Wetpaint CEO Ben Elowitz on the Future of Digital Media
We’ve seen it at Wetpaint, but it’s not just happening for us. Social success and search success now go hand in hand for all web publishers.
If you look at the top 50 publishers on the web, there’s a strong correlation between Facebook traffic growth and Google traffic growth:
For every 1% growth or decline in Facebook visits, the top 50 web publishers in our Media Industry Social Leaderboard saw a corresponding 0.5% change in Google traffic.
Correlation but not causation, you say? I have it on good authority (aka Search Engine Land’s Danny Sullivan) that social signals will soon be the leading factor (if they’re not already) in search engine rankings.
It’s time to drop the notion that an investment in social has to come at the expense of an investment in search. It’s now abundantly clear: social traffic and search traffic go together.
Update: The original version of this post included an incorrect chart. The correct chart is now shown.
Most websites get the biggest slice of their traffic pie from Google; and Facebook is the most frequent #2. But the other social networks are starting to be significant to some sites.
Now, let’s see how they stack up in terms of driving traffic. As part of the Media Industry Social Leaderboard, we’ve been keeping tabs.
It’s worth keeping in mind that Facebook still massively outweighs its social brethren in total impact, making up 97% of social traffic to the top 50. But in today’s world of meteoric rises and rapid falls, one of the players lurking in the other 3% (Twitter, Pinterest or Google+) could turn out to be the behemoth of tomorrow.
Twitter is definitively the #2 social referrer for publishers, but its share is declining – it grew by a lackluster 1% from February to May. Meanwhile, Pinterest is emerging as a formidable competitor: their last three months were just pinsane with 210% growth. If they continue on that trajectory, they’ll be bigger than Twitter as a traffic referrer by summer’s end.
Will that happen? Is Pinterest already edging out Twitter as we speak? Stay tuned for next month’s Social Leaderboard results.
I feel like a lot of my posts lately have been beating the social drum, so I need to clarify my perspective. Social isn’t just a fad. It isn’t just a channel, or an alternate distribution medium.
It’s actually turning into the new ether. As in “need it to breathe.” And while it’s not actually all about friends, it absolutely is about connecting to your audience.
Case in point: according to Compete, in February Wetpaint Entertainment received more traffic from Facebook than from Google. Hey, I told you it was gonna happen. It’s because social has provided a medium for data and connection that lets us deeply relate to our audience. Increasingly, other publishers are finding the same – The Guardian most recently joined the club.
The best part is that these gains in social aren’t coming at the expense of other channels – our overall traffic (including our search traffic) continues to climb. Social signals have a huge impact on search rankings, and so it makes sense that our social success would drive audience growth outside of social, too.
For the last several years, many a publisher’s greatest fear has been that they’ll lose favor with Google. Afraid that any shift in strategy from SEO to social will lead to a precipitous fall from Google grace and a drop in traffic, they monitor the search rankings daily to see if the gods are pleased.
But ironically, it turns out that an investment in social is the best SEO there is.