Just exactly how much impact do various channels of social media have on your blog? Or even your corporate website? While your traction may vary and some precipitating factors probably skew my results here at Social Media Explorer, I thought my traffic referrals might make for interesting conversation.

Since Social Media Explorer launched in September 2007, almost one million unique visitors have been here. More specifically, as of end-of-day Saturday, there have been 942,021 unique visitors to SME according to Google Analytics. Of those, 35.6 percent are from organic search results. Think about that! Over one-third of my visits have been from people searching for something and finding a potential answer on SME. That’s pretty strong considering this is a blog, has never had a formal SEO strategy, nor has it ever had any back-end SEO work other than my little piddling with URL structures a month or so ago.

Social Media Explorer Logo

Image by Jason Falls via Flickr

Another 206,110 have come from “direct” traffic. This is typically people who type in your URL directly, or they click a link from a non-browser email program (like Outlook) that populates the URL field with the link, then visits. Another 64,457 have clicked through from my RSS feed. It’s important to note, however, that I published my whole feed, so there’s no reason to click through unless you want more content from the source. The last time I looked (two weeks ago) my RSS feed was served up to around 15,000 people per day.

The next big referrers to Social Media Explorer are Twitter (47K), StumbleUpon (24K), Google.com Referrals (22K, and which I take to mean Google news or directory listings or clicks from my public profile, but am not certain of), then Facebook (14K).

Here’s where the referral traffic gets interesting. Being a blog of some history and repute, you would think that other blogs would be driving traffic to my site. Not really. Yahoo and AdAge fall in there (AdAge mostly because I’m listed on their Power150 marketing blogs list), then Delicious, Twitterfeed, ArgyleSocial, Yahoo, HootSuite, ow.ly and Bing.

When you look for blogs as referrals to this site for web traffic, you have to dig. When you finally get there, you get this:

  1. Social Media Examiner – 5,837
  2. Interactive Insights Group – 3,214
  3. Social Media Today – 2,108
  4. Chris Brogan – 1,615
  5. ReadWriteWeb – 1,591
  6. HubSpot Blog – 1,565
  7. InspiredMag – 1,428
  8. Mashable – 1,348
  9. Altitude Branding/Brass Tack Thinking – 1,126
  10. Social Median – 1,105

While one certainly can’t look gift horses in the mouth and I’m more than appreciative these and the others over the years have linked and loved SME enough to send people my way, think about this metric:

The number on referring blog to this website accounts for only six-tenths of one percent of its traffic.

Add all of the top 10 blog referrers up and you barely get past two percent of the total traffic in the three-and-a-half year history of the site.

WTF?

Certainly, the last two years have seen a steep evolution in how social media users share content. Twitter alone accounts for the one place many of us share and thus see traffic. The longer a site is alive, the more organic search results it will get (provided there’s regular content) but even if you look back to the first year of SME’s existence, the top blog (then Geoff Livingston’s, now CRT Tanaka’s The Buzz Bin) brought in a mere 203 people (three-tenths of one percent of SME’s total traffic in year one).

For a bunch of like-minded folks, we certainly have a big gap in generosity from that (admitted limited) angle.

Let’s Be Reasonable

I share links and presumably drive traffic to a number of websites every day. But I don’t do it from SME. I typically do it via Argyle Social which distributes my links via Twitter and Facebook.

While I do link to other blogs frequently, there’s seldom a direct call-to-action to go visit the blog like there were in the days when link sharing was how the web was mapped (pre-search engine). If I liked something Nichole Kelly wrote about measurement and linked to it in a post recently, it just appeared there as a link. I didn’t say, “Go see what Nichole Kelly wrote on her blog.” The lack of explicit direction lessens the conversion.

But unless you are driving people to buy or download or do something specific, in blogging links are there for context, not CTAs.

The numbers represent the reality because the way we write and read blogs does not lend itself to surfing around to others. The way we consume Twitter or Facebook or even LinkedIn recommendations from friends does.

What This Tells Us

Granted, you need to look at your own metrics. But what it tells me is that my bread is buttered with winning search results, getting links and retweets on Twitter, submissions on StumbleUpon and by people sharing my content on Facebook. Mix all that in with a little email marketing and branding (to account for the direct traffic) and I can focus my energy where my blog’s energy comes from.

Does this mean I’m going to stop linking to other blogs? Certainly not. Am I going to stop talking to Michael Stelzner because Examiner doesn’t move my needles? Not on your life.

But it puts website traffic into a perspective I never saw before.

Check your analytics. What do you see? Do blogs drive traffic for you? Who does it? How do they do it?

The comments are yours.

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About Jason Falls

Jason Falls

Jason Falls is a leading thinker, speaker and strategist in the world of digital marketing and is co-author of two books, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide To Social Media Marketing and The Rebel's Guide To Email Marketing. By day, he leads digital strategy for Elasticity, one of the world's most innovative digital marketing and public relations firms. Follow him on Twitter (@JasonFalls).

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Comments & Reactions

Comments Policy

Comments on Social Media Explorer are open to anyone. However, I will remove any comment that is disrespectful and not in the spirit of intelligent discourse. You are welcome to leave links to content relevant to the conversation, but I reserve the right to remove it if I don't see the relevancy. Be nice, have fun. Fair?

  • http://davefleet.com davefleet

    Interesting stats, Jason. One point to remember, though: what leads to your site getting so much Google traffic? Links. It's hard to quantify the effect of each link from another site on your search ranking, but the aggregate of those (plus the great content here – which leads to a circular effect with links) leads to your visibility in search engines, and to that traffic.

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Great point, Dave. The links are important, but the traffic from other blogs

      is almost immeasurable. It's not bad … it just is. And worth noodling.

      Fair?

      • http://davefleet.com davefleet

        Absolutely.

        • http://www.lostintechnology.com kylejudkins

          It really depends on the content. My blog is very Google friendly (70%+ of traffic from Google), so having blogging buddies and getting links as often as possible is super important to my traffic.

          Your article does highlight the point that strategies really do vary by blog and content.

      • http://www.edisonresearch.com Tom Webster

        To really close the loop on this, I wonder if the actual quantity of backlinks themselves has changed – iin other words, are we actually putting more or fewer links in our blog posts? I have no idea. But interesting question, eh?

        • http://www.thejackb.com/ The JackB

          I used to collect interesting links and put together posts about them. I have found that I do that less now because they get farmed out to Twitter and or Facebook.

      • http://www.buzzstream.com/blog Paul May

        Dave's comment is spot on. All of these channels are interrelated…links from trusted blogs impacts search performance and leads to tweets from influencers, which leads to higher direct traffic, etc. Trying to look at each in isolation is like eating a gourmet meal and trying to isolate the one spice that makes it taste great.

        Specific to search – the link you gave Nichole's post may not have given her readers explicit direction, but it gave Google VERY explicit directions (in the form of keyword rich anchor text from a high PageRank blog). Essentially, somebody that googlebot trusts just whispered in his ear “here's a great blog post about measurement.” This is one of the most important ranking signals in google's algorithm and without these kinds of links, I'd bet a pretty penny that your traffic mix wouldn't be nearly as organic search heavy.

        One other thing to note. Referral traffic to our site is also much lower than organic search and direct traffic, but links from the right referrers converts better….and they carry significant brand benefits.

  • http://davefleet.com davefleet

    Absolutely.

  • http://www.experiate.net Paul Flanigan

    Jason, I have been blogging for about two years, and have only in the past few moths taken SEO seriously. Here's the dealio: Almost all my traffic comes from referrals, word-of-mouth, and RTs. Not a lot comes from straight Google searching. Part of that is my low rankings with adding SEO so recently, but also I think that traffic is strongest from referrals and RTs. That's how I found you.

    And with Google and other search sites trending toward keyword disasters, where the good stuff is shoved to the bottom by gaming the system, having a network of colleagues and peers on trusted sites is, I think, going to be more valuable.

    And remember, blogs are dying, right? RIGHT? Ha.

  • http://increasingworkplaceproductivity.net Bojan Djordjevic

    I rarely link to other blogs. It's my marketing power and I will interlink with people who are worth linking and worthy of my support.

    I prefer writing guest posts and allowing other people to guest post on my blog. That way we're together in all of this internet world, networking properly and taking part of our online destinies.

  • http://kommein.com Deb Ng

    Back in the early days of blogging, bloggers tended to link more to other blogs to share. We definitely benefitted from blog traffic back then. Now, bloggers share in different ways – notably Facebook and Twitter and that's where all the traffic comes from. We don't link to other blog posts as much as we used to and that's why the traffic has to come from other areas.

    Though, and I've blogged about this before, I find that links in blogs to other blogs are more valuable then retweets and likes. It's just easier to click a share button than to write a post around a link.

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Thanks, Deb. I agree with you, but it is interesting to note that Google has

      admitted recently its algorithm takes into account influencer tweets and the

      like. So a blog link may not be worth as much in some cases.

  • http://www.thismamacooks.com/ Anne-Marie Nichols

    It used to be super important to have a blogroll on your blog showing support of bloggers in your niche or at least, bloggers you liked and were inspired by. Nowadays, it seems that blogrolls are old fashioned. Maybe it's because bloggers don't want to support their community or don't want the competition.

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Great point, Anne-Marie. I dropped mine a long time ago. Guess a lot of

      people did. Certainly worth consideration.

      • http://squidlord.posterous.com/ Alexander "SquidLord" Williams

        More accurately, its because no one ever read through blogrolls. They were worse than useless, they ate up space better used for whitespace.

        If you often read, enjoy, and quote Blog X, I'm way more likely to go to Blog X via a link to something interesting you contextualize in a post than I am to just go through a blind list in a sidebar ads have trained us to ignore. And that's a good thing! People don't want to go just to go, they want something interesting to be there on the other end.

  • http://www.thejackb.com/ The JackB

    I blame some of this upon RSS. When you don't need to actually visit a blog to read the content it has to have an impact. It seems to me that in addition the numbers are going to be negatively impacted by the size of the pool that they are competing with.

    By that I mean that even very popular bloggers are going to have traffic numbers that are small in comparison to what something like Google can send over.

    If you are selling a product/service it would be interesting to compare CTR between the two.

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      That's a great point, Jack. RSS does make measuring a blog's impact, but

      certainly also leading readers to click/not click very different than a pure

      web experience. Good thoughts.

      • http://www.thejackb.com/ The JackB

        It also ties in to something that I have been thinking about regarding content. If fewer people visit your blog than what can you do or what do you do to highlight your best content.

        In the “old” days you knew that people would be poking around on your site so having links to “best of” was pretty effective. Now, it has lost some of its shine.

  • http://twitter.com/KDeutsch KDeutsch

    Great piece, but your headline misses your own point. As a blogger, you have shifted to share links “via Argyle Social which distributes my links via Twitter and Facebook.” While other bloggers may not use the same tools, there is a clear shift to post content on blogs and share links through other tools. Maybe your “blogging buddies” are delivering for you, but are sharing links to you via Twitter and Facebook.

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Fair perspective. Misses the point I was making, but I see where you're

      getting that. Thanks

  • http://www.kherize5.com Suzanne Vara

    Jason

    Ok so I took your advice (of course) and I ran the numbers for when the blog started in 6/2009. Amazing what I found out. My biggest source was Google. My direct was not what I thought it would be. My biggest blog referral was … Brogan. Not shocked by that as I am active there and well there are those shout outs that I did receive.

    What was very interesting was the time spent on the site from certain referrals. The folks from Brogan spent over 2 min on the site, Amex Open Forum also over 2 min whereas those who found me from Google were at :58. The bounce rate of course was consistent with the time on the site. I am looking at this as those that are searching are looking for something specific and once they find it (or not) they are leaving but those that are referred from a site that they visit or are a member of, are more interested in the site/blog and want to see what is the big deal.

    I highly recommend people to do this as it is provided invaluable insights and where you can make improvements. Monthly to tell a lot but when you look at months at a time, it shows a whole lot more.

    As you mentioned below to Deb, do you think that we will see more weight given to twitter/social networks links that are being shared by who they are shared by? Will we see a Klout-like score to links shared? cringes

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Awesome info, Suzanne. Thanks for sharing. I didn't dive that deep on mine,

      but I may go back and look now.

      Makes sense that the Brogan audience would be more interested in

      investigating. You're active enough there that people wanna know who you

      are. Amex Open Forum is an interesting one. Guess you could argue commenting

      and the like there is worth the time if you're getting some residual

      fans/guests.

      As far as the Google weight goes, Klout probably won't have a direct

      correlation until Klout scores themselves become more holistic. But there

      will be a correlation since a high Twitter impact means a higher Klout

      score. Make sense?

  • http://www.margieclayman.com Marjorie Clayman

    I think this is kind of sad, actually. I think bloggers should be supporting each other if you follow all of the advice about giving to get. I try to link to about 5 blog posts (not mine) a week.

    I'll throw this out there as well though – trackbacks are hard to monitor. Sometimes I decide I'm going to go out and thank people for linking to me and I end up on a site that makes me shut down my browser. It's hard, therefore, to go to every post and shower the person with love, which then, perhaps, reduces the desire to go out of your way to promote someone else on your patch of real estate.

    This is a very interesting topic…I'm going to have to give this a lot of thought.

  • http://www.seansupplee.com/ Sean Supplee

    A lot of bloggers now a days bother themselves with SEO instead of just writing. I admit myself I get mixed up in this to. The truth of the matter is if you just write and dont worry about seo youd be surprised at how well of a job Google does at finding your content and indexing it for the right keywords. Simply put if you love writing write people well come

  • Brian Wallace

    …and back end SEO could do so much more, as it is a basic building block to successful sites, often dismissed as “that thing I'll get to later.” I actually see something on the technical end that makes me think that all your traffic isn't being reported. Think site-load order.

  • http://twitter.com/Nichole_Kelly Nichole Kelly

    Jason – Very interest

  • http://twitter.com/Nichole_Kelly Nichole Kelly

    Sorry had a keyboard malfunction there.

    Very interesting study Jason. It really is amazing how much search impacts the traffic of our sites. One thing to consider, search may be the last conversion point that led people to your blog, but inbound links from relevant and powerful sites likely had a great impact on where you ranked in the search engine. And that ranking has a direct correlation to the volume of traffic you will see. :-) Great stuff as usual!

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  • kirstenwright

    Thanks so much for really putting this into perspective for us! I think it is easy to forget where the real traffic comes from :)

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_AVJSE2773EJV3XEYZK53U2K5CQ Александр

    Are you a blogger? Or may be a media representative? Raise money on your content or the content of your web-site users. Just add your channel to Greatiful and set the price for content access (a paid monthly subscription and/or a price for a content unit).http://greatiful.com.

  • Mark W Schaefer

    Thanks for the analysis but I think you miss a couple of important points.

    First, the lifespan of a blog post or blogger “mention.” I have probably named you and linked to you more than any other blogger. But the lifespan of a post is regrettably about two days. So although I am “supporting” you in a very legitimate and meaningful way, it is simply not going to drive traffic. That doesn't mean you are not being supported … and there is long-lasting value in the link itself, even if it is not directly driving traffic. It may indirectly be contributing to the organic results.

    Second, quality of the traffic. As Suzanne says, traffic from the search engines generally result in tourists to the blog, not residents. What is your goal? Do you want to play the SEO game and drive “massive traffic” to your blog, or are you trying to build a community who sticks around and engages? Look at the amount of time that people who come from search spend on your blog. It's depressing. It's virtually meaningless.

    However, the traffic that comes from the social web is much more meaningful and I guarantee you, when you and I refer to each other in our blogs and comment sections it drives people to check out bloggers and communities in a powerful way.

    I think bloggers support bloggers in many ways that result in real business benefits, not visits of “zero seconds” by unknown strangers. Hey … I'm supporting you now. : )

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    I appreciate your efforts for actually putting this into viewpoint for us! I believe it is simple to not remember where the real traffic comes from.

  • http://www.online-business-virtual-assistant.com/ Virtual Office Assistants

    Hi,
    Great sharing and i can see the effect the inbound links and RSS feeds to your site and this will certainly increase the traffic. We are also trying to get links through blogs.

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