I’m currently putting together a series of posts looking back on some of the website traffic tips I’ve written about in the past. As a result I’ve been spending a lot of time wading through my Analytics data and going cross eyed playing around in Excel.
One of the things I’ve picked up on is that there seems to be a natural process involved in the organic growth of either a website or a blog. The longer your site is online, the less reliant you are on search engine traffic to power your site.
I’m not saying that search engines are dead but the question I have is are they as relevant as they once were?
A few years ago it would have been laughable to even ask the question but with the increase in popularity of blogs, user generated content and the explosion in social media, is heading to a search engine the first step for the web savvy user?
I mentioned a couple of months back that I was starting to use social bookmarking as my method of cataloguing useful information. I’m still adding old favourites as we speak but already I’ve built up quite a nice library of information. If I’m researching a new article it makes more sense to me to go through my trusted sources via del.icio.us than it does typing in a query on Google. I’ve already vouched for the information by bookmarking it so why wade through pages of potentially useless articles?
I am a big fan of StumbleUpon. It’s a great way to find new information that has been recommended by your online friends. It’s also one of the biggest providers of traffic to this site. Stumblers tend to stay on the site longer and they tend to read more content. I’ve also seen an increase in RSS subscriptions since I started getting traffic from StumbleUpon so why not focus on writing for the Stumblers rather than worrying about making sure my meta tags are correct or I’ve H1′d my titles?
Of course I still use search engines to find new information. As someone who has been online for the last ten years or so it’s something that has been built into me. Need to find something? Look on the search engines. However I’m starting to change the way I do things online so what about the person that’s just starting out? I’m not talking about the casual surfer, I’m talking about the person who is going to start up their own website or blog. It won’t take them long to discover and embrace social media.
The new generation of web savvy users won’t be as reliant on search engines as I was when I started out.
So what does this all mean? The search engines are going to say “it was a good run whilst it lasted”, pack up and go home? No, of course it doesn’t. The big three - Google, Yahoo and Microsoft - are already changing the way they operate and they will continue to do so in order to get more eyeballs on their ads. However I do have to question whether or not webmasters and bloggers are going to be quite as focused on building their sites with the search engines in mind as they used to be. Why bother if you can get the majority of your traffic through word of mouth, backlinks and social bookmarking?
Could your website survive without search engine traffic?
This is something I’ve been thinking about a lot over the last few weeks. It started when David Airey found himself dumped from the SERPs and continued with the whole PageRank debacle. Obviously it wouldn’t be nice to be dropped from the Google index but would it necessarily spell the end of this site? For some of my other sites it most certainly would. They rely almost exclusively on getting traffic from the Big 3. Without that traffic they would curl up and die.
Or would they?
I once suggested that one of my old clients would not be able to attract visitors to his carpet cleaning site by utilising social media. Within less than an hour Michael Gray managed to prove me wrong. Interestingly enough he’s recently posted a similar example of how to linkbait boring subjects so maybe I would just need to adopt a new method for getting traffic to those sites. Rand at SEOmoz was spot on earlier this year when he said every site is linkbait and linkerati worthy.
Seth Godin recently compiled a list of over 950 Web 2.0 sites that you could leverage for traffic. Jack Humphrey reveals how to utilise social media in his excellent ebook Authority Black Book. Likewise Yaro Starak covers marketing blogs through social media in his free ebook Blog Profits Blueprint. There are over 40 niche sites to submit your blog to at Top Secret Blogger.
With the increase in use of social media sites, the dependency on search engine traffic becomes less and less. Graywolf highlights how StumbleUpon have stolen a march on the Big 3 by integrating social media into the SERPs themselves. Which link would you click on? The #1 ranked result as decided by Google or the #9 ranked result as recommended by one of your StumbleUpon friends?
I’ve started to use Sphinn a lot more to find interesting articles about search marketing. In my opinion a click from Sphinn is worth a lot more than a click from Google. Why? Because the person clicking on the link from Sphinn is likely to be more interested in what I have to say, more likely to read more of my content and, crucially, more likely to link to me in the future. Forget the SEO reasons why linking is important, the link from someone in my niche is likely to drive more targeted traffic to my site than search engine traffic.
New social media sites are popping up every day and they’re getting more and more focused on very specific niches in the market place. Take a trip over to 901am and have a look through some of the new site launches they’re announced over the last few weeks.
Search engines aren’t going to disappear overnight but as more of these highly targeted social media sites appear, the less relevant the search engines become.
UPDATE: Here’s a list of 24 social media sites that actually send traffic to your website. How did I find it? By using my del.icio.us bookmarks
UPDATE 2: If you’re still not convinced that social media is the way forward, read this excellent article over at Dosh Dosh - The Importance of Social Media Marketing.