Conversion marketing and the impact of social content sharing on traffic


For a lot of online marketers, traffic to the website is still the Walhalla and the ultimate measure for their activities. This is obviously wrong: what counts in the end is the conversion, the value of the visitors for your business and their engagement.

A while ago I wrote about the mismatch between the expenses made to gain traffic against those made to optimize conversion on Dave Chaffey's SmartInsights blog, making the case for conversion optimization. I then referred to the rather sensational fact that, via Bryan Eisenberg, I had found out that for every 95 US$ that companies spend on traffic generation, only one dollar is spent on conversion improvement.

However, traffic obviously remains an important element. Without visitors to your website or blog there's not really a point in having one. And so it's important to know where traffic, the start of conversion on your website, comes from.

Last week I discovered, like many others, the results of a survey on our content sharing behavior by social sharing tool ShareThis, in cooperation with Starcom MediaVest Group.

How do we share content and what is the impact on traffic and conversion

Competitor AddThis, used in Selligent Interactive Marketing, earlier already published interesting data (see infographic here) on how people who use the platform, share content and just like AddThis, for this survey ShareThis worked with its own database with information on the social sharing activity of its users, more precisely the March data.

The company analyzed a total of 7 billion so-called sharing signals with a focus on 300 million visitors of the 1000 largest publishers' websites that have integrated ShareThis.

It is especially interesting to look at the impact of social sharing from a traffic point of view, and this leads to a couple of interesting results.
The study found that social sharing is good for about half of the traffic that websites receive from search engines, being 10%. It also leads to more traffic than the behavior of Facebook fans, Twitter followers, etc.

Of course one needs to look at the context and at the markets wherein the largest websites that are using ShareThis are active. So it is definitely allowed to frown when reading this percentage (and at the same time reading between the lines that search accounts for a little over 20% of traffic).

Social content sharing: volume still matters but so does being specific

One conclusion of the study that is important to me is that the impact of social sharing in the field of online traffic is totally related to scaling and not to virality. In other words: the number of shares counts. Every shared link, independent of the channel or medium that is being used to share, is clicked on 4.9 times on average. The report concluded that content being shared by a lot of people has a higher impact on traffic than content that has a high viral reach (and thus goes from one person to the other).

A second conclusion I like to mention and which will hopefully slow down the crazy influencer rage a bit more, is that everyone who shared is an influencer if the subject is important to him or her: lots of people who have influence on specific and vertical themes are more important than the traditional influencers with a higher impact on diverse themes.

A couple more numbers then: with 56%, Facebook is the glutton when it comes down to sharing content. Twitter only accounts for 8%. A small prediction: Facebook will become the favorite spot for link builders and spammers. No, let me take those words back: it is already. Another small prediction: LinkedIn's role will grow very fast.

Facebook accounts for a total of 38% of socially generated traffic, Twitter for 17% (so don't underestimate Twitter's traffic impact) and with that Twitter performs as well as email, which also accounts for 17% of traffic.

An important footnote: the study does not tell that email only accounts for 17% of traffic. It says that ShareThis' email-function accounts for 17%. Before someone starts screaming that email is dead, it is important to realize that ShareThis configurations may be different and that lots of publishers still have separate email buttons. The same is often true for other sharing or send-to-a-friend buttons.

Despite these caveats, it is a study with some interesting findings that manage to disprove some traditional social media hype thinking.

Other posts about social sharing:

Free white paper: social media in the cross-channel marketing strategy

The hottest topic in marketing and communication is without any doubt social media marketing.
Although many businesses are still testing the waters, many others have successfully integrated social media in their marketing mix.
Learn how to efficiently use social media to improve the relevance of marketing and communication programs

Inspiration in Your Inbox!

Sign up for your monthly dose of thought leadership.
You can unsubscribe in each newsletter at any time.