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5 Reasons Social Media Is Overrated

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.

The Time

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.

Link Acquisition

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 (254 Articles)

is the owner and editor of SEO wizz and has been involved in the search engine marketing industry for over 9 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 Director of Search at Branded3, a Digital Marketing & SEO Agency based in the UK.

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{ 13 comments }

Andrew @ webuildyourblog.com December 7, 2009 at 5:43 am

Must admit, Tim, I did go through a stage of spending many hours bookmarking to sites like StumbleUpon and Digg.

My site is banned by StumbleUpon – it’s a long story ‘ and no, it’s not because I ‘spammed’ them or anything like that!

What I do now is allow my visitors to social bookmark my posts for me via the different plugins available – saves a huge amount of time.

Over the last few months, I have been adding blog posts every day, Monday to Friday and it has increased my traffic. Every month, my traffic has grown by 14% in comparison with the previous month.

But I’m going to start reducing the blog posts soon, especially as I am concentrating on my new membership site which go lives in January. Then I won’t have time to post everyday!

It’s about getting that balance right between marketing, content and product creation.

Andrew

Tim December 7, 2009 at 5:58 am

Hi Andrew,

Wow quick comment, only just finished uploading everything :)

I did the whole social thing as a kind of test, I had never really entertained it before but thought I better seen as SEO wizz is attempting to be a bit more than a blog. I just find it all uneffective unless as you say your readers submit.

Thats what social media is all about, connections and interaction, if your in it to simply keep pushing your content in front of people for traffic your wasting your time. If I see something on the net I like I stumble it or twitter etc… If people who I have connected with before send me something I’ll read it and possibly stumble. Still even when the traffic does come it isn’t anything to shout about, just nice to see a flood of traffic.

I think your right, the balance is important. I have been neglecting my link building over the summer, however since kick starting it I have seen huge ranking increase and I am hoping within the next 6 months to be on the first page for some of the most competitive terms in the UK “seo” and “search engine optimisation”. I write normally over the course of the week rather than in 1 sitting and have multiple projects on the go, don’t put all your eggs in one basket I guess!!

Thanks for the comment and let me know if you need me plug your new membership site.

Andrew @ webuildyourblog.com December 7, 2009 at 8:30 am

Tim,

Thanks – I shall be having an affiliate scheme with the membership site. I’ll be in touch very soon!

Andrew

timethief December 10, 2009 at 3:14 pm

Well said Tim. I have experienced the fact the social networking is a hug time suck that does not deliver targeted readers to my blogs nor does it give rise to much backlinking. That’s why I have been recommending that new bloggers develop a social media time management strategy and stick to it. Best wishes to you for a happy new year and thanks for telling it like it is in 2009.

SBA December 10, 2009 at 6:05 pm

You make a strong argument for us to assess where social media fits in our overall plan and focus. It can quickly become a time-killer even though learning, knowledge, enjoyment of articles is great. I’m also very disappointed in the bounce rate for sites like SU. Guess that would not be so so bad if they at least left a comment and lingered long enough to read the post (lol). Social networks tie you up in their system (frames, reviews and retweets). It becomes too easy to thumb the page, quote the same paragraph as everyone else and go on. Then there’s the time ‘reciprocating’ or at least reading referred pages and tweets.

So this is a good reality check!

Tim December 11, 2009 at 2:50 am

Thanks TT,

It’s not that I hate social media, I think it is an excellent tool when used as it should be, to be social?? My friend pops in every now and again to see me at work, just for a 5 minute chat. He doesn’t want SEO services nor does he want to discuss SEO, instead he is at my office to be social, that is how social media works. Targeted, buying and relevant traffic come from different sources. If you are new to this game and you dive into social media prepared to make a profit, prepare to be disappointed.

Thanks again, hope you enjoy the holidays!

Tim December 11, 2009 at 2:58 am

Hi SBA,

It’s like I said to TT. If you want to engage with associates or pass some info on, social media is great. But all that reading, tweeting, stumbling and digging is not going to help your site rank higher or drive targeted traffic, so your goal with social media has to be something different. Don’t get me wrong I read many blogs and drop a few comments here and their, however it is done in my spare time and not part of my ‘marketing’ time. Social media works as a promotion platform for those who already have a network, trying to build that network from scratch is hard work and in my opinion would takes years to go from 0 – network to a huge network.

With SEO I can rank a site for a key phrase on Google in 6 months and sit back while it makes me money, it simply depends on your goals.

Thanks for your comments, hope you have a great Christmas and New Year.

Heather Kephart December 12, 2009 at 8:24 am

I found your blog via Todd Morris, and I’m glad I did! I’ve been trying to rien myself in lately. I’m a Mom who is learning to be a writer and I don’t have a lot of time, like back in my single days, to hang out and banter online. As such, I want my online time to be as effective as possible.

Link building? I will look into that. Thanks for the advice. I’m going to see what can be done about that. If you turn out to be wrong, I’m going to return and slap you across the face with a white glove.

Until then! Have a good weekend.

Tim December 12, 2009 at 3:30 pm

Hi Heather,

Is that a threat? :)

I don’t know how long you have been at this blogging game for or how much time you have spent on social media but my guess is the success has been minimal??? Social media only really works for building friendships and to help create more visibility for those that are already popular. I would ask myself, what is the aim of my online presense? To raise my profile? To make money? To show off my skills?

Once you have this answer you then find out what keywords people are going to use who will be interested in engaging with you and your material. Then you optimise (good start your on Thesis :) ) , then comes the link building. Article marketing, directory submissions, guest blogging, a few ‘quality; reciprocal links. This will raise your rankings and drive relevant traffic your way.

Don’t get me wrong your not going to see results in a week, but do this over 6 months I guarantee your search engine traffic will have doubled if not tripled.

Check out

http://www.seowizz.net/2009/12/one-way-link-building-indepth-review-of-the-best-services.html
http://www.seowizz.net/2009/10/fresh-content-indexed-content-recognised-page-recognised-links.html
http://www.seowizz.net/2009/09/increase-organic-search-engine-traffic-the-easy-way.html
http://www.seowizz.net/2009/08/increase-search-traffic-instantly.html

These should help you get to grips with blog optimisation and link building, also visit my tutorials page. If your struggling with anything just drop me a line.

David Jenyns December 19, 2010 at 12:48 pm

You have set some sound reasons here. I am also for making really great use of my time and yes, doing much of a social media can really take off a huge chunk of your time, especially if this is something that we have been doing regularly.

I also noticed that you mentioned bounce rates, I would like to ask your say regarding bounce rate in websites in relation to improving their SEO rankings.

Here are my questions to you (and the rest) on bounce rate: First off, does having a higher click through rate considered as a huge factor in increasing your rankings within the search engine result pages? Second, how much does an increased bounce rate of your site greatly affects your search engine results page? Because, you know, if that is the case, I often wonder how I would game the search engine, well, in case they were true?

This time, I am thinking maybe you could get a software program to use a proxy rotation server that would repeatedly do some clicks on the links on your website within the organic results to bump it up the rankings? Any insights?

Next,is this issue on this whole bounce rate. It gets me to think that maybe if you could go to your competitors, click their link, and then click ‘Back’ immediately – does this simple, yet quick clicks act a huge factor in increasing their site’s bounce rate?

With that, click through and/or bounce rates don’t affect organic listings!

Now that’s not to say you should not even try to improve your click through rate by improving some stuff on your site like your title tags and meta descriptions. Because, who knows, by doing these needed tweaks and getting a higher click through rate might even be best this time instead of that researching a new set of valuable keywords to optimize for ;) Just sharing my two cents here…

Your SEO Coach,
David Jenyns

P.S. By the way, I also made an audio on this topic regarding click through rates and bounce rates here http://davidjenyns.posterous.com/do-click-through-rates-and-bounce-rates-affec feel free to drop by and let me know what you think. Have a nice day!

Tim December 20, 2010 at 2:40 am

Thanks for your comment David,

As far as I am aware bounce rates don’t play a part in rankings, yet…. The main reason why I brought up bounce rates in this article was to show that in terms of conversions and interaction, social media just cannot provide it. Still I think bounce rates and on page interaction is an interesting ‘moot’ point and with all the analytics data Google possess it’s hard not to consider it in your optimisation.

Thanks for the article, I’ll take a look and let you know if I have any feedback.

Raymond Galis January 27, 2011 at 12:30 pm

I have noticed the same exact items in my analytics. It’s ironic that the most ardent clients for “social media” initiatives are the one’s that don’t use it, nor understand it.

Michael Wilson September 30, 2011 at 5:27 am

Hi Tim,
I have read your post and really enjoyed and learn lots of things from your Post, by your post i have got some new point of view.
Many points are new for me, but why Social media sites still at higher rank?
And why all people using it for SEO purpose? If people use these sites for Social Networking purpose then not an issue but many people using it for Business Promotion Purpose. I want to know your point of View as i really got impressed by your Post.

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