (Here you could even think in terms of “Social Engineering” like the black hat “Hackers” would sometimes do.)


He has a deep desire to understand the technical and social systems he is trying to optimize: no matter if we talk about Google Rankings for SEO, the new smart feed adjustments of Pinterest or the rules of consumer psychology in PPC advertising or Email opening rates. A Traffic Hacker has to be absolutely fit in all those channels and he has to combine them to utilize and maximize the cross effects between them. He often so curious that he tries to reverse engineer the systems he has to optimize with the help of the data he is collecting and analyzing. His curiosity could also be seen on his wide range of topics of interest in which he constantly practices self-education.

creative & open minded

To keep the visitor streams floating to a website, a Traffic Hacker has to stay on top of new developments. He seeks new opportunities to unlock new traffic sources. He must always adapt, recreate and invent. So he must be totally open minded and creative in exploiting new ideas and techniques. It is an important characteristic to get the best and most effective traffic for his website.

strong analytical mindset

On the other hand, a real Traffic Hacker has not only to be creative but he must also have a strong analytical mindset. When he is coordinating A/B tests and tries to find out better traffic sources he has to analyze his data in a reliable and accurate manner. Ideally, he is able to work with the same methodologies as a Data Scientist.

more than growth

A true Traffic Hacker must know how to “grow” traffic streams from zero visitors on. But he is usually responsible for website traffic which counts not in thousand visitors a month but in many millions. So he is not only responsible for traffic “growth” but also for keeping such visitor streams floating. (Think of the necessary reactions to Google updates in SEO or to external market changes, like the growth of mobile usage in recent years.)

knows how to scale

As Traffic Hacker one must always find ways to scale the things working for large websites: these tend to have millions of documents and many of them are not perfect. So a common restriction a Traffic Hacker has to deal with are imperfect landing pages generated from huge databases for hundred thousand of products or keywords. Those could rarely be optimized individually (think of websites from large retailers or price comparisons). The same is true for his data analytics.

senior level

First of all, he is not a typical marketer or marketing manager! While he usually has to manage a team and utilize online marketing methods, he has more a hands on approach. A Traffic Hacker also should have some appropriate technical background like website development, data mining or AdTech. The skill level of such a specialist should be above the average of the team he has to lead. So he must be at least on senior level in some online marketing specializations like SEO, SEA, SMA or others. To deal with the data volumes necessary in this job a profound BI knowledge is also a must have.

What do you think? Are you a “real Traffic Hacker”? 😉

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