Google vs social networking traffic

traffic sources

With the boom of social networking over the last few years, there’s a lot more traffic to be squeezed out of your website beyond just having good search engine optimization.

Social network and bookmarking sites such as Twitter, StumbleUpon and Digg have the potential to bring in huge traffic. And while every site can be found through search engines not every one is using these tools, giving you a potential leg up on the competition.

The only downside is social networking requires regular work, and getting to the front page of Digg etc. for a huge boost in exposure requires a little luck. There’s a lot of competition on social bookmarking sites and writing a fantastic article doesn’t guarantee it won’t slip through the cracks.

If you are fortunate enough to have an article land on the front page however, the results are undeniable. It wouldn’t be the first time a web hosting server has been brought down by a huge traffic burst of to an article featured on one social networking site or another.

Search engines are somewhat the opposite.

A search engine will crawl and index all your worthy content sooner or later without any input on your part, you can’t however put any extra effort into directly affecting search engine results even if you wanted to.

Your place in a search engines results is ultimately deciding by the engine based on your content, the more quality content the better your result, but unlike social networking you can repeatedly promote yourself to a search engine for increased traffic.

Search engine traffic is also slow to get going. In order to help prevent spam sites continually popping up, Google has what is commonly referred to as the sandbox. The reference is symbolic of children (new websites) playing in a sandbox until they’re all grown up and ready for the big wide world.

While there’s no official word on this from Google, it is believed that the sandbox effect lasts 4 months or so, during which you won’t see much traffic search engine wise. Once your out however, search engines provide a steady stream of targeted visitors with no additional work required on your behalf.

Ultimately it’s all good. If you don’t have the time/inclination to keep up the social front, search engines will bring you visitors but there’s plenty to gain from social sites if you can utilize them.

Where do you get your traffic from?

As a point of interest I’ve included the above graphic detailing my traffic sources for the last 3 months, for me social bookmarking plays a huge roll.

At the time of writing, Stumbleupon is bringing me 45% of my visitors, Twitter brings in about 11%, Google 35% while the last 9% is made up from blog comments, lesser search engines etc. How about you?

17 thoughts on “Google vs social networking traffic”

  1. To be honest, I’ve been so busy over the last few months, I haven’t bothered checking my stats! However, I would guess that Twitter is my main source of traffic outside of Google.

    I haven’t even got a StumbleUpon account I don’t think, so I may look into this one, cheers ;)

  2. I must confess I’m obsessed with tracking my stats. Opening my browser for the first time each day brings up Google Analytics, Feedburner subscribers, Adsense and my Alexa ranking.

    A little thrill each day seeing them go up a few notches, he he.

  3. Did you get an article on the featured to get such good traffic from stumbleupon? I’ve have friends with blogs who tell me Digg is good but you have to get on the front page.

  4. I don’t believe there are front page articles on StumbleUpon like Digg Brendon. For every post I bookmark however the traffic seems to build exponentially.

    Going back to my first posts, many of my first bookmarks to this day have very few views. While as you move towards current posts they start climb from 70, to 300, to 500, to 1,000 and so on.

    Getting to the front page of Digg does give you an enormous burst of traffic, but Digging a site that doesn’t get featured isn’t a waste. You’ve got to be in it to win it, as they say.

  5. As a design firm that recently rebranded after eight years, I too have found myself in the “sandbox” waiting to play again with the big kids.
    Not sure I would have gone through the cost and effort knowing what I do now.

  6. Hi Rob,
    Probably too late to suggest this if you didn’t do it already but Google has a permanent change of address tool somewhere, and also you can use a permanent redirect in your code which in theory makes your new site equally as popular immediately.

    Did you use any of these options, or did they not live up to their expectations?

  7. While my sites traffic is a lot smaller than yours Andrew I find using OnlyWire to be the easiest for me. It submits my sites to a large array of social networking sites or bookmarking sites and I always see an instant increase in traffic.

    I also still see articles from months and months ago that are getting referrals from said sites which I’m sure would get a lot less traffic (possibly none at all) if it weren’t for my OnlyWire submissions

  8. Ewan,
    I too use the OnlyWire service to submit all my posts to a dozen or so sites, such a time saver.

    I can see why people don’t use social sites, there’s no doubt that making the most of it requires regular work, long term though I think you can’t go wrong.

  9. Also, just curious, how did you compile your information for your graph? Seems like a very handy tool to have for those that are serious about SEO and marketing. Loving your work, keep it up :)

  10. Ewan
    It’s part of Google Analytics, you just need to insert a small piece of code into the footer of your site for Google to track and it feeds you all the information you could ever want.

  11. Hi Andrew, nice to see I’m not the only one obsessing over site stats! To answer your question I’m probably 75% search engines, 15% referring (half of which social media) and 10% direct. So I basically concentrate on Google.

    I agree that social media takes more time and I do work on it but it just hasn’t given me the results. I’ve seen the odd burst of traffic from a Stumble but I’m not sure if the traffic is sticky and I think that the targeted traffic from Google is far more likely to stay and, even better, contact me for work. Interesting post.

  12. Rob,
    Funny you mention the reliability of the Stumbleupon traffic, it’s been very problematic for me of late.

    Each blog I post I bookmark to Stumbleupon, only once on one account, no spamming etc. For the first 3 months or so I received literally no traffic from it, each post claiming 1 page view only.

    For some reason after the 3 month mark, my blogs bookmarked after that point now have ascending views in order of submission.

    Something along the lines of 100 views for the first post that began yielding traffic, 200 for the second, 400, 800, 1500, etc. as the post go on.

    Each new post is met with proportionally higher traffic until a week or so ago all new posts are again stuck on 1 view only.

    I’m still bookmarking posts only once, on one account, just as I did the last 150 times, but now it appears I’m on some variety of blacklist so who knows.

    Your point regarding the targeted traffic however is excellent. Part of my contact form is a “how did you find me field” and I can’t think of an answer that wasn’t either Google, or Twitter. Never Stumbleupon.

    It seems a shame to randomly lose the traffic like I have at this stage, but as you mentioned, due to the nature of Stumbleupon perhaps I haven’t lost much?

  13. To me, stats are like bringing home a report card, you have to look to see how you’re doing. Your grades will depend on your goals, but there’s always room for growth and learning.

    I wonder what other sites your readers are finding helpful. Anyone getting traction from Ning or LinkedIn?

    Thanks for the post!

  14. Suzanne,

    I haven’t tried linkedin myself, though from browsing other design blogs it seems to be all the rage.

    I don’t think I’ve heard of Ning, I’ll have to check it out.

  15. Hi Andrew, I’ve only just seen your reply to my comment above. I find this an interesting issue.

    I’d concentrated on organic for years and have only recently decided dip my toe in the social pool and the results recently have been worthwhile – especially with SU.

    Interesting that you said you got 100 views for the first post, 200 for the second, 400, 800, 1500, and then down to 1! I have seen similar volatility. I had a post get 6,000+ from SU but the others get 100+ and I’ve no idea why. Maybe an eye-catching title?

    And, maybe the traffic isn’t quality. But some traffic is better than no traffic at all and I do get a hike in subscriptions when I get a spike in traffic so it’s all good.

    And to answer Suzanne, I find LinkedIn a great place to get advice. Join as many groups as you can in your niche and then you can post to 50+ groups at a time and that gives you excellent targeted traffic. And LinkedIn people tend to leave comments and subscribe!

    But with so many social sites out there, everyone’s going to have their favourites and different experiences!

  16. Rob,

    I barely have time for the occasional blog post lately, I’m sure 50 groups will be quite enough…

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