Search or Social: Where do You Want Your Traffic to come from?

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Search or Social: Where do You Want Your Traffic to come from?

While there are many strands to digital marketing, search and social are probably the ones that get most of your attention and focus. This is because you feel like you can have more influence or control over these areas and are happier working with them as you can see the difference your activities make using your analytics platform. Where should you be focusing more of your efforts?

Search Reliance is a Dangerous Game

There’s no other way to put this. If you are looking to drive all of your traffic through organic search, then you are playing a dangerous game. Don’t worry if you currently find yourself in this situation; most online businesses have at some point because they haven’t fired up their social media campaign or understood that successful digital marketing is about so much more than SEO.

At the same time, you need to give yourself a sense of urgency so you can develop a strategy to ensure you are not focused solely on driving traffic through search.

The biggest problem you are causing yourself when you focus 100% on search is that it only takes one Google algorithm update to hit your site and you are facing the failure of your business. Even if you are carrying out SEO activities that Google wouldn’t penalise or hit with an algorithm update, natural keyword fluctuations and the increasingly personal nature of search and additional search factors means you are always living on the edge of disaster, even if, as you read this today, you are driving traffic and converting a high percentage of this.

The Social Landscape

Statistic Brain research estimates that almost 60% of people globally have a social media account that they use on a regular basis. They also say that 98% of 18-24 year olds use social media, while a recent study conducted by the Huffington Post found that older age groups were the fastest growing demographic on Twitter.

Whichever way you choose to look at the social media landscape, it is clear that it represents a huge opportunity, whatever business you’re in and whatever demographic your products or services target.

Does this mean you should be putting more of a focus onto social media versus search?

That is what many businesses do, often because they feel the exposure they get from a social network offers a better return on investment than a new piece of content, which might not make much change in terms of keyword rankings or requires a significant effort to see real change. However, it would take a lot of time to develop the social media presence needed to drive such a significant portion of traffic to your site that you could stop worrying about search referrals and conversions.

How to Approach Search vs. Social

What if you are in a situation where a low percentage of your overall traffic comes from search engines anyway? The first thing to do is to look at the bigger picture. Is your search traffic percentage low because you have a poor search presence, or are you just much better at driving traffic from social media, email marketing, PPC, or something else? You can ask yourself the same questions about social media, although remember that your social traffic, especially if you are a small business, will probably be naturally lower anyway.

What you need to do now is look at the areas where you are successful. What is it about your search activities or social media presence that brings people to your site. How can you take these factors and build them into the other part of digital marketing?

Where Should Your Traffic Come From?

For most websites, the majority of their traffic should come from organic search, as that is where most people go to find a business. While the social networks make a big thing about their own on-site search and algorithms, the reality is they are all a long way behind Google when it comes to being an information source for consumers in this regard. Ask people how they found something or their preferred method of doing so, and Google (or another search engine) will easily win the discussion. Social networks are getting better at search, but they’re only masters of their own platforms, rather than the rest of the internet.

That’s not to say that social is a waste of time, because it definitely isn’t. The biggest thing to get your head around when it comes to social media is that you shouldn’t give up, which is what many small business owners tend to do when they have been working for a month and only have a handful of followers. Like SEO, your social presence will evolve over time, and as all of your digital marketing activities come together, you’ll start to see traffic from this source increase.

Maximising Search and Social

Moving forward, the approach you need to take is to look at how you can maximise search and social. Content marketing will be a big part of this, and you should consider how the wider digital marketing spectrum feeds into these activities. Search and social will continue to be the areas where you put most of your energy, and while you should be looking at driving more traffic from search, efforts should be spread across the two. The easiest way to achieve this is to get in the mind-set that you can’t do one without the other. Think digital marketing as a whole rather than search or social, and you will put in the effort you need to succeed.