Years ago, I have given a couple of SEO workshops at blogger conferences. It was a lot of fun, as these bloggers were widely successful with their hobby turning into real businesses. They were fascinated with the stuff I presented, which is my daily work and hobby at the same time. I befriended a couple of bloggers and always stayed in touch, although my priorities on speaking engagements moved elsewhere (mainly less speaking since I’m busy with family and work). So when I saw the following question on Facebook, and the more than 100 comments from other bloggers, I felt inspired to write this post on the question: How Much of your Blog Traffic Should Come Through SEO?
Why did this question pop into my mind? A large number of the commenters on Kristyn’s Facebook post posted their percentage of SEO traffic to their blog. I immediately became interested in what the percentage of SEO traffic is on the Fanatics blog, the main blogging site I’m currently working at. Pulling the total visits per channel since I started working on the site, I somewhat am ashamed as an SEO, because the Social channel has brought more traffic to the Fanatics blog than SEO.
However, this pie-chart is not painting the right picture. You should ask yourself a couple of questions; which I will address in more detail to showcase why the percentage of traffic each channel brings to your site should not be the focus point in determining if you are successful in SEO.
- What is the timeframe I was looking at when I pulled these numbers
- What are the absolute traffic numbers; are we talking about 10’s of visits or 1000’s of visits.
1) Timeframe of data
First, why is timeframe of the data important? In this particular example, the timeframe is almost 1.5 year. So I pulled the channel visit numbers since Oct 1 2015 until April 24 2017. Why does this matter? Well, last year January, we had two very successful blogpost which pulled in a lot of traffic through Facebook. These two, The Most Iconic Players in the NFL & Every NFL Team’s Biggest Rival, created a good controversy among fans, resulting in a massive influx of visits. These two tilt the scale in favor of the Social channel for the full year of 2016. In the below graph you can see the giant peak in January, where SEO is on a steady rise over the full year. More on the SEO growth we build on the Fanatics blog using the Content-Brand Pyramid framework at my post Putting SEO to Work to Drive Traffic & Brand Awareness.
Want to keep up with the Content-Brand Pyramid framework. In the coming weeks, I will start to publish a lot more content on how to use this framework to grow your SEO, Social traffic and build your brand through your content marketing. If you would like to continue to read these updates, feel free to subscribe to my newsletter; drop your email address in the form at the bottom of this post!
As you can see we had two other giant monthly spikes in Social, which came from 3 separate blogposts.
- What does the GSH stand for on the Chicago Bears uniform
- Unbreakable MLB Records
- Frugal NBA Athletes
These 5 post pulled in so much social traffic, anyway to look at percentage of visits coming from the different channels doesn’t make sense anymore, since the numbers are so skewed towards the Social channel instead of growing channels like SEO.
Another factor which comes into play when you’re pulling data in a certain timeframe, is that you would have to ask yourself if there are certain seasonal factors playing a role in the spikes of visits a certain channel gets. I’ve seen blogs getting a massive influx of Pinterest traffic during the days before Valentine’s day or Christmas. Why? these blogs are very well represented with images on Pinterest for these seasonal occasions when a lot of people go to look for visual inspiration.
Similar, the Fanatics blog already has seen similar traffic patterns on the post; Rise of the Ugly Christmas Team Sweater
2) Absolute traffic numbers
Second factor why percentage of channel is not the right metric to determine if your SEO channel is successful, is; how large is each channel in absolute numbers?
Some of the commenters also indicated that social is usually their number 1 traffic driving channel. These bloggers are really successful social animals, where Pinterest in a major driver of traffic. However, even with the large percentage of traffic coming through the social websites, all commenters would like to get more traffic through SEO. Some bloggers are just getting insane amounts of traffic from Pinterest:
Everyone is so different, but I have 70% social traffic with 75% of that from Pinterest which is over half of my total traffic!
It really depends on your absolute traffic numbers to judge if you need help with your SEO. If you get 10 visits from Pinterest, which represents 50% of your total traffic, it would be really easy to grow the percentage of your SEO traffic for your blog. All you have to do is get 10 visits from SEO, and both Pinterest & SEO would be 38%. The increase in SEO would represent 250% growth, which sounds really a challenge to achieve, but in absolute terms we are spealing about 6 more visits (4 -> 10).
Now, let’s look at the challenge to grow SEO if we are talking about a real example of a blog wildly successful in getting massive amounts of traffic from Social, with approximately the same percentages (real metrics from a blog below here). This time, a growth of +250% would mean the blog would have to pull in an additional ~100K visits through SEO to accomplish the similar percentage distribution across the channels.
What is a better metric to determine if you are making headway into growing your SEO traffic? Because even if you are successful in growing SEO traffic to your blog, you might find that it’s not properly reflected in the site’s percentage, since your Social traffic might be growing faster.
The Metric to Determine your SEO Success of your Blog
If the percentage of traffic each channel drives is not a great metric to judge your SEO success, what metrics should a blogger be looking at to understand their SEO? I would recommend to look at the growth of the channels in isolation, and judge your SEO growth over time on the absolute traffic it drives. More so, you would like to see growth coming from multiple blogposts, not from a few. In the case of the Fanatics blog, you can see the growth in SEO traffic is a slow, but steady one, while we pull in traffic spikes through Referrals & the Social channels.
Looking at the different channels in isolation, you will be able to better understand how your efforts are contributing to the overall growth of your blog. You might find your SEO is in a better shape than you expected!