When it comes to searching for information on the web, there’s no denying the power of Google. According to the data-counting website Internet Live Stats, the search giant gets more than 50,000 search queries per second. Little wonder, then, that businesses spend millions of dollars on SEO and other tactics to rank well and generate traffic to their websites.
Funny thing, though. While Google remains the undisputed leader among search engines, it’s being challenged by a surprising source. These days, more and more people are turning to social networks to unearth the information they seek, which, in turn, means that those networks are driving more traffic to proprietary websites.
In fact, a report earlier this year found that almost one-third (31.24%) of referral traffic was generated by the eight largest social networks, up from 22.71% the year before. That’s not exactly the “end of search” as some suggest — the websites analyzed were clients of a social-tools provider — but it clearly speaks to a trend that warrants the attention of anyone who hopes to connect with today’s online searchers and consumers.
What’s behind the numbers?
People are discovering more content through social media: In May, Facebook launched Instant Articles, allowing major publishers to post interactive articles directly in people’s News Feeds. They, are in effect, curating content, which not only keeps people on the site longer but also generates traffic back to those publishers’ own websites. In June and July, Facebook actually sent more referral traffic to those websites than Google.
The move to mobile hurts traditional search: Small screens and virtual keyboards make typing out queries on a smartphone tedious and unpleasant. As voice technology improves, more smartphone users will likely use their phones to conduct more general searches but in the meantime, that’s not what most people use their phones for. And, of course, every social network worth its community has its own search function.
Apps, not websites, are where mobile users spend their time: According to comScore, the average mobile user spends about 200 minutes per month using apps vs. just 10 minutes using a mobile browser. Social apps account for more time than any other use (29% of the total), led, not surprisingly, by Facebook.
Phones, apps and more ways to find information without going to Google.com: Put it all together and it’s increasingly clear that more people are looking for information via social, which means those who hope to reach them need to think social, as well. As Martin Laprise of Parse.ly recently noted,
Social media… provides another source of insight into your audience. Understanding how your audience finds and shares content through social sites will help you put your readers first, an initiative we call ‘reader-first publishing.’ The more you listen to your readers and let their needs inform your decisions, the more readers you’ll attract and the more interactions with readers you will find yourself having.
To drive more traffic, simplify the path from social sites to your practice website
Creating and sharing social content puts it in the places where today’s aesthetic consumers gather. That’s a good thing but the real goal is to get them to then click over to your practice website to find out more about you. To do that, use plenty of images (they’re among the most engaging content around); tout your blog posts with teaser blurbs, and make liberal use of links in your social content, on your profile/about pages and anywhere else it may encourage users to take the next step.