SEO vs. Social Media vs. Referrals

I was looking through Google Analytics for this blog the other day and I was amazed at the number of visitors I get to this blog from the search engines versus how many visits I get from social media and from referrals from other sites. It might not come as a surprise that the majority of traffic comes to this blog from search engines. Maybe because I don’t spend a great deal of time sitting and writing the kind of posts that would appeal to the Digg or StumbleUpon crowd. Aside from that fact however I think there is something more important to learn from traffic from either the search engines and social media and direct referrals.

This blog has never been on the front page of Digg, and to be honest, I am glad it has never been. I have read several articles on the Digg effect and I am quite convinced that the energy and effort that is required to have it happen and survive the onslaught of Digg users is simply not worth it. Blogs that do get on the front page of Digg have that huge rush of visitors for a day or two and then everything dies down again.

This blog has been Stumbled several times, and I am a big fan of StumbleUpon. It is a great service to discover new sites and find interesting information. The StumbleUpon effect is also not such an onslaught as a Digg. There is a large rush of initial visitors and if the post is thumbed up enough you can get several thousand new visitors. My Video Rambler blog had a great time on StumbleUpon at one time with over 10000 visitors on on popular video over a one month period. I have also seen increases in StumbleUpon traffic months after the initial rush, but it is rare that the second or third wave is as large as the first.

I also get a regular amount of traffic from Facebook, MySpace and the latest is LinkedIn. LinkedIn is a new social media site that I have not seen in the referral logs before. What I find most interesting about it, they are going to my post about Register.com. Register.com did you hear that? People are finding out about your overpriced services! But I digress.

Overall the social media sites can create a huge rush of visitors to a site, and you might gain a few new comments and some loyal readers. For the most part these people are not going to stick around. I know I rarely subscribe to a blog I discover through StumbleUpon or Digg. The social networking sites don’t send the same amount of large traffic but they also tend to not stick around. The looking at the number of page views of people from these sites the average is low. Usually around one to one and a half page views per visit. They are coming reading and leaving as fast as they came.

The visitors that come here from the search engines are looking for something very specific. They are looking for a solution to a problem they are trying to solve, or information on a product or service that I have written about. This is no surprise, they typed something into the search engine and my blog was the one of the results that the search engine believes will help that person. I often get a great laugh looking at what the search engines think my blog is about looking at the keywords that some people find it. Some of the interesting ones I noticed lately are regular searches for ubuntuxp with this post about my Virtualbox installation of Windows XP installed on my Ubuntu desktop being on the first page of results. I also routinely get visits for people looking for help with PHP and .htaccess problems. That is great and I hope my posts help them but because search engine readers are looking for a solution to a specific problem they don’t stick around long. They might look around a little more but the page views per visit are usually under three.

Percentage wise the referrals from other blogs and websites are not near as large as people coming from the search engines or social media, but they are more interested in the blog as a whole. The number of average pages views is around seven pages views per visit. They also spend more time on the site and are more likely to come back. They are coming from blogs that I have left comments on, participated in or have linked to other posts. Networking with others is a great way to increase visitors and readers to your blog.

The best part of looking at my traffic statistics was seeing how many people come directly to my site. You must be regulars! Thanks for coming and reading and taking part in the conversations here. It really made my day to know that the second highest number of people coming to my site come directly. That also shows in the visitor loyalty graph in Google Analytics.

Overall traffic from search engines, social media and referrals all play a role in bringing traffic to your website. In the long term it is the search engine traffic and referral traffic that will bring in the largest amount of quality traffic and readers. Social media traffic, while great to see and fun to have that spike on your traffic graphs, does not provide a regular and reliable source of visitors and readers. Don’t get me wrong, I think social media traffic plays a part in helping to create some buzz about a site, but in the long term it will not provide your website with a regular source of new readers.

What are your experiences with social media traffic? What do you prefer search engine traffic, social media or referral traffic?

2 Responses to SEO vs. Social Media vs. Referrals

  1. There’s no question here – SEO beats all these options. You get targeted traffic from search engines from who are in need of something. You don’t get this from referral traffic or social media. Hence, why so many people focus on SEO over anything else.

    Note: Comment name edited because it was keyword stuffed.

  2. SEO is great for targeted visitors, but they tend to not stick around and particpate in the blog/community. That is fine, I am happy to have the traffic, and hopefully they found what they needed. The people that come from other blogs as referrals tend to take part and become regulars, which I like. Nice to get to know people.

    Sorry about editing your comment name, but you kind of stuffed it full of keywords.

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