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Traffic sources have a half-life  

Many startups measure at least some of their success in eyeballs (mistakenly or not). A media event (like a successful post on Reddit or Hacker News) can be an exciting moment in a startup's life. This article by Rob Walling suggests that different forms of marketing have different half-lives. His conclusions:

  • Zero Half-life - Any kind of advertising
  • Short Half-life - StumbleUpon, Twitter, Hacker News, Digg, a direct mailing, most referral links
  • Long Half-life – SEO, email subscribers, RSS subscribers, Facebook fans (in some instances)

This is an excellent point, as well as:

... some companies appear to build their business around viral traffic sources (which have a short half-life), but they are, almost without us noticing, converting them into long half-life sources.

(...)

What you’ll notice is these companies are using short half-life sources to drive traffic, but converting it into a source with a long half-life (an email list). This allows them to build a sustainable business over the long-term.

And therein lies the key: once you have tuned your ability to convert non-sticky traffic into something that will last, all traffic sources are good, no matter what their half-life.

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Cold calling versus AdWords