What’s better Website Traffic, Search Engine Traffic or Social Media Traffic?


Hands down I think Search Engine traffic is better, below are 3 reason why.

I’d love to hear why you think social media traffic is better in the comments below.

1. The Metrics Say So

Search Engine traffic is better traffic based on time on site, pages per visit, and bounce rate. The majority of the website data I’ve seen, traffic from Social Media websites (Twitter & Facebook specifically) isn’t nearly as valuable as search engine traffic based on time on site, pages per visit and bounce rate.

Oh and if you’re thinking, Jeph, you must be crazy, we live in Saskatchewan no one Google’s stuff that much! You might be right for now but once can assume that in the future we will rely more and more on search capabilities. If your website can’t be found in Google you’re basically invisible to the majority of your target market.

From Google Analytics:

Traffic Sources to Strategy Lab

For this website Google Search Engine traffic has has a higher pages per visit, average visit duration, and a lower bounce rate.  The tri-fecta of better website traffic!

2. It makes logical sense that search engine traffic is more valuable

Search engine traffic is better quality traffic because someone is searching for something that you have on your website. If you’re smart about this you’ll target many of the different keyword terms your customers would be searching for in Google and writing about them over time.

Here are some of the keyword terms people searched to find my blog, jephmaystruck.com:

Google Analytic Search terms

Yup, you better believe I want people who search “advertising regina” to end up on my website.

3. Social media site popularity changes more than I change my underwear (which is a lot!). And the traffic changes all the time, it’s smarter to target search traffic, it’ll be around longer.

Two years ago it was Twitter and Facebook, then last year it was Pinterest, now Instagram is big and YouTube’s been slowly growing this entire time. I know what you’re thinking. WTF?!?

Twitter used to be my best source of traffic. Then Facebook was It’s too difficult to bank on one of three social networks to build up your influence. It’s much smarter to use your website as your central publishing entity and use social networks as supplementary communication mediums. Search will be around for a while, but social media platforms rise and fall within months.

Next time you’re assessing your online marketing budget and objectives ask yourself; “are we building our online strategy on a social platform that may or may not be around in five years? Or are we building on a platform where we can communicate from in the future, a permission asset per se?”

8 replies
  1. jephmaystruck
    jephmaystruck says:

    Ecobabe, thanks for the data, I really appreciate it. I like that you’re tracking sales as well as website traffic. Trying to correlate website traffic to sales is smart, trying different experiments and tracking what happens to your sales is a great way to learn how Google works and how to use your website as a very efficient lead generation tool.


  2. ecobabe
    ecobabe says:

    I’ve been scrutinizing my analytics here are my stats:

    Percentage of income from individual sources for month of May 2013
    Direct traffic = 60%
    Organic traffic = 26%
    EDMs = 7%
    Bing = 4%
    Myshopping = 3%
    Facebook = 1%

    Note, Direct Traffic includes new Adwords campaigns that weren’t set up correctly for conversion tracking, about 15% of all visitors to site come from Adwords, but I haven’t seen a proportional increase in sales, so that’s what I’m interested in tracking for June.

    Just thought I’d share as it supports argument of author.

  3. Mike Klein
    Mike Klein says:

    Jeph, It’s an interesting thought discussion.

    Search traffic is good from the perspective that its often related to transactional queries. These searches can definitely be of a high value if the destination company offers a product or service that can help that searcher ‘solve their problem’. Search can also be a great way for new people to be introduced to your company. But, I would argue that some of the search terms you are capturing on would be completely useless to your business and your personal brand.

    The one thing I like about social media traffic – especially if it comes from your fans, friends and close contacts – is that it’s likely traffic that’s coming with a strong referral or reference. “Does anybody know a business strategist in Regina?” Friend: “Check out this guy Jeph” To me that’s way more valuable than bringing in thousands of long-tail (and often unrelated) visits.

    Cheers, Mike

    P.S. Are you going to make the trip for MoSo this year?

    • jephmaystruck
      jephmaystruck says:

      @Mike Klein: You’re absolutely right Mike, and the word-of-mouth referrals is the best form of marketing out there, but difficult to measure. I like how much data search gives you but word-of-mouth will always trump any other form of marketing.

      Thanks for reading!

  4. jephmaystruck
    jephmaystruck says:

    You are definitely not talking out of your ass! You have divulged my basic theory on marketing strategy. Focus on outcomes and constantly improve upon past results. I think all companies will have to do this eventually, the proactive ones are doing it now. The reactive companies will miss the boat and find out the hard way.
    At the core I think it’s a willingness to take feedback. Like you said, “find the wins and figure out how you did it” you’re going to make mistake, you’re going to mess up real bad. As long as you’re measuring the entire time you’ll be sure to understand where you made the mistake and adapt in the future.
    You must be willing to take feedback and stick to a plan.
    Marketers need to think more like you Greg, starting with the end in mind. Brilliant my friend, brilliant!


  5. Greg Hluska
    Greg Hluska says:

    Hey Jeph!

    Keep in mind that if the article inspires something, the article deserves 51% of the credit! In other words, thanks for writing!!

    You’re absolutely correct in your summary, but now I’m going to hop up on a soapbox and take things a little further. First, I’m absolutely amazed how many people go out and spend $xxxxx on a website with no clear idea of what it is for. Personally, I think that web development should always begin and end with an exercise in strategic thinking.

    Once you have an idea of what your site is for, you can figure out what a conversion looks like. And then, you can analyze all your different traffic sources by their conversion rate. Thankfully, most decent analytics software makes this incredibly easy. That information is not only actionable on its own, but you can take it deeper to help figure out who responds the best to you!

    Let’s go back to another example. Let’s say that your site gets 1,000 hits per month via search, 500 hits via Twitter, and 500 hits via Facebook. You watch your conversion rates for a month and discover that your conversion rates are 0.1% from search (1 customer), 1% from Twitter (5 customers) and .6% off of Facebook (3 customers). At that point, you can start doing a deeper dive. What search term brought in your customer? Was it ‘advertising Regina’? Or, was it something surprising? And then, what is the difference between Facebook and Twitter? They each brought the same amount of traffic, but the conversion rate is fairly different. Do you have a different persona on Facebook than on Twitter? Or, do your Twitter followers tend to be decision makers in mid-sized organizations, whereas your Facebook friends tend to be fairly new entrepreneurs?

    Armed with those insights (and continued over a period of time), you can start testing around conversions. What happens to these conversion rates if you add in a ‘hire me’ paragraph at the end of every blog article? Or, what happens to conversion rates if you start posting a video every week? Or, what happens to your conversion rates if…..??

    You can carry this line of thought over into the digital world.

    Let’s say that you decide you want to start using billboards. You’ve never invested in a billboard before, so you decide to start slow, with one placement on Victoria Avenue East. After the billboard is launched, your phone rings off the hook and you start selling like mad. Chances are good that the decision makers who are most drawn to you live somewhere in the east end, they likely make a little more money than the average, and there’s a really good chance that they drive to and from work. Armed with those insights, you can modify your marketing budgets and even your messages. Maybe that will convince you to invest in radio ads? And maybe, all the information you have collected will give you a really good sense of what kind of station to advertise in!

    The key point is to focus on the win and devote yourself to figuring out how you won, what kinds of people are most drawn to you, and what kind of content or promotional strategy draws those types of people to you. In my opinion, actionable insights like that are the difference between a billion dollar company and an idea…of course, never having started a billion dollar company, I might be talking out of my ass…

  6. jephmaystruck
    jephmaystruck says:

    As always Greg you left a comment smarter than the post!
    I think I get what you’re saying. Traffic, in general, doesn’t matter. Conversion rate is the far more important metric to track than traffic. Every company needs to assess their conversion rate and compare the conversion rates of different types of traffic to get an understanding of what’s the most valuable traffic based on conversion.

    Thanks for reading my friend!


  7. Greg Hluska
    Greg Hluska says:

    Online marketers tend to equate traffic with success. The problem is that site traffic can never be more than theoretical success and, if you optimize for traffic, you can actually harm your business in the long run. Consider this example:

    Let’s say that your website gets 1,000 brand new visitors via search. Of these 1,000 people, a grand total of zero people become paying customers. However, your site gets 1 visitor who learned about your site because someone emailed her a link to an article. That person becomes a lifelong customer. Which traffic source is more valuable?

    Now, let’s carry this example a little further. Let’s say that you get 1,000,000 people every month to drop by your site via search. This million people consumes a vast amount of resources, to the point that you have to go out and hire people to keep your site up. If the conversion rate is still zero, you have wasted a massive amount of money. You’re getting a huge amount of traffic, but that traffic is only costing you money.

    Marketing is a systematic, research driven process of achieving business goals. If your goal is to make money, the only traffic that matters is the traffic that converts. Therefore, you want to optimize your conversions and make sure that you’re devoting time to the particular traffic sources that bring in paying customers. Return on investment is the only metric that really matters.

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