September 21, 2014

The Costs of Over Reliance On Social Media Traffic

Relying too heavily on social media traffic is pretty easy for bloggers to do. If you have some time to work on your blog you can go after social media and maybe see a few thousand visitors within 24 hours, or you can work on developing some other types of traffic that might lead to a trickle of 10-25 visitors per day in the short-term. That’s a pretty convincing reason for most of us to concentrate our efforts on social media optimization. However, despite the potential to get a quick rush of visitors, that’s not a good reason to ignore the need to build other sources of traffic as well.

The Costs of Over Reliance On Social Media Traffic

1 – It’s not reliable

Sure, you may be able to get to the front page of Digg or generate a bunch of traffic from StumbleUpon, but can you count on that happening next week? Next month? Next year? No, you really can’t. If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, you know that I do believe that social media traffic can be very valuable to a blogger, but it’s simply not a traffic source that you can count on for the future. It might lead to thousands of visitors, but it also might lead to none. If you abandon other sources of traffic in order to concentrate on getting huge results from social media, you could find yourself facing a huge drop when your blog is suddenly no longer popular with social media sites.

2 – It’s short-term

Most bloggers would love to land on the front page of Digg, and many spend hours on Digg adding “friends” to try and help their chances. While Digg will send an amount of traffic that is almost unbelievable to most of us, it will be gone within a few days. Say you do get to the front page of Digg and it sends 15,000 visitors over the course of a few days. That’s one-time traffic. If you’re able to build some links and optimize your pages to get an extra 50 visitors per day from search engines, that totals over 17,000 visitors over the course of a year, and it will probably continue or even increase beyond one year (not to mention the fact that search engine traffic is generally targeted more effectively than social media traffic).

3 – Social media visitors are generally not responsive

When compared to other types of traffic, social media produces visitors that don’t click on as many ads, are less likely to subscribe, and less likely to purchase anything. That certainly doesn’t mean that all visitors from social media are unresponsive, but as a whole if you compare 1,000 visitors from social media to 1,000 visitors from just about any other traffic source there will be a noticeable difference in response levels. In my opinion you can make up for this by having higher volumes of traffic from social media, but it’s undeniable that in general, visitors from social media sites are less responsive.

4 – Social media traffic may not be highly targeted

If your blog gets thousands of visitors from social media sites, chances are many of them are not targeted very well and are probably not that interested in your blog as a whole. Some traffic from social media can be very well targeted, such as visitors from niche social media sites or visitors who come from a specific category page on a major social media site. However, in general you will find that traffic from Digg or StumbleUpon is not targeted as well as many other traffic sources.

5 – Social media traffic requires constant effort

Because traffic from social media is so short-term, in order to consistently drive traffic from these sites you’ll need to continually add new content to your blog that will attract votes on social media sites. With search engine traffic you may be able to sit back and watch traffic flow in to posts that you published a year ago, but that’s not likely with social media. StumbleUpon is about the only social media site that will still send traffic months after a submission, but even then it is typically just a small trickle.

What Should You Do To Build Traffic Diversity?

If relying too heavily on social media is bad for the long-term health of your blog, what do you need to do to build some diversity?

1 – Start with a search engine-friendly site

Search Engine Optimization is an ongoing process that will never really end, but the first step is to build a website or a blog that is search engine-friendly. By that I mean it should contain nothing that will give search engine spiders difficulty crawling through the site, internal linking should be done effectively, unique and descriptive titles on every page, heading tags used effectively, etc. While SEO requires much more than building the site a specific way, your efforts down the road will be hurt if the site is not build properly to begin with.

2 – Build links

Inbound links are critical for search engine rankings and for click-through traffic. Click-through traffic also gets a boost from the added trust that comes with a link. As an example, I’ve recently written two guest posts for Darren at ProBlogger. The links to my blog from both of those posts have brought a nice amount of visitors, but nothing close to what I might get from StumbleUpon on a good day. However, I’ve had much, much better jumps in my subscriber count on those days than I ever get from StumbleUpon. Why? The links from ProBlogger send visitors that have already gained some trust for me because they trust Darren. Whatever method you use to build links, you should see an increase in traffic that will be a bit more long-term than social media traffic.

3 – Work on getting more direct traffic

One of the pleasant surprises I’ve had over the last year of working on my primary blog is the increase in direct traffic that it receives. So much attention goes to every other source of traffic that direct traffic really gets badly overlooked. Direct traffic is when someone types in your URL directly into their browser and comes straight to your site rather than using a search engine. Direct traffic can also be from bookmarks, emails, and feed readers.

You shouldn’t neglect direct traffic because it shows that others are recognizing you and they’re turning to you rather than doing a search to find something. As you work on branding your site, direct traffic should increase.

4- Build subscribers

If you have enough subscribers to your blog you should always be able to get a reasonable amount of traffic just from click-throughs in RSS readers and emails. Subscribers are critical to a blogger’s long-term success.

5 – Network with other bloggers

A network can help you in so many ways that I can’t possibly cover everything here. You’ll find that a strong network will lead to more readers, more loyal readers, more comments, more links, more social media votes, and more of just about anything else that’s good for a blogger.

When I started blogging I had no idea how valuable a network truly is, but it becomes evident pretty quickly. To work on building your network, start commenting more at other blogs, use networking aspects of social media sites, link out to others, email others when appropriate, use forums or any other type of site that is home to others who are similar to you.

What’s Your Experience?

Do you struggle with relying on social media traffic? What steps do you take to establish diversity?

About Steven Snell

Steven is a web designer, blogger, and freelance writer.

13 comments

  1. I am one that says nearly any traffic is good traffic. Social, search, or referral. Even subscribers are really just another form of traffic.
    I think over reliance on any form of traffic can eventually backfire. You also need to take into account that different types of traffic take different types of monetization.

  2. James,
    I’m certainly not going to turn away traffic either. Very true, relying on any form of traffic can backfire. It seems to me that this is more common with social media because of the big numbers people see.

  3. Well my blog got off to a flyer cos my initial posts got lots of traffic from stumble upon, but i knew it wont last long….even though it did last for 15 days. Now i get my traffic mainly from Google. I made sure not to rely too much on social media traffic. I think people will learn from experience more than anything else.

  4. Some valid points you got there Steven and true, you shouldn’t be relying on social media traffic too much.

    Instead of relying on it, just embrace and be happy you’re getting it. In the long run, the exposure and the backlinks will only be good for your blog.

  5. When I started one of my music websites I went on myspace and just spent hours making friends with people. My visitors in one day went through the roof but after that it dwindled back down to normal levels. It works on the short term but not the long term.

  6. Prem,
    I think that’s pretty normal. This blog initially got a quick surge of traffic for a week or two from SU, but like you, I knew it was temporary. That traffic comes back sometimes, but it will never be steady.

    MrCooker,
    Good point. There are certainly some long-term benefits even if the traffic coming from the social media sites is only temporary.

    Killer Pickle,
    I can imagine that traffic wouldn’t stick around. Thanks for sharing your experience.

  7. One of the biggest challenges I’ve found among others is that they jump on that social media bandwagon and slowly step away from the traffic staples like search engines — ultimately learning the lessons of this post the hard way. The very nature of social media makes the traffic very fickle.

    Great post!
    Maria Reyes-McDavis

  8. I get a bit from social media but do not rely on it all the time. I have a good balance of both.Never rely on 1 thing.

  9. Certaintly this kind of writing is much needed in the blogoshere…good job

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