I have posted previously about an ongoing MBA class on content marketing called Marketing with Social Media that I am teaching at a university in Silicon Valley. We just wrapped up our 7th of 11 weeks. And I have some numbers regarding the social media versus search engine debate.
All 73 students started their websites out from zero. No domain. No hosting. No idea of the difference between tagline and ‘tag, you’re it’. No nothing.
Some of them have been posting very faithfully, using specifically the SEO guidelines I gave them for each post. Well, sorta kinda. As much as people, especially students, follow rules in general that is. We also have a great back linking strategy. And and and …
Question: What performs better? Sending people to sites via your social networks or just writing good stuff and letting the search engines do their thing?
Answer: The course is 45 days old. I took three screen shots from Google Analytics. The reader can compare Facebook referrals to Google organic traffic. (I know. I know. There are other social networks. There are also other search engines.)
Compare the following three 15-day time periods.
Feb 17 – Mar 3
The students worked their Facebook networks and in the end social network traffic outperformed organic search. It makes sense. The sites were still finding their feet and search was still finding them.
Mar 4 – Mar 18
Facebook referrals remained constant, but search results more than doubled as well as outperformed social networking.
Mar 19 – Apr 2
Facebook referrals dropped a little but organic search continued to increase – another 13%.
At the risk of overwhelming you screenshots and numbers take a look:
Facebook traffic dropped 33% from 617 visits the last week of Mar/Apr compared to 415 the last week of Feb/Mar.
Organic traffic increased 58% from 697 visits the last week of Mar/Apr to 1100 the last week of Feb/Mar.
One more thing – organic traffic grew by itself. That is my students wrote something and turned off their computers, while with social networking, traffic requires the student to write something and do something else, login elsewhere and promote, interact, build, smooze.
I may be wrong, but after a time, the promotion of content elsewhere = on social networks, gets cumbersome, tiresome, and loses its effectiveness. However, with search traffic, as long as the content is meaningful, follows the rules of good SEO, will continue to grow.
Who wins in the social media vs search engine debate when it comes to content marketing?
Unless, that is, you have a different experience that you would like to share in a comment below.