My $45,300 Mistake: How Text Drives More Traffic Than Video Content

content is king

Last Thursday, I launched Quick Sprout University, which is a free video library of 107 videos that helps you learn online marketing.

The purpose of launching Quick Sprout University was to see how video content performed against free software tools and content guides.

An advanced guide can easily generate Quick Sprout 361,494 visitors and 8,421 email opt-ins within a few months. A free marketing tool, on the other hand, generated Quick Sprout 17,747 unique visitors within 4 days, and it helped increase time spent on site to over 3 minutes.

So, how did the videos perform compared to the other marketing tactics I leveraged? Here are the results:

Videos don’t drive too much traffic

Each video on Quick Sprout University contains a transcript to help with search engine indexing and rankings, but the initial traffic from the videos wasn’t that high.

On that Thursday, I had 19,137 visits, which is lower than my normal Thursday. The videos themselves were viewed 7,100 times according to Wistia.

video views

In many cases, people didn’t watch every single minute of each of those videos as my average video is 8 minutes long and my average time on site stayed flat at 3 minutes and 11 seconds.

google analytics stats

I thought they would have been as successful, if not more successful, as the tool launch, but the videos were not. For the amount of money and time spent on the project, it is actually much cheaper to generate long-term traffic through advanced guides than through video content.

Sure, if I added the videos to YouTube, it could make them more popular, but I didn’t do this for one main reason… emails. I want to be able to collect emails eventually, and through Wistia you can easily do so.

People love videos

Although the videos didn’t drive as many visitors as I would have liked, I got more grateful Quick Sprout readers contacting me than I ever had before.

I got three voicemails from readers saying “thank you” for the videos, and I received over one hundred comments from readers saying how great the content is. The weird part is, none of the comments were “hate” comments, which is rare.

But one reason I think I got so many grateful comments was because I’ve given away a lot for free in the month of October. My freebies ranged from the copywriting guide to the free SEO tool and now Quick Sprout University. My hypothesis would be that if I released less content for free during the month, I would have received less praise. Nonetheless, I will take whatever I can get. 😉

People need direction

The big mistake I made with Quick Sprout University is that I screwed up on the design. Digital Telepathy did an awesome job of designing what I wanted, but the direction I gave them wasn’t the best. I should have listened to their suggestions.

I told them to design something similar to YouTube, but a much simpler version. I should have had them create a design that is more similar to TreeHouse or Lynda, where everything is categorized into modules.

treehouse modules

I figured this out because Wistia shows you the most popular videos. They happened to be all of the ones listed on the homepage of Quick Sprout University.

If I listed them in modules, such as “On Page SEO” or “Link Building”, and then ordered them based on what you should learn first to last, you would have been more likely to watch more videos in each series.

I should have also given you homework assignments and offered quizzes to ensure that you are actually learning the material.

What’s the ROI?

In this case, it’s actually negative. So far I’ve outlaid $45,300 into Quick Sprout University, which is fine, but it caused a huge drop in revenue. I used to sell a lot more ebooks through the Quick Sprout Traffic System, but due to the fact that you feel I am giving so much away for free, you are less likely to pay for content. So far the drop in revenue has been a bit more than 27%.

I don’t mind the drop in revenue as I never created Quick Sprout to make money, but it is an interesting stat. If I wanted to monetize the University, I think I could easily recoup my losses, plus make more.

From my perspective, the extra branding and loyalty I am building by giving high quality content away for free more than makes up for the revenue loss. So, I will continually be doing this on my end.

Conclusion

Although Quick Sprout University didn’t do as well as I wanted, I am still going to dump more money into it. Over the next 12 months, I will try to release another 200 or so videos that will teach you more marketing methods for free. 🙂

I’ll also be redoing the design of the University section as I want to break it up into modules and see how that preforms compared to the YouTube type of design.

If you are looking to spend money on marketing, here are a few things you should learn from my Quick Sprout experience:

  • Tools generate the most traffic – for the amount of money I have spent, free tools easily beat out any other form of content marketing. Due to this, I am going to spend at least a few hundred grand over the next 12 months building out that section of Quick Sprout. The only issue with tools is that they require more maintenance.
  • Text generates more traffic than videos – my advanced guides generate more traffic than my video content. Plus, it is cheaper to create text-based content than it is to create video-based content.
  • Videos build loyalty and have a higher perceived value – I’ve never received as much praise for anything in my life as I have from Quick Sprout University. People love it, and it builds loyal followers.

So, if you are looking to generate more traffic, you are better off sticking with content if you aren’t too technical and don’t have a lot of cash. If you are technical, then create free tools.

But if you want to build a loyal audience, consider releasing video content as people love videos more than text-based content.