It is difficult to respond to legal marketing questions with a simple answer. For instance, what source of referral traffic should you care about most, social media or search engines?
Who would have thought even a couple years ago that social media may be as important as Google in drawing traffic to your law blog. After all, eight or nine years ago we said BLOG stood for “Better Listing On Google.”
There is no question that the explosive use of social media has increased traffic. Regularly, I review analytics from legal websites and blogs that show considerable year-over-year growth in social media referral traffic.
On the other hand, it is rare that I review a site or blog that receives more traffic from social media than from search engines. Over time, the numbers tend to look more like this:
I suspect O’Keefe sees similar trends across much of the LexBlog network, but he does not discount search as being important. In fact, he notes:
Sure, Google remains important. But going forward you ought to be spending more time looking at how you can increase traffic to your blog from social media than from Google.
Which he further supports in our brief exchange on Twitter:
— Gyi Tsakalakis (@gyitsakalakis) August 14, 2014
@gyitsakalakis No question it’s both – social and search; law firms just need be less myopic in how people arrive at content.
— Kevin O’Keefe (@kevinokeefe) August 14, 2014
Admittedly, I am also guilty of being myopic. But paying additional attention to search is warranted. Define Media Group Founder and CEO Marshall D. Simmonds confirms this in his retort to BuzzFeed’s social media coronation:
Despite BuzzFeed’s claims to the contrary and the follow up mis-reporting, the data we analyzed irrefutably shows the following:
- Organic search traffic is the #1 referral data source
- Organic search traffic far outperforms social
- Organic search traffic is aggressively growing year over year
Social grew in Q4 (on that much we can agree with BuzzFeed), however organic search traffic did as well
Among our network of publishers, search sent nearly 2.5 times more traffic than social, accounting for 41% of all referrals, versus social’s 16%.
Gun to my head, which source of referral traffic is more important? Neither of them.
The truth is these channels have become inextricably intertwined as illustrated in this infographic by MDG Advertising:
Instead of trying to decide which channel is more important, focus on understanding how they work together.
Social media is an effective channel for staying current with your community and professional network. Additionally, it serves as a venue to get the attention of journalists who may write about and link to your posts. This is a positive signal search engines use to rank web pages.
Search engines will remain the primary source for people who look you up online. They will expect to see information about you on search engines. However, when they search, they will also expect to find information about you on social media sites. That is where social activity such as ratings, reviews and comments play a role.
This is why I recommend taking a diversified approach to web traffic. Google’s Matt Cutts articulates it well:
“I’m all for having eggs in lots of different baskets, because if your website goes down and then you can always have your brick-and-mortar business,” Cutts said. “If your ranking on Google is not as good, then you can have other channels that you can use – from print media advertising, to billboards, to Twitter, to Facebook. So you should always have a very well-rounded portfolio of ways to get leads whether from people walking through your door or Yellow Pages or whatever it is, because you can’t count on any one channel always working out perfectly.
All of these baskets work together. The lines between search, social, and offline marketing channels are blurred. Firms that focus on understanding how these channels work together get a better return on their investments in both time and money.