Traffic Wars – Search vs. Social

In the realm of internet marketing, there most definitely isn’t a lack of methods to get traffic. Digg, Reddit, StumbleUpon, Google, Yahoo!, and multiple other sites can produce a brilliant amount of traffic for people that know how to use them.

Search engine optimization has been a staple of ‘make money onlinerz’ for quite some time and now social media optimization has entered the scene as a valid and effective method to generate hits. After observing the behavior of each type of visitor I have come to the conclusion that they aren’t alike at all. Webmasters and bloggers should be targeting the type they can get their desired results from.

I’m going to pit these two traffic generating methods against each other in several different categories and I would love to hear what everyone has to say on this subject.

Conversion To Money Made Online

The biggest conclusion I made from watching these two types of visitors is that social traffic doesn’t convert well into clicks or sales. If you think it through it makes perfect sense. People aren’t on Digg, Reddit, and StumbleUpon because they want to find products – in a lot of ways they’re there for entertainment.

I have had days on this site where social networking sites have sent me visitors in the thousands. Interestingly, I haven’t had increased revenue on any of those days. Not only do visitors from social networking sites refrain from clicking on ads, they rarely load more than one page.

On the contrary, when I have big search days I also have big revenue days. Google traffic outperforms social traffic in this key area without question. Sites that rely 100% on social traffic will likely struggle to convert their visitors into money made. Traffic from MSN and Yahoo! seems to perform just as well as traffic from Google, except there isn’t as much of it that hits this site.

Conversion To Links

Social traffic leads to many more links than search engine traffic. People that use social networking sites are much more likely to have sites and blogs than people who use Google. Google is so big it appeals to almost everyone, social networking sites appeal to people with more technological experience.

My biggest social traffic days have always led to increased links. My posts that get Dugg and Stumbled are always the ones the end up getting linked to the most.

Search traffic is much harder to gauge, but based on the search terms people find me with it seems that many of them are beginners that are trying to get started. They aren’t going to link to me but they are more likely to click on an ad.

Converting Visitors To Regular Readers

Without question search traffic is a lot more likely to stick around. Most of my visitors that come from social traffic only read one or two pages. It isn’t uncommon for visitors from Google to read 50-100 posts on this site. I know that once that has happened that person will be coming back. I don’t see that happen very often with traffic that comes from social media sites.

How Can We Improve By Using This Data?

Search engine traffic converts a lot better so that should be the end goal. Social traffic converts better into links so the conclusion here is quite obvious. Social traffic will lead to increased search traffic if leveraged properly. Use social traffic to generate links to your site and Google and other search engines will respond to the links.

What Do You Think?

Has anyone noticed similar happenings on their sites? Does anyone disagree? Does anyone have ideas on how to best leverage the different types of traffic? I would to hear everyone’s points of view on this.

Comments 33

  1. I think you bring up some good points here Court. I have noticed, in the small amount of time I have being doing this, the same thing you have stated. Search traffic is much better for making money and staying on the site longer. I think social media site users have a different purpose in mide when using those types of site. It makes sense why there would be such differences and why they are good ways to generate links. I have found this stuff to be true with my site.

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  2. I don’t have the answers but I think your line of questioning is spot-on. Apart from the music industry, who are desperate for alternatives to cd sales, I’m not convinced that the high volumes equate to high interest or high sales. I think you should get some interesting responses and lots of coverage for this. Nice one.

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      Thanks Gidseo! That’s a good analogy with the music industry. I think one of the keys with search traffic is how targeted it is. Social traffic isn’t as targeted.

  3. I suppose it depends on your content (is it entertainment or informative?) and your revenue sources.

    If you go through the usual process of link building (commenting, directories, carnivals) anyway, but your Alexa score is hurting, social sites will help that out tremendously. If PPP type sites are your main revenue source, then you’re better off going for broke with social site marketing, if I understand correctly. Those users are more apt to be using the Alexa tool bar, because of their techincal trends.

    Search engine traffic would certainly be better for contextual ads, simply by nature. They search, find your article about that good or service, and there is a related ad sitting right there next to it.

    After high traffic days due to social traffic, my audience does increase for the long term. Granted, my site is still a bit new, and those users that are sticking may be coming from elsewhere, but I do notice a difference after a ‘front page’ day. Especially in RSS subscriptions.

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      Jeremy that’s a brilliant point about the Alexa score which certainly does help a blog or site to monetize better. Social traffic can help to improve Alexa rankings tremendously.

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  4. I experience that too, visitors to my bog increases from the social network that I’m active in, but the revenue from ad did not increase, instead, I got some ad click from the visitors from search engine or others.

    I think it’s good to keep on networking for the ranking purpose and a nice looking traffic profile when dealing with advertisers, for real income, we still need to work hard on SEO part.

    Joanne
    http://www.imhappyfish.com/blog

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  5. Interesting, so ultimately the best strategy would be to use social sites to gain links and move up the search engines with those links to get traffic that converts well.

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  6. Well thanks for bursting my bubble Court 😉 I have been very successful in generating a lot traffic to my mortgage and credit card blogs with Reddit. Now that I look back at it, I did not make money extra money on these days.

    I kept hearing traffic is king, but you are right not all traffic is created equal.

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  7. Hi court,

    I noticed bounce rates from social media links/articles i have had on them is really high and less quality in terms of making money from them. Perhaps it’s harder to grab that type of persons attention rather than SERP traffic?

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      I would agree with that, it’s a lot harder to grab their attention since they’re used to looking through tons of sites and aren’t really looking for anything in general.

      Search traffic is generally looking for answers.

  8. Interesting stuff Court, it’s something I’ve suspected for a long time – my problem is getting found in the search engines ! Interestingly my oth blog – sharescity – which deals with the stockmarket has a much lower Alexa ranking – but gets more visitors and more clicks – I sometimes wonder if my netmonetization blog has been dumped into some sort of Google black hole. Is there one thing that can be done to ensure people find your posts ?

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      Hi Vic! You’re not banned or anything so you don’t need to worry about that.

      After having a quick look at netmonetization I would say you could get more search traffic by upgrading your link structure. Create some categories and put all your posts into them. This will increase PR on your posts!

  9. Vic – Your NetMonitization followers are much more likey to be giving Alexa feedback than your sharecity crew. That’s going to skew your Alaxa ratings.

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  11. Hi Court!

    I’ve noticed the same thing…when I’ve been stumbled for example, most of those visitors don’t look at more than one page (although some do!), but on the positive side, I have been gaining a few more subscribers.

    I don’t know for certain if any of those are from social visitors, but I do think that the more people that can see your site, the better.

    I don’t notice a difference re: monetization.

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  12. I prefer the search option to be honest – I think these people actually go out of their way physically to look for a topic which my website would hopefully help them with.

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      The search option is more targeted without question. They’re using looking for exactly what they’ll find on your site, at least if they’re searching in Google.

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  14. Hi Court,
    Thanks for taking the time to check out my blog and for the advice. I’ve started doing what you suggested and creating categories although in Blogger nothing ever seems to be quite so neat as in WordPress. Hopefully there’ll be some improvement though. Thanks again. Vic

  15. This makes a lot of sense when you think about it. Social bookmarking exists for social purposes, which in turn leads to popularity and eventual sales. It’s not about immediate profits so much. Thanks for the good insight, Court!

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