Search Traffic Refers More Visitors Than Social Media in 2017

Reports of the demise of search engine optimisation, and the dominance of social media, will need to be updated as search traffic sent more visitors to websites than social in 2017.

The figures come from a variety of sources. Shareaholic put Search at 34.8% of site visits compared to social at 25.6% in 2017, which puts Search as the biggest source of traffic for the first time since 2014. Meanwhile Chartbeat has consistently had Search ahead, but referrals grew since August 2017. Parse.ly also confirmed the rise for search and drop for social media.

Search Traffic Refers More Visitors Than Social Media in 2017

 

What is changing to search and social traffic?

Social Media platforms have come under criticism for their handling of fake news, spam content and clickbait. And as the largest of the networks, Facebook has come under particular scrutiny. So as a result, the most recent changes to the Facebook newsfeed have attempted to boost trusted sources and demote the rest.

At the same time, the efforts by Google to improve mobile search access, particularly around Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP), have been driving a growth in search volume and traffic, while desktop activity remains largely the same.

 

What to do for your business?

The ‘battle’ between Search and Social for biggest source of website traffic is largely a pointless one. Regardless of which is marginally bigger, you really want to be using both to the best of your ability.

Search remains not only a large source of traffic, but one which converts to action well. Because if you’re optimising for the right searches and content, you’ll attract people actively in the market for your products and services. And it will deliver you a good source of new customers who don’t already know about your company.

Meanwhile Social remains a great way to increase engagement and repeat purchases. You can use it to reach targetted new customers, and to promote sales to existing fans. And to also improve your customer service and engagement. But it’s not really at its best as a pure sales channel generally. There are exceptions, and some small companies do a lot of social media-based sales through Facebook, Instagram etc. But although all companies can change how they rank, promote and share content via their platform, having a business based on social media sales through 1-2 channels will always seem a little riskier than also having search, email and other sales mechanisms in place.

 

If you’d like to know how we’ve increased sales through search, social media, content marketing and other methods, get in touch…

 

 

 

Good service, bad service and social media

I went for a quick shopping trip at Bluewater yesterday, and it once again highlighted how important it is to align the whole customer experience of your brand, including your products, service levels and marketing. A comparison of three retail and social media experience sum it up nicely:

Store 1: Uniqlo:

I’ve heard various things about Uniqlo and browsed their stores, but this was the first time I’ve intended to make a purchase, having seen numerous mentions of their selvage jeans (Selvage refers to the method of stitching, if you’re not a denim geek). And the level of service was great – first someone was able to help me find the one pile of the right jeans amongst the masses on display, and also explained that they offer a free alteration service when I struggled to find the right leg length.Then the young lady manning the fitting rooms was also friendly and helpful when arranging the alterations and pinning the jeans, and the till staff maintained that. After 40 minutes I came back and my jeans were ready.

Store 2: Ed’s Easy Diner:

I’m a big fan of good burger joints and Americana, so Ed’s should have been perfect. But it was average for various reasons. Partly the quality of food doesn’t quite justify the price (the bacon on my burger was burnt and rock solid, the strawberry milkshake was mainly vanilla, and the chips were undercooked). And partly because the three waiting staff between them were disinterested at best. Having invested in something slightly overpriced and with a hefty amount of competitive restaurants nearby, seeing our food and drinks slammed on the table or being ignored when we tried to pay the bill really didn’t make up for the food. Especially when I’ve experienced alternatives including the constant favourite Byron Burger in London (for example).

Store 3: Soletrader:

The actual service in Soletrader wasn’t bad – reasonably quick, friendly and helpful. The problem is that they were totally hampered by the store infrastructure. I’ve received a voucher for the store, which can’t be redeemed online. I want a specific pair of trainers, which are never in stock in my size. And although I can order them to a physical store, I really wanted to try the two closest sizes to check the right fit. It’s the sort of problem which turns a normally docile and compliant customer into one who will cause any amount of hassle to get rid of his voucher and never go near the store again.

How about the social media marketing:

When I came back online, I decided to tweet about the 3 different levels of service – good, average, and hampered by store policies.

Interestingly, Uniqlo didn’t need to respond or acknowledge my recommendation, but various friends echoed the fact that instore it’s a great experience (Although apparently their email marketing can be pretty overwhelming). That’s fine as I’m quite happy to follow their Twitter account.

Ed’s Easy Diner didn’t respond which is consistently disapointing. I’d hoped to be reassured that my experience may have been a one-off, but can only assume it wasn’t.

But the most interested in the fact that Soletrader did get back to me on Twitter. I got an acknowledgement and an apology for the hassle, although yet again, someone attempting to offer service and customer care couldn’t actually provide a solution, although they did say ‘we’re looking into a way gift vouchers can be used online in the future’.

More effort needed:

Recent stats show that customers expectations of service and feedback via social media outstrip the expectations of companies to monitor and respond. That has to change, and it has to go just beyond monitoring mentions and passing on details.

I wouldn’t necessarily expect Ed’s to respond with any offers or compensation (though I wouldn’t have complained if they did), but at least acknowledging their was a problem with the service offered and finding out more about my experience may have helped them identify a way in which they could improve their business in a location with a high level of competing restaurants and a fairly captive market. It certainly wasn’t busy when we ate, and yet we still ended up on a table with a jukebox out of order.

And Soletrader really need to move more quickly to solve their infrastructure problems, or empower staff to sort a solution out. I hate to quote the Zappos example yet again, but it’s appropriate for a footwear company. If the marketing team on Twitter wanted to turn an annoyed customer into a loyal one, they’d just need to grab a pair of Onitsuka Tigers in blue/red in size 7 and size 8 – send them both to my home address and allow me to send back the pair which didn’t fit. I can give them the voucher code in advance, and they can deal with the hassle of it not being valid for an online order. But having checked the Soletrader site, it appears of 13 different shoes, they have 3 in stock in size 7 across the UK.

The financial risk would be the outlay on posting one reasonable sized box (About £10), and the risk of losing one additional pair of trainers (Retail £70, so under that). I wonder what their current cost is for customer acquisition, and what value they put on their marketing and advertising expenditure, but without being too engrossed in follower numbers, the fact that I personally have twice as many as their official account means that it would probably be a cost efficient exercise overall – and the fact that I also have a number of sneaker addicted friends (including a couple of sneaker collectors) would surely pay off.

Compare that to the knowledge that if I’d just paid for trainers I’d get free postage and returns to store. But by receiving a voucher which ties me into that store I lose all the benefits and service, and instead gain additional hassle.

Quora with video – marketing dream and user nightmare?

The value of question and answer sites has long been shared by SEO specialists in terms of linkbuilding, and to some extent in social media for relevant traffic. But Quora may have just gone a step further in terms of allowing marketing material to be provided in answers.

The site is now embedding Youtube videos in answers, and converting any previous links to Youtube videos into the embedded version.

Quora includes video

Quora includes video

In some ways that’s a good thing, considering the value of relevant videos in answering the right questions. For instance, when the question relates to music, or sport. And being able to share a Youtube video explaining a technical point could be rather useful.

But at the same time, it also means an additional amount of content for Quora moderators to try and look after to keep the quality of their site up, and an additional way for anyone wanting to quickly push out a load of irrelevant spam videos to get some extra views. After all, the big reason why Google claims Youtube needs to post-moderate videos is that noone could ever manage to watch the huge amount of content being uploaded, and then decide what can and can’t be posted.

Now if enough spammers start flooding Quora with irrelevant videos, the much smaller start-up will have a similar problem.

It also means that you might struggle to load a page with 60+ embedded videos in it if you’re on a slow connection, but that’s probably something we’re just going to have to come to terms with as every site rushes to include video due to the huge rise in both video viewing and growth in video advertising…

The thought process has changed…

So it used to be a case of having a thought, and then deciding whether to act on it. Now that’s changed as I have to:

  • Tweet it with a short link and hashtag
  • Then Facebook it, ideally with a picture
  • Then give it a businesslike description for LinkedIn.
  • Then +1 it, with a few more words
  • Then Tumblr it, ideally with the picture and a link
  • Then blog it here, with a lot more words
  • Then Stumble that post with a nice description
  • Then bookmark it with Diigo and Delicious
  • And maybe bung it on Reddit, Digg or HackerNews.
  • Oh, and maybe any relevant old school forums

And then I need to monitor all of those sites for social validation that it wasn’t a terrible idea. Or I could just decide for myself anyway and go right ahead and get the minimum viable product out there – is it any wonder that the ratio of stuff actually being created to the amount of required self-promotion deemed necessary for success is becoming so skewed?

 

 

Don’t write for SEO and social media marketing from the start…

That may seem an odd headline for someone who sells digital marketing alongside writing for the internet, but stay with me. I’ve just spent an hour or so reading through my 22-year-old copy of ‘Searching for Robert Johnson‘, a fairly short book by Peter Guralnick about the legendary early blues musician who was supposed to have gone to the crossroads at midnight and sold his soul to the devil to have become so talented, and who was then murdered at an early age, passing into myth and legend for songs like ‘Hellhound on my Trail‘.

Having been blessed with an obsession for music and reading in a just pre-internet age, I’m a big fan of all the Peter Guralnick books I’ve read and owned – he’s covered the history of the blues, soul, and country, as well as works about Sam Cooke, Robert Johnson and Elvis Presley (The Presley ones are the only ones I haven’t read). There’s a pretty good list on Amazon, and as a music writer I’ve read, re-read, and long admired, I wondered what he was doing at the moment – and thanks to Google, found some invaluable quotes on what makes his music writing so brilliant, especially when he writes with more succinct clarity than the likes of Lester Bangs, for example. And they explain why I believe that optimisation for SEO, tailoring content for social media etc all comes second to creating something really brilliant in the first place.

They’re from InsideVandy.com, Vanderbilt University’s student news website:

‘I started writing about music when I was probably about 20, and I started writing purely to tell – I was writing fiction, short stories novels, I still write fiction – but the nonfiction, I just wrote solely to tell people about this music that I thought was so great, it was almost entirely the blues, and I did it at a time when there were almost no outlets where you could even put down the name Muddy Waters or Howlin’ Wolf, Lightnin’ Hopkins, James Brown, it was such a thrill. I wrote these things telling people how great they were. It wasn’t for money, there was no money; it was just to tell people.

I’ve never written a single piece about anybody or anything that I haven’t chosen myself and hasn’t been out of my admiration for their work. It would be inconceivable for me to write something about a subject that I wasn’t totally invested in.

There have been growing debates about the need for PR and Marketing in technology – the suggestion is that by building something amazing, you remove the need for promotion, which I think is mistaken and disingenuous. A great product should be your focus as it makes Marketing, PR, Advertising etc all easier and ways to boost the natural interest.

And by the same token, SEO, targetting social media etc are all extremely useful, but they boost interest, links etc to great content and writing.

You can argue that plenty of truly great works have never achieved mainstream success, but that’s down to a number of factors, including marketing, timing, and luck. But those great works continue to endure, even if it’s in a small way.

Meanwhile there’s plenty of crap that has become amazingly popular due to well-oiled publicity efforts, but it’s always tended to result in fleeting success at best, despite the work and effort that’s gone into promotion.

And particularly if you’re trying to build a business around content, or by utilising content, it’s better to get a smaller number of truly passionate and evangelistic people who are likely to part with their money or attention on a longterm basis, than to hit a huge number of people who just pass through and move onto something else in seconds.

That’s why I suggest forgetting about SEO and marketing when you first start writing something. If not, you’ll spend hours or days in fear as you build up the worries about putting pen to paper or fingers to keyboard. And when you finally do, it’s likely to appear faked when you’re shoehorning in keywords and sticking on an irrelevant linkbait headline. Far better to create something incredibly powerful and optimise with a light touch. It’s why the need for copy editors and sub editors remains, but that need evolves into editors skilled in marketing and search engine optimisation alongside more traditional skills.

And it’s why I’m still enjoying, and recommending, music from the 1930s and books written about it which I first enjoyed as a pre-teen.

Interesting paywall views from David Cushman

Neither Dave Cushman or The Media Briefing (for which I occasionally write) need much help in the way of the promotion, but as always, Cush has some interesting views on the media and paywalls which are worth checking out. We’ve both got some form in that area, given that we worked together at Emap/Bauer Media for many years – in fact it was Dave who gave me the job of looking after the forums and live chat room for the MCN site in addition to my writing duties, which was a hugely valuable community management experience.

It reminds me of what a great team we had working together for a while -Dave is obviously the MD of 90:10, Angus is a top video producer at Which (who needs to blog more), Tim is an expert on pretty much everything involving digital businesses, but has chosen to focus on multivariate testing, and Matt is able to serve ads and great music with equal talent.

And I’ve somehow managed to fall upwards into providing digital content and marketing for a range of UK and global clients, co-founding a funky design and development shop which is growing too quickly to let us finish our own website, and launching my own niche digital media efforts with OnlineRaceDriver and FPSPrestige. (I almost forgot about Digital People in Peterborough as well!)

 

Questions on Social Media Marketing and Measurement?

I’m working on a series of more practical guides to the basics of Social Media Marketing and beyond, and I’m also aware that the Marketing Measurement page is in need of updating.

So, if you’ve got any questions on Social Media Marketing, post them in the comments, and I’ll do my best to include them in the guide, or to answer them directly.

And if you know of any measurement tools that I’ve missed, please post it on that page and I’ll include it.

Cheers!

7 reasons why companies need social media managers

There has been a lot of debate recently about the need for companies and organisations to employ social media managers and specialists in a dedicated role – the main criticism appears to be that the role isn’t needed because employees already use social media.

That might be the case in a limited number of small organisations, but someone will end up as an unofficial social media expert. And as someone who performed the role for a large organisation, I know there are a number of good reasons for having one person as the focal point – even if every employee is actively representing the group or company.

1. Justification: Are employees going to use social media effectively when they have senior managers questioning whether it’s worthwhile?

2. Guidelines: Most people have a reasonable amount of common sense, but if you haven’t got clear guidelines for employees to refer to if needed, you’ve got no excuse when they get things wrong. And all it can take is one personal attack for even the most responsible employee to make a mistake. That’s assuming they even keep up to date with the latest legalities of using social media in addition to their day job.

3. Analysis: Do you know what’s working? And is a social network referring the most traffic because of scale, or because other social networks are being ignored or done badly?

4. Co-ordination: Do you trust independant employees to know where exclusive news should be revealed first? Or could a status message or tweet destroy your carefully planned campaign? Is the right content going online at the right time, to coincide with the right development work?

5. Research and Development: Is Facebook more relevant to your company than Bebo? Will you reach the right people on Twitter? And should you be improving the forum on your site, or developing a widget for social networks? The answers are different for every organisation, and indeed, every campaign

6. Coordinating external resources: Do you know enough to decide between a good and bad external agency when it comes to social media? And in a large company, are you sure other departments aren’t hiring other agencies at the same time?

7. Crisis management: When something does go wrong, you need a plan in place, and someone who can manage an effective response.

Whether or not social media is a specialist role, or part of a wider remit, there needs to be someone with the authority and accountability to ensure that the work feeds into the wider business effectively, with an effect on product development, customer service, SEO, and business strategy.

Soon everyone will have basic marketing and management skills

A bit of a half-formed thought I needed to share whilst spending some time removing a shockingly large amount of unused applications from my PC and trying to rationalise my ever-increasing collection of email addresses and online identities.

When it comes to introducing social media marketing and building content and community at Bauer Media, it isn’t a simple case of just deciding every brand should be on Facebook, for example, and it magically happening. A large part of the work is deciding and clarifying the objectives of using a new channel, and also looking at the benefits in terms of allocating resources, whether financial or human.

Hence why I spend a reasonable amount of time looking at work flows, and working out how we can most effectively work across various channels, and which elements of content work best when shared across various places.

In plain English, it means working out which content we should import into Facebook, or whether we should automate updates to Twitter for certain things, and which location makes most sense for teams to manually update etc.

The irony being that my own profiles and workflows for my two blogs, Twitter profile etc etc have been done on such an ad hoc basis, I really need to sit down and work out a workflow for my personal online world.

And I don’t think I’m the only one.

Which started me thinking about which specialist skills in content, marketing, strategy and management are going to increasingly become things that most people will be using:

  • For instance, when it comes to attention-grabbing headlines, how many people are learing how to craft effective content in their Facebook status or tweets on a daily basis, without even consciously thinking about it.
  • How many people are starting to think about which sites they want to use, and how to effectively update them efficiently?
  • How many people are starting to learn about sharing content and marketing it via social networks and social bookmarking sites simply because they want to be more popular, without ever realising they’re marketing themselves?
  • Are people doing their own personal PR, emailing and following people who might repeat their content?

I don’t mean this in terms of people using buzzwords like ‘personal brands‘ – that’s for marketing and aspiring marketing people to make it sound more glamourous and exciting.

I mean this in terms of someone who could come from any walk of life, using the internet, and almost subconsciously incorporating various skills because they want people to see their Youtube video, or to get more friends on Facebook or Myspace.

There’s an understandable backlash from experienced digital marketing people against the growing number of ‘social media experts’ who have a personal Twitter account but haven’t demonstrated their work for their own company or anyone elses. And I’m certainly not saying that this means anyone could run a marketing campaign without any experience or training.

But I just wonder, in addition to the rise of amateurs who are uploading great photography or editing videos etc, whether there is the same blurring of lines between professional management skillsets and what everyone is starting to do as a normal part of their internet life.

So help me out: What traditional management, marketing, publishing, strategy type skills do you see becoming used by everyone, even on a basic level – and what implications do you think it has for the future? Will everyone be more aware of what goes on within a company? And is that a good thing?

Thoughts on the MA in Social Media

There’s been a lot of discussion about the new MA in Social Media course being offered by Birmingham City University. On the one hand, the mainstream media reports from the Guardian and Daily Telegraph have focused on criticism – on the other, people like the esteemed PR professional Neville Hobson have looked more in-depth at what the course actually offers and the benefits it can bring to individuals and the PR industry.

What’s interesting is looking at the proposed opportunities for individuals completing the 48 week, £4000 MA course:

  • Become a social media consultant (and understand what that means);
  • Develop innovative and low cost communication strategies for third sector organisations using social media tools;
  • Develop innovative and alternative media projects;
  • Work with existing mainstream media organisations as they develop social media strategies;
  • Enhance your skills and contribute to the development of new professional practice in PR, marketing communications and web design;
  • Continue to develop a scholarly interest in social media as part of a further research degree;
  • Contribute to the development of the social media industry.

I’m torn because I’d jump at the chance to focus on the more scholarly and research aspects of social media/marketing/PR without the bothersome concentration on results and profits that comes from social media and marketing as an occupation.

At the same time, I’m immensely greatful for the focus and concentration that being gainfully employed in social media and marketing brings – it means a real need for effective strategy, implementation, monitoring and selection of channels for starters.

The big question for me is whether paying £4000 as an individual will be recouped any time soon? Even with employment placements during the course, will organisations need growing numbers of MA-level social media specialists, either within the organisation or as consultants, and how big is that demand at the moment? Would an MA influence you over and above practical experience and past work?

Certainly anyone already established in a social media role at a managerial level should be able to tick pretty much all the boxes the MA aims to deliver – and are those roles going to be offered to those graduating the course, or people more like myself who spent time in journalism and publishing, gaining additional experience in marketing and social media, before making the switch?

And how many social media concetrated roles are still seen as entry level positions? Will there be a switch in the near future?

I’d be more comfortable with social media being wholly integrated into digital marketing and general marketing courses and qualifications, certainly in the immediate future, but with the opportunity to specialise for elements of the course, giving people a better chance of being able to gain employment in a larger range of roles, but am I being overly cautious? And does the world need more social media specialists and consultants, when there is already a plethora of very good (and some bad) in the space already?

There’s a very good amount of interesting discussion on the course on Twitter, with the hashtag #masocialmedia.

And here’s the video introduction to the course:

Jon Hickman: MA in Social Media from Kasper Sorensen on Vimeo.