Search vs. Social: Which Drives Better Traffic?

Search vs. Social: Which Drives Better Traffic?

I used to love SEO

A few years ago, SEO seemed like the darling of the digital marketing world. The idea that you could “optimize” a page and magically drive search traffic to your website; how amazing.

So, in my innocence, I did lots of SEO. And you know what, nothing much happened.

For years, I didn’t drive any significant business with website SEO. Sure, I drove thousands and thousands of visitors. But most of that traffic didn’t engage with the content and certainly didn’t convert into customers.

What a bummer. Those long-tail keyword phrases weren’t as magical as advertised.

After many moons of trial and error, I decided to pause my SEO and content marketing efforts and mix more social media into the equation.

Eureka! Social media for the win!

Well, not so much. Nothing much happened with that either 😎

For a good stretch, my digital marketing didn’t work at all. I got most of my design business from online marketplaces and word-of-mouth.

On the bright side, the past couple of years have been better. I’ve figured out how to drive higher-quality traffic to my website, engage more visitors, and capture leads online.

It’s still a work-in-progress, but my digital marketing is lightyears ahead of where it used to be.

For me, social media traffic has better engagement than search. Search gets the most volume but doesn’t convert as well.

The following is a quick rundown of what I’ve learned from a Google Analytics deep-dive into the past two years:

Organic search is just so-so

Organic Google search engine traffic is the single largest source of visitors to my website—by a landslide. The number one page visited is (not surprisingly) my Home page. All those long, juicy blog posts are great, but they don’t hold a candle to good ol’ Home.

While you might be spending the most time and effort on content creation and blog posts, your top navigation pages get the most Pageviews. If you’re going to focus on SEO, make sure your pages get as much love as your posts.

Don’t undervalue your Home page. It still needs to be the epicenter of your digital world in 2020. Make sure your unique value prop is front-and-center so all the strangers visiting your site can quickly digest your brand.

Blog posts are helpful but not great

I have a few dozen blog posts on my website. In aggregate, they account for a good percentage of my traffic. The downside is that they have a relatively high Bounce Rate and don’t have the world’s best engagement.

On a positive note, they get a lot of social shares, which is free advertising.

When my blog traffic comes from search, it’s almost useless. When it comes from social, the Session Duration is excellent, and the Pageviews are high. So it’s a no-brainer to share my blog content on social and not be too concerned with SEO.

In general, blog posts get way fewer Pageviews than regular web pages and landing pages. They’re time-consuming to create so I don’t put too much effort into blog content. Other digital marketing activities perform better and make better use of my time.

Facebook is a silent winner (what a shocker)

Traffic from Facebook performs better than expected. While I have a small following, my posts somehow grow legs and drive a decent amount of traffic to my website. The quality of the engagement is much better than search, and Facebook generates the most volume of any social media source.

Honestly, I don’t put much effort into Facebook because it’s challenging to grow your follower count organically. It feels like nobody’s listening unless you’re running paid ads.

However, that’s just an illusion. When you look at the numbers, Facebook drives amazing engagement relative to the low follower count. It’s not all about likes and followers when it comes to Facebook traffic.

Twitter is surprisingly amazing

Twitter is the best source of quality traffic to my website (considering volume and engagement). Looking at the social media sources in Google Analytics, Twitter has the most Sessions and Pageviews. I also have an average Session Duration of 8:30, so I know my Twitter following is well-aligned with my brand.

One great thing about Twitter is the ability to use automation to schedule tweets. I have a SocialOomph queue of a couple of hundred tweets that cycle through every few weeks. I don’t need to “do” anything to drive Twitter traffic to my website. Hooray!

LinkedIn is my new favorite

I don’t post very often on LinkedIn, which I’m learning is a big mistake. The numbers tell me that LinkedIn drives the highest quality of any traffic source to my website.

LinkedIn visitors account for a 10:52 Session Duration and 10.25 Pages / Session. It’s my best source of engaged traffic, hands down.

I’ve written a few articles on LinkedIn, and they’re a good comparison to my blog. LinkedIn Pulse articles give you immediate feedback in a way that you don’t get from regular blogging.

On LinkedIn, you’ll know straight away if your article is any good. Useful articles catch fire quickly while bad ones generate nothing but crickets.

From a performance perspective, the only way my blog beats LinkedIn articles is social sharing. On average, my LinkedIn articles get shared less often.

But my best LinkedIn article has 580% more views than my best blog post. LinkedIn obviously has a much larger audience than my blog and gets more attention.

Some would say that LinkedIn articles are less valuable because they’re not on your website. However, I’d rather have 6X the exposure and not worry where it’s happening.

Besides, you can post the same content on both. The duplicate content problem is more of an SEO myth than a serious issue.

Search vs. Social, which one is better?

When it comes to content marketing, I’d recommend social media over search optimization. Personally, I get way better engagement via social. Sure, lots of Google visitors to your website is nifty. But if they don’t convert into customers or engage with your content, what’s the point?

However, if you really want the best digital marketing in 2020, it’s paid ads on Facebook. That’s the real winner for lead generation and engagement. It’s just a bit of a gut-punch to pay $1.62 for the privilege of showing somebody a free ebook (which costs nothing but effort via search and social).

Speaking of free ebooks… 👇

Authentic Marketing for Health & Wellness Brands