I don’t know if any of my long standing readers have noticed lately but I have been posting a lot less and my interaction on sites such as stumble, twitter and other social networks has been almost none existent.
Now besides being extremely busy there are other reasons for this, the truth is social networking and spending time on these sites building profiles has never been my strong point, the time it takes to become involved and interact, in my opinion, cannot be justified. I have found so much more reward in developing other areas of my blog and general online portfolio.
Before I go deep into this post I want to assure anyone who I meet or who have met via social media, or those who found my site via social links, that I am not disregarding them as ‘not worth the effort’, if you found me via social media that is great, I love interacting with others who are interested in SEO and other internet marketing strategies, however the ROI of time spent on social sites is simply overrated in my opinion. WOW that was a long (probably badly written) sentence!
You see originally I am from an internet marketing background, ranking sites and making money via affiliate products and ad clicks, I soon found myself in the Google Adwords game but quickly abandoned ship when it became too expensive to use for affiliate marketing. I only really decided to test social networks when I started marketing SEO wizz back in March this year, it was a test, it was time consuming and unfortunately the stats show I have wasted my time somewhat.
Any without any further waiting, here are my 5 reasons I have found social media to be an unprofitable strategy.
If you really want to build a network via sites like digg, stumble and twitter then you are going to need to put the hours in, I found at one point I was spending more time on these sites than I was spending on my own site! That can’t be right can it? Tweeting, stumbling, answering questions etc….
I met people yes, I got to help a lot of nice people and I also got help from a lot of nice people, but that rarely turned into leads, sales or links and on that note I’ll continue.
Low Conversion Rates
When I talk about conversion rates I am referring to SEO enquiries, ad clicks, affiliate clicks and subscribers. Social media simply does not convert compared to search traffic, that’s why I spend my time building my own site and its link portfolio.
Adsense: I have messed around with adsense on the site and trust me it converts nowhere near in the same league as it does on my other niche blogs but I haven’t really optimised the site for adsense. Still I found that search traffic has around a 2.45% click through rate and social traffic has about 0.13%. That is a huge, huge, huge difference. If I wanted to advertise on a site why would I ever pay to have my banner or link on a site that receives 90% social traffic?? That’s a bad investment.
Just to clarify at this point, for the exercise of establishing click through rates I have classed all referral and Direct traffic as “social traffic”
Affiliate Links: I did a 3 month test of having affiliate links in the right column of SEO wizz and yes I got quite a few commissions from it; however the same was true as was with the adsense. I made around 56 sales and only 1 came from social traffic, yes that’s right 1!! The rest came from Google with a few coming from Bing!!! So if you are in this game to make money social traffic is probably not the best route.
Subscribers: This is a figure I was quite surprised about, as I expected social traffic to do a lot better than it did. Search traffic has around a 0.6% subscriber rate whilst social traffic is a little better at 0.8%, now yes social traffic is ever so slightly better when it comes to developing a readership but only just and those readers aren’t going to buy from you, they’re simply going to read, which is fine but don’t be under the illusion that readers = profits.
SEO Enquiries: I won’t even go into this, just believe when I say the percentages are that low for social media that it’s not worth bothering with.
Social Visitors Are Not Looking For Solutions
I think this is the main factor to consider for any new online business and that is “social visitors generally aren’t looking to a solution to a problem”, they want interesting content and funny articles (the majority do anyway). Visitors that come to your site via search are inputting keyword after keyword into Google to try and find help to a problem or a need they are looking to satisfy. I get loads of long tail search traffic on terms like “how to rank higher in search engines”, “Where have all my links gone”, “Why is my site not ranking” and “how do I get more traffic”. These people are looking for answers, for products and for services.
Social traffic fulfils a purpose but does not provide profit.
When I was spending hours on twitter and stumble I kept telling myself, hey it’s a great way to build links. The truth is 90% of my links have come from my own link building efforts like, article marketing, directory submissions, blog carnivals and press releases. Yes I have links from some viral posts not from social media sites but from other websites that have found my content. Saying all this one of my biggest link building strategies has been through keyword targeting. I published a post on Bing SEO back in the summer, I did and still do get search traffic to that post, over 500 a month and it is still continuing to pull in links for me, around 350 as it stands. The long tail targeted posts on my site get search traffic and convert into sales, clicks, readers and links better than any other form of traffic.
High Bounce Rates
Now this is only a minor factor but still social media traffic involves huge bounce rates, I think stumble averages around 85% with Twitter not far behind. Now I know there is no concrete evidence to show this effects search engine rankings, however no matter how you look at it high bounce rates on a content rich site never looks particularly good. In comparison bounce rates on search traffic is around 50%, again which would you prefer???
Right I have battered social media enough, let me offer a little consolation and make a few points about what social media can actually do;
- Help you brand your site
- Help you rank for your company/site name (first page domination)
- Build friendships
- Help you find advice on topics
- It can be fun
Despite these facts, in my opinion, social media should be kept in its rightful place and that is to assist in connecting with people and not as a business building tool, because the truth is that it is a highly unprofitable way to spend your time online.
Just so I don’t get scorned, Yes I do use twitter a little and every now and then I login to my stumble account, however I am sick to death of the spam!!! Stumble my “diamond shop” home page and review it??? Come on guys, even if I stumble it it’s not going to make your site profitable!!! Spend your time doing something more worthwhile, like ranking for “buy diamond rings” (hmm I wonder how much search traffic it gets?).
Also just to clear something up, I mentioned at the beginning of the post I have not been posting as often as I once did and there are a number of reasons for this;
a) I decided to post once a week, this allows me to put together a better quality post.
b) I have been so busy with client work
c) Link building does more for my traffic than posting 3 times a week for the sake of it ever could
Has my traffic levels dropped? Nope they have increased.
Have I lost subscribers? Nope they have increased.
Have I lost anything? Yes!! The pain in my hands from typing 3 or 4 times a week
Seriously everyone the advice you read on most social blogs, in my opinion is false;
- You don’t need to post every day
- You don’t need to create endless pointless lists
- You don’t have to spend all your time on digg, stumble and twitter
Don’t let huge subscriber lists fool you, it does not equal success or profit (unless your goal is to get as many subscribers as possible, then it equals success).
Remember it’s easy for the high profile bloggers to say “just create great content and submit it to social sites” the fact is they have a load of loyal readers who hang on everything they say and go out and push their content all over the web, meanwhile 98% of start up bloggers do the same thing and realise it doesn’t quite work the same.
Don’t bother submitting your posts to these sites, if someone really likes your content they will submit it and pass it around their network. This is where social media comes into play, not by spamming social sites but by allowing networks of friends to share content easily.
I hope I haven’t offended anyone with this post; I value all the friendships I have built up via multiple means. I enjoy writing and interacting with those who read and interact with my content, all I am saying is that none of this = money, profits or anything like that.
If you want to read another excellent post with a great take on social media head over to Jason’s business blog (sorry Jason I pinched your image).
Also if you want to read some more posts on the value of social traffic head over to Allyn’s Blogger Illustrated post on Social Traffic (very funny guy) and Griz’s take on social media traffic. Both are a no holds barred assault on social traffic, so if you think you might get offended; best not click the links
Until next time!Line Break
Author: Tim (293 Articles)
Tim Grice is the owner and editor of SEO wizz and has been involved in the search engine marketing industry for over 7 years. He has worked with multiple businesses across many verticals, creating and implementing search marketing strategies for companies in the UK, US and across Europe. Tim is also the Head of Search at Branded3, an SEO agency in Leeds.