Search v Social – what is the best digital marketing option?

Introduction

I’ve been doing some analytics on my blog pages recently and the analytics threw up some interesting results.  Data is always interesting because it tends to make me ask questions that I might not have asked if I hadn’t seen the data.  Social media (SoMe) is full of opinionated people trying to support their business propositions with spurious claims re search engine marketing (SEM), content marketing (CM), social media marketing (SMM), etc. etc.

The simple fact is that they all work for someone but they don’t all work for everyone, so you have to be very picky in choosing which is best for YOUR business, or event, or whatever it is you are trying to promote in the digital world we live in.

This is what I found out about my four (WordPress) blogs.

Findings

1. It took a while (2 months+) for search engines to find my four sites and for their users to click through to my sites

  • a short term strategy might have been to opt for PPC (pay per click) but this = cash with no guarantee of conversion
    • Average conversion rate for the search network in Q3 2012: 5.63%
    • Average conversion rate from the display network in Q3 2012: 4.68%
    • According to a recent (Feb 2014) survey by Trafton Kenney, 82% of Americans ignore online ads
      • So, of the 18% that do look at online display ads, only 4.68% of these click through and convert, i.e. 0.26%
      • Of the 82% that click through on search, 5.63% click through and convert, i.e. 6.87%
  • Given the better conversion rates (and the fact that it is free), looking for conversions via organic search would appear to be the better option – but it takes time and effort to appear on the frst page of a SERP (search engine results page), so SEO is definitely a longer term strategy in this particular instance

2. After 5 months, search engine traffic only accounts for 21.4% of the traffic coming through to my sites

Image

  • As expected, Google was the main contributor with 87.3% of the Search Engine traffic
  • Bing and Yahoo were at 5.0% and 4.6%, respectively

3. Social Media accounts for 74.8% of the incoming traffic

Image

  • Facebook got drove almost as much traffic to my blog sites as search engines
  • Twitter drove over twice the traffic as search engines did
  • Reddit (4.7%), StumbleUpon (2.5%) and WordPress (0.9%) were the other main SoMe contributors
    • 11 other social media platforms contributed the remaining 3.8%
      • These included Google+, Pinterest and LinkedIn

4. Another 3.8% came from various third party websites (backlinks)

  • My content is quite “news-ey” so many of the third party webstes were local news sites
  • These ‘unsolicited’ backlinks probably also helped my SEO – leading to increasing search engine traffic

 

Conclusions

In this instance, and basing my opinion on the data from these 4 blog sites, I concluded the following :-

  • for short term, cost free promotion, social media was a definite winner
  • for medium term, cost free promotion, search engine traffic does build up and is worthwhile doing
    • SEO is helped by social media activity
    • SEO is helped by varying the content (new posts) and the quality of the content (originality)
    • SEO is also helped by inputing tags and captions for images

It will be interesting to see how these proportions change over time.

 

Insights / Reflections

Facebook has more 28% more active users (1.28 billion, Q1 2014) than Twitter (1 billion, June 2014) but Twitter drove more traffic to my 4 blog sites.

  • Maybe my target audiences were not on both SoMe platforms (possibly)
  • Maybe my target audiences were more engaged on Twitter than Facebook (possibly)
    • maybe the new Facebook search algorithm is making being found more difficult (possibly)
  • Maybe I was more active / focussed on Twitter than on Facebook (yes, definitely)
    • I initially focussed on twitter, so Facebook was a late contributor (A/B Testing shows this)
    • Facebook followers are now growing at a faster rate than my Twitter followers (A/B Testing also shows this)
    • I am currently running some tests to see “how engaged” they are

Pinterest was a great way to store images for future (shared) use, i.e. I ran a 30-day promotional campaign in conjunction with a third party and we shared many of the images in our SoMe posts.

  • Pinterest did not drive much traffic through to the blog sites
    • Not surprising given that 80% of Pinterest users are female and many of my topics were very male oriented
  • Most of my Pinterest followers just “re-pinned” my images back to their own Pinterest a/c
    • The ‘re-pinners’ were all female
  • In hindsight, I probably would have gained so much more if I had done a blog post in a “photo blogging” style (as per Ogilvy’s list of 25 blog styles) and shared the contents via a blog post, but I probably still would have experienced resistance on Pinterest due to my ‘male oriented’ topics

Digg and Tumblr generated zero traffic – so the jury is out on these two.

StumbleUpon was another worthwhile contributor at 2.5% of the SoMe traffic – and so, was worth a click every time I published a blog article.

Google+ was also disappointing from an inbound marketing perspective but probably did contribute to page authority scores on Google search, so it is worth persisting with from an SEO viewpoint.

Reddit was good in the beginning (an immediate spike) but it is very fussy about how often posts are made and blocked me, therefore it may only be of limited value to a digital marketer interested in making frequent posts.

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