The Impact of Social Sharing on Organic Search Traffic

Why Do Social Media Users Share Content? – Be Aware of the Impact it has on Your Organic Search Traffic

Social signals are powerful. They create engagement with your followers, lead generation, connections between your customers, and an opportunity to connect with influencers, just to name a few. I would like to share an example of how one of the brand sites I work on was affected by social signals. One of the site’s landing pages has seen minimal traffic over the past few months, and one day out of the blue it saw a significant increase in traffic.

organic search visits

Organic Search Visits – Source: Google Analytics

So, why the spike in organic search traffic to that landing page?

A popular website was featuring an old news story about this brand regarding a recall for one of its products – as if the recall was current. Now I can’t say for sure whether the site re-published the article, or was just re-promoting the article on its homepage. However, the article did include a note with the original publish date of the news story, which was several months prior. Regardless, the article went viral in which consumers immediately turned to social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, as well as popular discussion forums and blogs, and it became a major talking point through social conversations – again. It was as if this news was hot off the presses and the urge to spread the word about this recall via social media was high.

For instance, take a look at the tweets per day this product recall saw on Twitter.

topsy tweets per day

Tweets per day – Source: Topsy

This raises several questions about social sharing in general. Are social media users really reading the content they are sharing? Or, are they just sharing to stay connected with their peers in the social universe. I found it interesting to see the volume of social media users that were sharing an old news story. It makes me question the following;

1. How many of users that shared the article had only read the headline and jumped at the opportunity to share the piece, 2. Read the story in its entirety, and therefore, knew that the story was old news, but still wanted to share it within their social networks.

What is motivating people to share? 

The New York Times Customer Insight Group did a study where they looked at the motives behind sharing online. Some interesting statistics emerged from the survey, which helped me answer some of my questions.

But what about your brand’s content?  These statistics can help you uncover more about your consumers. By knowing your consumers – and the reasons why they are sharing content can help you uncover ways in which they will want to share your content as well.

So let’s have a look here…

An overwhelming 94% of survey participants said they carefully consider how the information they share will be useful to the recipient. While, 68% said they share to give people a better sense of whom they are and what they care about.

And 49% said sharing allows them to inform others of products they care about and potentially change opinions or encourage action. This speaks loudly to the situation with my brand and its product recall.

It’s also clear that social media users are sharing to build and strengthen relationships with their peers. 73% of survey respondents said they share information because it helps them connect with others who share their interests; and 78% share information online because it lets them stay connected to people they may have not otherwise stayed in touch with.

A Forbes article published in November referred to social media as like “going to a party.” Basically, people are sharing content to feel like they are being social with that of a larger group.

Which brings up another interesting statistic from the NY Times study: 69% of survey respondents said they share information because it allows them to feel more involved in the world.

Next Stop – Search engines!

Now that we have a better understanding of the reasons why social media users have the desire to share content, let’s look at what happens next. A social media user reads a piece of content on one of their favorite sites, he/she then shares it with their peers, and then turns to another tactic to get even more information about the story – search engines.

Think about it. When you browse through Facebook, Twitter, or any social media site and see a story that your friends are all talking about that intrigues you, what do you do?  You most likely will click on the link to the story and read it. Now if that doesn’t satisfy your curiosity and you want more details or information, your next step is probably going to be your favorite search engine, where you’ll enter a query/ keyword to get some additional information about the story you just read.

If I see my friends are talking about a recall on a product that I use, I would immediately go to the brand’s site or run a search on Google to seek more information.

Social signals can be very unpredictable in impacting your organic search results. As discussed in my example earlier, the social sharing of content can certainly have a significant impact on traffic to your site. The “popular website” was clever in which they generated a buzz by republishing an old new story. Unfortunately for my brand it wasn’t helpful since it was related to a product recall, and had negative implications.

Re-publishing and re-purposing content in articles, guides and e-books can always help with organic search efforts, lead generation, saving content creation time and your overall marketing strategy/efforts. Although it may seem like a blessing to capture added organic traffic to your site, you must remember that knowledge is power, and knowing exactly why that spike occurred will prove to be extremely valuable.

How to Monitor your Site’s Social Signals

You can’t control the content that is produced and shared about your brand or brand’s industry. You have no control if a site publishes an older article that may affect your brand, or if social media buzz causes the recirculation of it, as if it were new content. You can hope that social media users talk about your brands in a positive light, but you really can’t control what they say.

But there is actually a lot you can do. You must pay very close attention to what conversations are happening about your brand, industry and competitors. Here’s what you can do:

  • Subscribe to popular blogs relevant to your brand’s products
  • Follow and like relevant social media pages
  • Regularly visit the websites that typically discuss content related to your brand or industry
  • Closely monitor social media traffic through your tracking tools
  • Check organic traffic on a daily basis to identify any changes in your traffic
  • Look for trends, patterns, and of course social media discussions that may be having an impact on your organic traffic
  • Utilize social listening sites such as Radian6, Hootsuite, Klout, Topsy and Social Mention that provide information on social media discussions, so you know where exactly people are discussing your brand.

It may prove to be beneficial to you in the long run, or at the very least, give you more insight into your consumers.

Have you seen any instances where older content was recirculated via social media? How did it affect your traffic, and did it lead to any conversions?

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