Posted by: The CMA
All the talk of viral content shared by social networks mustn’t obscure the fact that search is still massively important to publishers.
Social or search, which is the most important tool for publishers? A few years back search was clearly where the momentum was, but now, with the rise of BuzzFeed and the concept of the shareable article - fuelled by the arrival of content recommendation engines like Outbrain - it seems like social is in the ascendancy.
There are however many good reasons for publishers not to write off search as an important source of traffic. The last few years might have seen Google change the rules with its Panda and Penguin updates. Those tweaks to its search algorithms have however meant that reputable publishers, who deliver high quality content, are gaining even more search traffic than before.
Here then are five reasons why publishers need to continue to take search very seriously indeed.
- Most publishers are still attracting many more readers from search then they are via social shares - There are of course several high profile exceptions to this rule, like BuzzFeed and the Mirror Group’s UsvSth3m, but for most mainstream media groups search is still the main source of traffic. A recent blog post by the Define Media Group references ComScore data from the company’s clients which suggest its network of partners, including the New York Times and Vogue, are still receiving 2.5 times more traffic from search than social. And they are both media groups that can boast a large number of followers on their social sites. There is also a significant skew in terms of social referrals to news sites rather than more general content based sites. So if your Facebook or Twitter page has only a few followers then it is best to be realistic and see search as the best way to grow traffic.
- Search engine traffic may be more relevant and valuable than social traffic - Of course much depends on the nature of the traffic itself, however as a rule if someone has found your site using a credible search term then chances are you are fulfilling a need in terms of what they are looking for. This might be product or service specific and end up generating sales and revenue. In contrast someone who reaches your site via viral content may be less interested in purchasing goods and services from you or your client. That isn't to say that the social traffic is useless from a transactional point of view. In fact the changes to Google’s algorithm may mean it helps you attract more search engine traffic.
- Search engine traffic is easier to attract than social traffic - Actually creating content that goes viral and is shared endlessly isn’t easy. There are good examples of branded content has gone viral, but these tend to be high quality video, specially created images etc. If you are say producing a recipe for supermarket website it is unlikely to go viral in that way. Properly tagged content though with a search engine friendly headline will attract traffic and not just in the short term.
- Search traffic is more secure than social - One of the dangers of focussing too much on social traffic is that if the social landscape changes you will have to have a re-think. At the moment Facebook is sending a large amount of traffic to publishers (especially mobile), but what happens if the social networking giant is eclipsed by a start up? Or a platform comes along that completely renders Twitter redundant? Properly labeled content will always attract traffic, no matter which search engine is in the ascendancy.
- The power of video and images - Search isn’t just limited to words - pictures and videos play a very important role too. Appropriate images, which are clearly labeled, can garner quite a high percentage of search traffic. The same is true for video results via YouTube. This is because when you search for a term Google will inevitably throw videos into the mix and in many instances they will be the first or second entry that is presented to you. From Google's perspective this is a sound financial move as chances are the video you watch on YouTube will feature advertising which generates revenue for the company. The downside for publishers is that the videos don't invariably directly lead a browser to your site, but it does give publishers the chance to encourage them to explore more of their content both on YouTube and external sites.
Posted by: The CMA