Safety in Numbers: Diversifying Your Traffic Sources

We all want our websites to be seen. And the more eyeballs we can get on them, the better for our overall business strategy. Having a solid social presence can be a very important component in that strategy, especially if your socials regularly send people to your website. Same can be said for having a strong Search Engine Optimization (SEO) strategy. But sometimes businesses make the mistake of latching onto one platform that's proven successful for them -- at the expense of everything else. And it can be a costly lesson.

CAUTIONARY TALES

Google Panda

To combat the low-quality content dominating its search results at the time, Google launched an update called Panda in early 2011. (Panda has since had many additional updates to refine this process.) The goal was to ensure that better quality content & sites would surface to the top of search results, while poor content & sites would be filtered out. 

Many sites took a hit to their money-making traffic (we're looking at you, content farms), and some never fully recovered. It was not in Google's best interest to allow companies to game their search results, regardless of the financial impact their actions had on those companies.

Facebook's Limited Reach

Well before Facebook went public, many companies and brands had invested resources into building up their Facebook page likes. The assumption being that anything they posted would show up in their fan's feeds. Unfortunately, Facebook needed to have a strategy in place to make sure they had a plan to be profitable, and advertising is a great revenue stream. 

By limiting a page's organic reach and by closing the aperture on how many fans can see your content, Facebook could then charge businesses to reach their customer base. In a nutshell, if you want all of your fans to see everything you post, pay Facebook for the privilege. Like Panda, this is an ongoing process as Facebook continues to tweak things, but you can see where relying on only them for all (or most) of your site traffic could be a potentially dicey option...

WHAT TO DO

So, does that mean you shouldn't use Facebook (or Twitter or Instagram)? That you should banish Google and cross your fingers while hoping for the best? Of course not. Socials are important and you want to be where your audience is. SEO is important. But all of these external platforms should be considered enhancements to your marketing strategy. You have to realize they may change the rules at any moment.

According to the Harvard Business Review, "Most social media is rented, not owned. Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn are your landlords and you just lease the space. It's true that you own your accounts and profiles. That's like having your name on the mailbox. But as your landlord, they can enter your apartment at will, renovate whenever they like -- and keep the profits resulting from improvements you make to the property."

On the upside, you control your site. Your branding. Your message. Your products. You have to win people over so they want to follow you regardless of the platform they first find you on. 

Pick a few socials that make the most sense for your business (don't make the mistake of trying them all at once). Figure out which ones have the audience you're trying to reach and focus on growing those. Learn about SEO and how to make sure people who are searching for you can find you. And be sure that everything you do points back to your site. Give people a reason to keep coming back. Introduce yourself on socials, but keep the relationship growing beyond them.

TL;DR There is a real danger in putting all of your trust into one or two platforms. Whether it's socials or search engines, you don't want the lion's share of your traffic coming from a single source. Remember, third parties are businesses, too, and they make their decisions based on what's best for their business, not yours. The best strategies in marketing take this into account. You want to own your traffic. You want people coming to you because they seek you out, and you don't want to make yourself vulnerable by relying too heavily on any exterior source to supply your audience. 

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