How to Increase Social Media Traffic

Yours Sucks, Even If You Think it Doesn’t

Social media traffic sucks? But, yours is great….. isn’t it??? Okay, so you think I’m full of crap! Lest you keep that opinion, let’s look at how I got there. Whether yours is dismal or not, discovering how to increase social media traffic is a boon to your organization. Chances are, there’s plenty of room for improvement.

After all, social media is all the rage these days, with what borders on good reason. Social does expand reach, build your audience, and grow traffic. Here’s the thing, though; it most excels at relationship building, something that can have nearly infinite value for you and your organization. It’s not so hot at driving traffic, but you can make it better.

That Being Said……

For all its goodness, there are so many ways where social media plain falls on its face from a traffic perspective. Worse, it trails the way we used to get most visitors; search engines and to a lesser extent, website / blog referrals, in a couple of key areas. Even so , how can I get off saying it sucks, when it’s a traffic driver, albeit somewhat disappointing?

Easy; experience and analytics. It doesn’t drive nearly the number of visitors you’d think, given the number of shares and other social activity. Basically, shares don’t correlate with eyeballs on your site.

What?

I got on this tangent after noticing a recent blog post got virtually zero traffic from social referrals, despite getting 30+ LinkedIn Shares, 20 Tweets, and over 50 Google Plus shares. Yeah, that’s not like a Social Media Examiner post with 5,000 shares, but still. It was compelling enough to risk one’s credibility sharing, but not enough for anyone to actually read? Interesting…..

I’m apparently not alone here; uber popular blogger Steve Pavlina, recently revealed social media drove far less than 1% of his blog’s traffic. That helps explain why he just deleted his social media accounts …. all of them. I’m not advocating that radical step, but you get the idea. It’s not just me talkin’ here.

Now, as share totals go, my post was barely a drop in the social media bucket; especially compared to many other sites. It’s not nothing, however. I was damn happy to get the love I did. One would think that 100+ people sharing something to their networks, some of which are vast (I checked) and presumably engaged, would generate some traffic. Laser focused, highly targeted traffic would be even better.

Instead, that pimply-faced booger eater got more people to his high school party. Surely it’s an anomaly? It merited some digging.

Discovery:

Social media IS driving traffic to the web as a whole, and more of it than ever before. Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest referrals combined for over 30% of all website traffic. Facebook alone sent nearly 22%. It stands to reason that search is declining as a traffic driver. This is backed up by the latest Shareaholic Social Media Traffic Report. Search king Google has seen its share slip from 36% in December 13, to barely 31% in May 14. That’s a C-suite-heart-palpitation-inducing decline of 17.2 percent. Suits hate that stuff.

It’s not only the Mountain View Mafia who’ve seen their share crater. Bing and Yahoo have been slip slidin’ away, too. They’re down over 31% in the same time period, hitting an inconsequential 0.78 and 0.90% of total referrals, respectively. A drop in the bucket would be a welcome change for the better.

Social Media Traffic Problems

Yes, social drives traffic, but for all their relationship building excellence, traffic driving potential, and marketer buzz, from a traffic perspective social media platforms aren’t the be all, end all. Here’s why:

It starts with social media vs search engine traffic and why we love it.

Social Media Traffic Problem 1: Lack of Immediate IntentHow to Increase Social Media Traffic [infographic]

Search engine traffic shows immediate intent. People came to your site because they were looking for something specific at that moment. Between it’s SERP results placement and the content in the search engine listing itself, your search result convinced them your website would be a great place to find it. If their interest is commerce related, either immediately or in the near future…Yeah, Baby!!

That’s why top search engine listings are so coveted, JC Penney cheated Google to get them. It’s also why you should pay attention to your listing and how it looks on the SERPs. It’s not only how to make it rise to the top, but what people see there that’s important. It must attract clicks.

Social media traffic may attract visitors because they were looking for something. It happens, but it’s just as likely they came because their crazy cousin Jeff shared your post on their Facebook or Tweeted out a link to it.

If you’re really livin’ right, an influencer shared your post on Facebook, LinkedIn or Google Plus. That may give you somewhat more targeted traffic, and an implied recommendation. Even those visitors still won’t have the focused intent of search engine traffic, though. They weren’t actively looking for something specific at that time, they just thought it would be interesting.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. Immediate commercial intent doesn’t have to be a problem. You’re so right. It can be an opportunity, if you position yourself to take advantage of it with some relationship nurturing.

Social Media Traffic Problem 2: Transitory Evaporation–

Even the most sticky social media traffic is transitory. It’s here today, and gone tomorrow, whereas search engine traffic can persist for months or even years. Yes, LinkedIn or Google Plus posts linger for a while, but Twitter’s a real poofer, and even the most sticky social post isn’t likely to be sending much your way after 30 days or so.

That’s why re-sharing social media content in the future is so important. A Tweet gets lost in the stream, and reTweeting it a few days, weeks or even months later can sometimes deliver much greater engagement, should the right person see it. With search engine traffic, it’s often just getting started after a month or two. I know that social media posts do show up on search engines, but in many cases you have to be logged in to Google, and the posting has to be from someone in your circle.  If not, no search result listing .

Here’s a Little Story ‘Bout a Man Named Jed

There is a twisted interdependence between search and social traffic, like your cousin Jenny marrying your cousin Jed… but I digress. Better search rankings mean more traffic and more shares, but more social activity also impacts search rankings, and traffic. To discover what degree it does so, you’ll have to ask hard-core SEO experts. Rand’s probably around here somewhere….. Be thorough; ask 10 SEOs. Go ahead, you’ll likely get 10 different answers, maybe 9.

I asked one, Cyrus Shepard (Twitter @CyrusShepard), Senior Manager of the Content Team and SEO expert at Moz, and one of the most respected SEO software firms anywhere. You might say he knows a thing or two about SEO.

We’ve always seen a high correlation between social activity and higher rankings. In fact, social activity is often more highly correlated with higher rankings than almost any other signal we study.

Google has been vocal about saying they don’t use most raw social activity in their algorithm, with the justification that they don’t have reliable access to data from Twitter and Facebook. That said, we have seen Google make more statements in the past couple of years they are very interested in “identity” on the web, which has implications behind “who” shares socially, as opposed to raw social counts. We saw evidence of this when Google started using authorship as one of the signals when promoting In-depth articles in its search results.

The biggest benefit from increased social sharing remains broader distribution of your content. The more your content is naturally shared, the more influential eyeballs it gets in front of, the more links it can earn and the better you’ll do in search results.”

Social isn’t just bang out a post and forget it, either. Social traffic is dependent on many variables. Who are you engaging with on your social platforms? When did you share? That alone can make a massive difference. This post on Buffer (http://blog.bufferapp.com/best-time-to-tweet-post-to-facebook-send-emails-publish-blogposts) details the best times to share on various social media platforms.

If Not Traffic, What?

I’m not saying social isn’t worth traffic, but….. Social media is more a long-term branding and engagement play for relationship building. Think maximizing lifetime customer value. Immediate traffic from social is a just a tasty bonus. Please pass the Cinnabon……

Yes, it drives traffic, too; sometimes tidal waves of it. That traffic’s a great thing, but only if you’re prepared to nurture it and turn social visitors into brand evangelists and subscribers. The intent is different than search engine traffic, so use that to your advantage. Engage them, that’s why they came. Recognize the difference. It’s vital.

It’s Like This:

A social visitor is probably NOT going to make a purchase on their first (or even 10th) visit. On the other hand, a searcher may well buy your new Fizzbinder 2000 because they were searching for it, and your site came up in the SERPs. If they don’t hit the plastic on their initial visit, they’ll perhaps relatively soon.

In addition, most successful brands are fairly adept at hanging on to and marketing to past purchasers, so that visitor may buy more down the road. Who will those buyers tell about your brand and products? That’s anyone’s guess, and open to many variables. If you’re engaging them on social media and delivering value, your chances go way up, though.

Are those visitors transformed into committed brand evangelists after their purchase? That too, is anyone’s guess. It’s another multi-variable dependent event.

However, if they are committed brand evangelists BEFORE making their first purchase, they’re yours for life to screw up. Don’t, and they will you help bring more customers into the fold, too. A 2012 study conducted at  Concordia University, and published in the Journal of Information Management found that:
“Brand communities operating on social media can enhance brand trust and loyalty
by improving customer relationship with the brand, other consumers, the company, and the products.”

So, How Can You Grow Social Media Referral Traffic?

It Takes Two, Then Two More, Then……..

That’s the $24,000 question: How to maximize website traffic from your social media activity?

Social traffic to your website is a function of two metrics:

  •  Reach
  • Clickthrough rate

Grow either and your traffic will increase. Of course, with social media there are really TWO clickthrough rates that matter: The clickthrough rate of the social listing, and the internal clickthrough rate of the post itself.

I call these primary and secondary clickthroughs, respectively. If they click on your post in LinkedIn, Google+, or Twitter, they must then also click on the link in the post itself that leads to your site. If either are missing, so is your traffic!

Here are a few ways to drive both metrics higher, growing your social media traffic in the process:

1 – Always Deliver Value

If your audience knows you consistently deliver value, they’ll keep coming back and share more often. Even more important, because they know you deliver, they’ll click more, too. People hate being disappointed, so don’t. They’ll love you and your stuff, and expect you to always deliver more great content.

No more letting your Google+ posts or Tweets just slide on by in their feed. They’ll actually watch for you, and click to get the “rest of the story” when your social post shows up.

That consistent value also boosts the likliehood an influencer will re-share your social post. Their reach combined with their implied endorsement can kick your traffic right in the Jimmy, sending it sky high.

Growing value in your social activity means:

  • Know your audience, what their motivations are, and what they really want
  • Giving it to them’ on social platforms aligned with your target audience
  • Sharing at the optimum times

2 – Use Tools

You can’t do it all by yourself; nor should you try, especially with something as important and potentially overwhelming as your organization’s social media efforts. You have enough to do already, whether you’re a single blogger, community manager, or social media marketing staffer at a major brand.
Use tools to give yourself a hand. Lilach Bullock at Maximize Social Business gives us a list of 10  Tools that will help get more social media traffic. If that’s not enough, see Albert Costill’s list of social Media Management Tools over at SearchEngineJournal.com

3 – Make Your Headlines Compelling

Social media is content, after all. Like a blog post, newspaper article, or e-book, the title or headline drives primary clickthroughs. They grab the visitor and make them want to click on your post, out of the dozens sliding by in their Google+, Facebook, or Twitter stream. If you’re following more than 3 people on any social network, you know that means time’s at a premium. You have about 1 second to grab someone’s attention.

These primary clickthroughs are necessary for the secondary ones that take visitors to your site. If they miss the post, they’ll miss the link to your site. Ensuring your content is aligned with the headline and delivers on the headline’s promise makes visitors warm and fuzzy when they do click on through. That’s a good thing. Really.

4 – Include Images

There’s a reason graphics sites like Canva are doing a booming business of late. Businesses have an overwhelming appetite for social media graphics. Why the thirst? Partly due to stats like this: Including images increases clickthrough rates an average of 18% according to the folks at Buffer, who’ve analyzed literally millions of posts.  Images make your post stand out, and boost appeal to visual learners.

5 – Collaborate With Influencers and Authorities

Every industry and market has those who say “Jump” and others ask “How High?” People hang on their every word. If their words happen to include reference to your content or social post, hang on. The key is building collaborative relationships with them. They may contribute to your little masterpiece.

Their contribution helps your credibility, boosts value for your audience, and there’s a decent chance they’ll give it a mention or two in their social accounts, on their blog, or in an industry rag. Of course, you’re also helping them, because the more they are quoted, referenced, and shared, the more it cements their influencer status. Sure, it’s a catch-22, but one you can both use to your advantage.

How to Boost Secondary Clickthrough Rates

Once your visitors are on your social post, you’ve won half the battle. Here’s how you win the other half.

A – Just ask.

Really, asking your visitors to click can significantly increase your click through rates. Of course, that’s somewhat social network dependent. You may not want to waste some of your Tweet’s 140  precious characters on click begging. In any case, include a call to action where appropriate.

B- Analyze and Copy.

Well, not copy, but look at your most successful past posts from a click through rate perspective. What were they about, and how were they structured? Use that as guide for future posts. Something about those posts made visitors click.  Using those elements on future posts will drive click through rates high on them too.

C – Be Real, or Get That Way Fast

You’re trying to build a relationship with your visitor. Better relationship = higher click throughs.
Danny Wong highlights the effect of being real and authentic as a big influence on social media click through rates in a post on the shareaholic blog Yeah, you’re right; it’s not gong to happen overnight, but happen it will.
More on boosting social clickthrough rates:
Social Media Examiner had an excellent article on Ways to Boost Social Click Through Rates that gives more info.

What We Discovered About Social Traffic, How to Grow It, and How to Benefit From It

1 – Social traffic is different from search traffic. They both have strengths and weaknesses. Recognize them. Use social to start, build, and strengthen relationships that will help your organization in ways a single search visit usually can’t. Social media traffic is a long term relationship play, not a one nigh stand.

2 – Social traffic to your website is a function of 2 key metrics: reach and click through rate (both primary and secondary) Track these and focus on maximizing them with your target audience. Maximizing clickthrough takes a golden combination of timing, relevancy, headline, CTA, and value history.

3 – Don’t work in a vacuum. Really, growing social traffic means, well, being social. Getting the most from that traffic means reaching out to others and making the most of your contacts. That includes your employees, who can be a huge social asset. The relationships you foster with influencers and industry insiders are some of your most valuable social assets too, but don’t overlook people just because they haven’t reached that pinnacle.

The Upshot on Social Media Traffic

  • You can increase social media traffic to your site.
  • Just because your last post got shared doesn’t mean those shares will translate into site visits.
  • Growing social media traffic to your site = increasing social media reach and clickthrough rate

What’s been your biggest social media traffic challenge? Did you solve it? How?