For Web Referrals, Never Put Your Eggs in One Basket!

With recent talk of Facebook changing its algorithm to impact what users see more prominently, some bloggers have worried about the impact on their web referrals.

How much of an impact does Facebook have on your social media web referrals?

Web referrals is a measure in analytics that shows a website owner how someone came to your website. The most common ways someone can get to your site are by organic search, direct, referral and social media.

There has been a good deal of talk over the past few months about Facebook’s plans to change the news feed to be more about users’ friends and family and less about pages and businesses vying for their attention. No one knows exactly how much will change as Facebook seems to still be in the process of rolling changes out.

But if Facebook is a big traffic source for you, it could be time to worry at least a little depending on what you find when you check out your web referrals.

Google’s blog defined each of these types of referrals back in 2009:

  • Organic search refers to people who use a search engine like Google or Bing, search for a keyword and are then presented with a link to your site that they click. (Google points out that it counts clicks from unpaid search results as organic.
  • Direct refers to people who typed in your site’s URL themselves or clicked a bookmark on their browser to go directly to your site.
  • Web referral means visitors referred by links on someone else’s websites. If a fellow blogger posts something and mentions your blog and includes a link and someone clicks on it,
    that’s a web referral.
  • And social means visits prompted by clicks from social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or LinkedIn.

Google Analytics can take a “deeper dive” (if you can pardon that highly annoying bit of stats jargon) to show you which social media networks are giving you the most social referrals.

For some bloggers, Pinterest is definitely the one bringing in the most social media traffic. For others, it’s Twitter or Facebook.

There are two things you should know about your audience acquisition with respect to social media.

First, you should know what percentage of your page views in a given time period — monthly, quarterly, yearly, etc. — comes from social media referrals. If you’re doing a good job of SEO, you might find that search engine traffic is your number one traffic source. But if you’re a social media king or queen or you’re not doing particularly well with SEO, then there’s a chance the bulk of your page view traffic will come from social media.

Second, once you know how big of an impact social media has on your site’s page views, you need to identify which one is bringing the most.

In this site’s case, I’ve spent the past couple of years really focusing on SEO. I use the Yoast plugin for WordPress and I’ve found it a great “coach” to help me think about what I’m doing in each individual post to help it rank higher. It seems to have worked, because organic search accounts for more than 85% of my web traffic.

SEO, in my site’s case, is helping because a lot of my content is “evergreen,” meaning that it’s still relevant months (or in some cases, years) after its original posting date.

Obviously, social media, then, takes up a much smaller percentage of the page views referred to my site. But once I break that down, I find that of those social media referrals, Facebook accounts for 54% of my social media referrals. So that means that if Facebook’s algorithm changes have a big impact on my traffic, we’re talking about half of the social traffic my site gets. Granted, it’s not a lot in my case, but within that small category, at least, it’s significant.

You can only fight so much of the social media battle.

Some believe the only way you can be seen on social media is to pay to “boost” or “promote” posts that more of your fans, followers and potential fans and followers will see. If you don’t have a budget, you have to navigate through each algorithm change and figure out as best you can what does and doesn’t work with each change.

And all the while, social media has a vested interest in keeping it mysterious so you’ll be more likley to just give up out of frustration and “pay to play.” 

I once talked to a blogger who told me she focuses almost exclusively on Pinterest. That platform gave her all of her social media referrals, and social referrals accounted for a sizable percentage of her traffic. That’s perfectly fine…as long as she continues to do what has always worked well for her site and as long as Pinterest doesn’t make any substantial change to the way it displays her content to its audience. If they do, she could very well take a major hit because she was putting almost all of her eggs in that single basket.

The best you can do — and what all of us should be doing — is constantly looking for ways to improve not only our SEO but our presence on more than one social media network. The more we can figure out how to improve our performance on multiple social platforms, the better chance we have of lowering the impact from changes an individual platform might make.

Which social media platform do you get the most traffic from?

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Patrick is a Christian with more than 27 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.