“Nothing succeeds like the appearance of success.” – Christopher Lasch
The Internet has been buzzing with praise for “social media” as the way to drive traffic to your website. By “social media,” I’m talking about sites that (1) allow you to submit content and (2) allow other people to comment – and even vote – on it. The higher they rate your submission, the more exposure you get, with lots of people clicking on your link.
But today, I’m going to show you that this massive traffic isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
So far, some of the major players in the social media world are:
Digg – digg.com
Stumbleupon – stumbleupon.com
Sphinn – sphinn.com/
Reddit – reddit.com
Del.ico.us – del.icio.us/
Myspace – myspace.com
Facebook – facebook.com
These sites – and dozens and dozens of others that I’m sure I’m forgetting – have quickly become behemoths in the online world. In fact, many of them are getting even more traffic then the all-powerful Google.
At first, this might seem like an online marketer’s dream…
“If I could only get my article or blog post on the home page of Digg or Stumbleupon, my site will be flooded with traffic.”
It’s easy to see why so many marketers are foaming at the mouth over the idea of tapping into all that traffic. But real online marketers understand that traffic does not mean anything without conversion. In other words, if you can’t turn your traffic into sales or e-mail sign-ups, it’s pretty much useless.
You may have heard of website traffic referred to as HITS. I’m sure you’ve been to websites that have a little counter at the bottom that tells you exactly how many HITS the site has received.
Well, this is my definition of HITS: How Idiots Track Success.
Just think about it. What should you really care about? How many people visit your site? Or how many people buy from your site?
Now you might be thinking, “Patrick, how do you know the traffic you get from social media is useless?”
This thing is, Alexis Siemon, ETR’s resident Search Engine Marketing Specialist, has been experimenting with trying to drive traffic via social media channels.
You can see how this is done by looking at the funny little logos at the bottom of each Early to Rise issue. These logos allow you to submit our content to various social media sites. And they have been helping us get “free” traffic. Through some trial and error, Alexis was able to help our natural health e-letter site get a boatload of traffic from Stumbleupon. In fact, in the last month, one page generated over 28,000 new visitors.
When I heard this, I thought it was great news. You see, when we get traffic from outside sources, we can generally convert at least 10 percent of it into e-mail sign-ups.
So how many of these 28,000 social media visitors do you think signed up for our natural health e-letter?
500? 1,000? 1,500? 2,800?
No! Try 80. That’s a conversion rate of just over 0.2 percent.
Compare that to the conversion rates we’re getting from search engine optimization (SEO), e-mail marketing, website advertising, pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, and even direct mail. I’ve seen traffic from these sources convert to e-mail subscribers at rates of up to 50 percent.
That’s not the only reason I say social media traffic isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
Recently, several of the top marketers here at Early to Rise and I went to the Webmasters World Conference in Las Vegas. We wanted to learn directly from many of the world’s top search engine marketers and see what they made of all the buzz surrounding this supposed traffic goldmine.
When I looked at the schedule, I was excited to see a panel discussion titled “Monetizing Social Media Traffic.” After all, isn’t making money the point of getting website traffic? So we all attended this session with great anticipation…
The consensus of the panel was that it’s difficult to monetize social media traffic. For whatever reason, this traffic is resistant to advertising and tends not to stay on the site very long. In fact, it appeared to them that one of the only ways to monetize this traffic is by using a CPM (cost per thousand) advertising model. This is where you sell ad space on your site and charge the advertiser based on the number of people who see their ads. Certainly not a good model for those of us who run direct-response websites – because not only are these visitors not buying from us, they’re also not clicking on our advertisers’ links.
Even worse, this heavy influx of traffic can put a strain on your hosting servers and cause your site to crash. So you have a bunch of people visiting your site who don’t buy, don’t subscribe, and wind up crashing your server. Talk about turning your social media traffic dream into a nightmare.
But I don’t want you to think social media is all bad. Of course, we are delighted to allow our readers to share ETR articles that they think are good. And we are very grateful that, in one case, 80,000 people read our extremely valuable content as a result of this free traffic.
Many of the top stories on Digg and Stumbleupon get picked up by blogs and other websites. And when an article from your site is being bounced around the Internet this way, you’ll get inbound links from various sites. These new links help you get direct traffic from the linking sites. Plus, they help you with search engine optimization, which can, in turn, lead to more converting traffic and more subscribers.
At Early to Rise, we will continue to test social media and use it as a link-building tool. But if you’re looking to build your online business, it’s better to focus on the proven direct-response marketing methods we’ve been telling you about. Don’t be afraid to pay for traffic through e-mail list rental, text-link ads, and pay-per-click advertising. These methods might cost a little bit of money… but you’ll be attracting targeted visitors who will buy from you.[Ed. Note: Patrick Coffey is ETR’s Internet Marketing Director. He is also a contributor to ETR’s Internet Money Club, which shows you how to build an online business within the next 12 months. The Club’s membership was 100% filled last month – but we’ve just opened up a handful of slots for a very limited time. To check on availability, click here.]