Building A Social Audience Vs. Organic Ranking

By: Daniel Imbellino
Sep 23, 2015

While the world of brands and bloggers continue to fight for a spot on Google's first page, Sign on monitor that reads, Lets Get Socialwhat many have failed to realize is that people on the web today are spending more and more time on social media, and less time browsing on good old fashioned standard search engines.

For instance, the growth of visitors to this site arriving from social platforms has grown ten-fold over the past 2 years, while the amount of traffic from standard search engines has decreased by at least 40% in the same time frame. Top scoring keywords don't matter here, as their overall search volumes continue to decline, despite maintaining the same or similar positions in search results; while traffic from social sources has maintained a consistent rise.

Despite the fact this site has published virtually nothing in an entire year up until this article (other than a few games), its still getting pummeled with a constant stream of social traffic, has been all year, and this is what makes having a social audience of your own so valuable.

Even larger publishers like Buzzfeed are placing their bets on the social web, as was outlined in this 2014 report from Buzzfeed Insights . The platform states its traffic from social sites was 5X greater than its traffic from search engines at the time of the report. We can attest we've seen similar results, with our social traffic at times outnumbering organic traffic by as much as 100 to 1.

With many of Google's more recent changes over the last year or so, much of the focus of SEO appears to be put on the technical functionality of a site, with bloggers and major publishers across the web focusing intently on mobile functionality; when just as much emphasis should have been put on building and maintaining a dedicated audience of your own. The internet is like everything else in this world, its constantly changing, and we all must work to adapt and evolve with it, or fall behind in complete failure.

Today, it's no longer Google you need to convince, but rather the audience you're seeking to attain. That being said, in this day and age, its aspects of web publishing like the creation of compelling content, clever marketing strategies, and connecting with a social audience that are likely to help you gain the most traction.

Unfortunately its often how brands and bloggers go about their publishing and social strategies that washes their hopes and dreams down the drain. For instance, with the 2 major social brands I manage on a daily basis, I see a growing trend of people posting blog posts endlessly just to publish something. This is a horribly bad practice; much of what has been brought on by an ailing world economy and ever shrinking revenues across the web.

The focus appears to be on getting more traffic to make up for the losses, yet I know many of those who use our social properties are stuck at a dead end, despite the fact they have such huge audiences to serve their content too.

In the case of Strategic Social Networking, putting a post in this community is putting content in front of 100,000+ people, in a community that has an extended reach of tens of millions. Yet, people sometimes post there and simply get drowned out, ignored, and yet they just keep posting. If you post during peak hours, you're likely to get drowned in the mix of endless posts; while if you post during off peak hours you're likely to get less prying eyes, but more of the available attention. Either way, the point is you can dump content in front of a million people, but if no one likes what they see, then the content and the message it portrays becomes pointless.

When it comes to building a social audience, you're at the mercy of people as a whole, rather than with a single entity, such as a search engine. While bloggers and brands can fight for rank on social networks just like in standard search, even then, ranking itself is irrelevant in a world where social users now decide the value of your content.

Even e-commerce sites like ebay have embraced social media in profound ways, as is seen with their brand page on Google Plus, which drives a hefty chunk of sales for the platform 24/7. A single post to their brand page can get hundreds of +1's and shares, and they now have an audience of close to 1 million on the network today.

And, for those who aren't aware, there appears to be a strong correlation between those who perform well on social media, and those who perform well on the organic web. It appears that search engines like Google are in fact taking social into more consideration when it comes time to ranking content these days, and not without cause. What makes ranking based on social user metrics so wonderful is the fact that tech giants like Google now have more information to help determine the value of content; and in the case of social media the metric I'm pointing to is social engagement. What people have to say about something can tell a lot. Even Microsoft's Bing is now taking a closer look at social data as a defining measure of value to users.

Social strategies can impact brand and blog performance in profound ways, as social users tend to be more vocal about the content they interact with vs. those visiting a blog from search engines.

Besides being more vocal, social users will consistently share the stuff they like, pumping content out to a wider audience, effectively helping blogs to gain more back links, and with no extra link building efforts involved.

Building an audience on one network also seems to have a domino effect in terms of bringing in users from other networks as well. In the case of this site, and its associated brands, we really have no brand presence on networks like Facebook, yet we know we have an audience there based on our social sharing metrics here.

All being said, in the past critics called social media "Just Another Fad", while others embraced its potential and claimed social was the only way for a brand to go. It looks like those who placed their bets on social were at the very least, partially right after all. While this doesn't necessarily mean that would be bloggers should ignore the needs of organic traffic, but they should be aware of the drastic changes taking shape across a now heavily social web.

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