No Surprise: Traffic From Search and Social Not Considered Equal

Ben Elowitz, CEO of Wetpaint, recently found that users who arrive via social stay longer and visit more often than users who arrive via search. With Facebook in particular, Elowitz gathered data proving that site visitors return 70% more often in comparison to those who visited Wetpaint through Google.

These findings shouldn’t come as a surprise, but should rather serve as another case study proving that a loyal audience built through social media can pay off big in the long run. Unlike visitors via search, traffic via social tends to be more vested and willing to commit to a long term brand to customer relationship, provided that the opportunity is present and there’s a compelling reason to do so.

Success rarely happens overnight

When starting out from scratch, earning traffic through social typically costs more than search (in both terms of monetary expense and man hours), and also subsequently takes longer to develop. This double edged sword has lead many to believe that search always trumps social and therefore deserves the bulk of attention and marketing spend.

Apart from obvious flaws in execution or a lack of commitment, many campaigns involving social media ultimately fail because they aren’t given enough time. It’s not that social isn’t as valuable as search (both organic and paid), but rather that the rewards aren’t as quick or as obvious. Building an audience that’s actually committed takes time, thought, and hard work.

And while it’s certainly naive to think that there’s a universal plan to building indefinite brand loyalty, it usually takes much more than just showing up to the party and expecting immediate results.

Putting data into context

To to get a grasp on how search compares to social, first the value of each traffic source needs to be established. The more data specific you can get, the clearer a picture you’ll have.

Using a combo toolset such as Optify and Google analytics, evaluate the following for each medium:

How long do visitors stay on my site?
How often do they return?
How often do they convert?
How many pages on average are they viewing?
What’s the bounce rate?

From here you’ll be able to piece together the benefits of having a dedicated, as opposed to a casual audience. If social lacks heavily in comparison to search, the data is a strong indicator that either your efforts are misaligned, misjudged, or at minimum need to be reevaluated.

Until some type of large shakeup warrants drastic change, committing heavily to both search and social, and finding a balanced diet between the two, makes for the most logical and safe approach.


Photo by Emilie Eagon 

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