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The Problem(s) With Social Media Traffic

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#1 iamlost


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Posted 05 March 2007 - 03:49 PM

Because projectphp is tired of the good news SM bulls: :thumbs:

There are a few problems (current and potential) I see with SM derived traffic:

1. The impact on 'click' ad programs especially on smaller sites.
For example two sites: 'A' typically sees 1000 uniques daily and converts 2% for 20 clicks; 'B' typically sees 100000 uniques daily and converts 2% for 2000 clicks.

SM sends a super-duper 100000 extra uniques one day that convert at 0.5% (500 clicks) to both sites. 'A' goes 20 - 520 - 20. 'B' goes 2000 - 2500 - 2000. There is a very good chance that 'A' will get some or all the 'extra' clicks discounted and possibly its account suspended/terminated.

If the surge is planned, i.e. deliberate linkbait, prior discussion with an account rep may be beneficial but (1) not all ad programs play nice and (2) not all SM spikes are planned or expected.

2. The impact on CPM ad programs.
Whether (1) true CPM (billed by number) or (2) based on CPM (billed flat fee) a sudden spike is a hassle.

In (1) the client is going to be unhappy about a one day multiple especially as the traffic is probably not the targeted demographic. So the spike must be defined and removed or discounted (depending on contract) which is a pain.

With (2) the spike must still be removed/adjusted or the diluted target audience will drive the monthly fee down when the contract comes up for renewal. And too many spikes will be considered dilution by the advertiser regardless of spin.

An agreed upon planned SM marketing campaign is a different and fragile relationship.

3. The quality of resulting backlinks.
The backlinks from linkbait will be (almost) totally from blogs. This raises some concerns.

A typical blog burys its links within 1-week to 1-month. The default year-month-sequence is useless for locating by subject. The typical added 'categories' or 'tags' may be explicit or as vague as the person creating them. This well known (and blogged about) fault often make the SEs the best (even the only) way to locate specific articles on a blog.

After a month most blogs actually send no direct traffic. What appears in the site log as traffic from thatblog.tld is really indirect SE traffic. A person queried a SE and got a link to thatblog entry and a link there to your site. Depending on the quality of the blog entry the visitor may be pre-qualified or not. Given the blurbage to linkage behaviour of most blogs probably not. In this common example the blog has become an unpaid thin affiliate. A very bad thin affiliate - you get what you pay for:
* the traffic is often unqualified.
* is really lower quality SE traffic not higher quality site link traffic suggested by log analysis.

Given SE aversion to ecommerce thin affiliates it will be interesting to see how long before SM thin affiliate links become discounted. Technically it should be simple to discount blog links based on age. How many sites currently propped up by these linkbait derived blog backlinks would come tumblin' down? Remember Florida?

#2 SEOigloo


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Posted 05 March 2007 - 05:10 PM

Really interesting post, Iamlost!

You seem very wise about this SM stuff. May I ask you a question that came to my mind reading your post, and that I have been wondering about for a few months?

For years now, we have been stressing the importance of getting backlinks from sources that have a natural relationship to the focus of your own site. So shoes>socks, not shoes>video games. What I have wondered about the SM traffic and resultant links is how valuable ARE the links REALLY if they are coming from unrelated, diverse sources that may have nothing to do with your site's focus???

Could it not, in fact, look weird if a page on your site made it to the top of Reddit or similar site and because of the visibility this created, you got a bunch of backlinks from completely unrelated blogs/sites? I have wondered if this might not even send an old-school linkfarm signal to the SEs.

Do you have any thoughts on this? Perhaps the traffic from SM would be more targeted than I realize, and thus the backlinks WOULD be well-related to your site's topic. I'd appreciate any feedback on this.
Kind Regards,

#3 iamlost


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Posted 05 March 2007 - 07:08 PM

You seem very wise about this SM stuff.

You have definitely mistaken me for someone else. :) I've simply been testing and analysing and giving myself headaches for the past 8-months. So far my crystal ball is dirty and a little cracked.

There is often a disconnect between a 'traditional' website and a SM site in much the way that information and conversation are different.

Information tends to lose coherence as the connections fade:
* shoes and socks: yes.
* shoes and foot problems: yes.
* shoes and weather: perhaps.
* shoes and video games: only in Second Life.
* shoes and baldness: probably not.

SM sites tend more to be people of similar demographics at best having a discussion, at worst a gossip. The newer sites actual format (i.e. Flickr:photos,YouTube:videos) may be the same but the content topics are as varied as conversations overheard at a cafe or bar.

To take advantage you do much what an advertiser in 'Vogue' or 'Seventeen', '24' or 'The Office' would do - look for the mag/show/site with the demographic audience group(s) you want to target. Or in other words a video of a sock eating washer and a sad shoe (finesse the demographics by style of sock and shoe cast) to get them to your shoe site. One about a bald man wearing a shoe on his head - I dunno. When the conversation and the landing site have an obvious connection SM traffic converts significantly higher. It is still early days and every day brings new considerations.

One very neglected point is that you really need to know 'why' you are doing whatever it is. Sometimes longterm benefits can outweigh a shortterm gain. Only the 'why' for each can tell you so.

I highly recommend reading:
Is Effective SEO Always Good SEO? By Jennifer Laycock

Only the SEs know how well they can differentiate content between formats but they can certainly do much more on SM link relevancy than is now enforced. As I mentioned earlier and as does Ms. Laycock that time is likely sooner than later.

#4 SEOigloo


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Posted 05 March 2007 - 10:10 PM

Thanks for the reply, Iamlost.

You sound pretty sharp on this stuff to me :)

You know, every time I read one of Jennifer Laycock's articles, I am always struck by how much I agree with what she is saying. This is the third time in the last couple of months that I've come across something by her that I've said, "That's exactly what I was wondering," about. Thanks for the link to her article. I need to start reading her writing more frequently.

Like so many things, SM seems to boil down to that same rule of thumb that if the practice used leads to actual sales/leads/whatever the goal is, then it's a good thing to do. If not, it's just a fancy way to waste time and money.

Kind Regards,

#5 projectphp


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Posted 06 March 2007 - 02:19 AM

:rofl: Woowser me!

Good analysis. I think those are issues that need some thought, especially the "house of cards" linkbait stuff.\

Nice job!!!!!!

#6 rmccarley


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Posted 06 March 2007 - 02:41 AM

I disagee. I got Dugg & delicioused today. My ad clicks went up. Links went up. My site got a lot of extra attention, more people know about the brand and I'm $12.50 wealthier for it (a banner day at 14thC let me tell you!).

I got links from blogs and forums BTW. Along with a bunch of temporary links from RSS aggregators that won't do me any good in a day or two but they are sending traffic!

My host held up fine so I'm not seeing any downside at all here. The title attributed to the dugg story was on-target so the traffic that came through got what they expected.

Sure a lot of the comments sucked but they always do and I consider those folks the "vocal minority". A lot of them were "I could do better" posts which just makes me say... prove it.

I also got some encouraging emails.

Now if I had a crappy host I would see some problems. But since when is there sucha thing as a bad link! :)

#7 projectphp


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Posted 06 March 2007 - 02:47 AM

How much effort did you put into being dugg? Was it worth it ($12 is what I spend a day on coffee...)?

#8 SEOigloo


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Posted 06 March 2007 - 03:47 AM

We got to celebrate via email with Rand on his Digg today!!! :banana:

But - Rand - for technology-related stuff, I can see how Digg is very targeted (so long as you don't mention the dreaded S-word), but what about for other industries? This is where it gets confusing, in my opinion.

That article that was featured on SEOmoz recently where the fellow got dugg for an article about 8 diseases that give you superhuman powers was a test he was doing apparently for a car salesman. Clearly, the topic of his article had nothing to do with car sales and it was apparently just an experiment. Now, let him pull this off for the car salesman about cars....or how about for a Christian work-at-home parent who sells inspirational prints? How many folks will Digg that without a title like "Statue of St. Patrick sheds real tears!".

This is where I see the issues with SM, and while I'm sure that much of this is due to my ignorance at this point, reading Kim's article and articles like the one Iamlost pointed to does seem to indicate that not everyone is loving this as much as others are...and that it's not going to be quite so natural for many businesses to make use of sites like Digg because they aren't technology-centric.

But - Rand - :kicking: on being Dugg! Woo hoo!

#9 rmccarley


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Posted 06 March 2007 - 05:34 AM

A minister friend of mine has been dugg twice. He likes it!

Miriam I didn't see the moz article you mention but it sounds like a false promise was made with the title...? That would skew the results from interested parties to decieved.

Anyway, there are occasions when getting hit by a SB site is bad but 99% of the time it's good - exciting! Rewarding! Imaging having 10K+ people interested in something you wrote! Think about how much an ad costs in a magazine with a circulation of tens of thousands of readers. Or even a local broadcast ad.

And maybe that's the difference. SB sites take the safe niche sites we are used to and makes them very public like traditional broadcast advertising. The results are different. The intent is different.

But I can't think of any bad things coming from thousands of new people being introduced to my business.

How much effort did you put into being dugg? Was it worth it ($12 is what I spend a day on coffee...)?

Well I did vote for it when I saw it was submitted (I think I was #17). I didn't request it or anything and the article is several months old. I didn't think much of it until I got an email from Mike Levin of hittail congratulating me this morning!

What a wake-up! :)

#10 storyspinner


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Posted 06 March 2007 - 12:43 PM

All great points, when you are speaking of the channel of Social Media that is mostly Social News (although you do mention flickr in there too).

The thing to keep in mind is that Social Media is so much more than just Digg, Reddit and Flickr.

Forums (like these even) are actually great sources of very highly targeted and interested traffic. Usually forum members are very dedicated to their causes and will follow links by other members that are posted, because those members are trusted. Think about what a link to a new trailer does for a much anticipated movie in Rotten Tomatoes.

Right now, the buzz is all about Digg, Reddit, Flickr ... I guess my point is, it's about knowing all aspects of social media, and knowing which one is going to bring the "qualified" traffic. Folks who know me and read what i've written, know, I don't like digg - at all. I don't see much "good qualified" traffic come from it (Kim would agree - Chris (skore) wouldn't!) ... (I think Chris is still trying to convert me though :) )

Not all Social Media works for every client, and that's the smartest thing as marketers we can realize. It's knowing the right mix, and applying that to a great marketing strategy for your clients' online presence.

Lastly, keep in mind that Social Media isn't all about traffic either. It's about being "Social", and getting your brand/product/service out there and talking about it. That could probably be the bigger win, than all those clicks coming over from digg. :)

#11 Adrian


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Posted 06 March 2007 - 02:02 PM

I think the brand aspect can be really useful.

ILoveJackDaniels cheatsheats have hit digg a few times, in one of the last ones I saw comments that really suggested people had gotten to know his site as a place to get useful stuff.
Getting people to shout about how good your stuff is on those kinds of sites is pretty cool I'd say ;) We know how cutting they can be when something remotely irks them.

#12 skore


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Posted 06 March 2007 - 02:28 PM

Here's a good quote from an audio interview Seth Godin did with PodTech in December:

“The thing about Social Media that frustrates marketers to no end is that you can't buy attention and that you have no choice but to think and act small, then you'll try to say well here is a 100,000 person community, how can we buy it? What you'll do instead if you're just four people, how can we amaze them? That change in posture, that change in attitude is the single biggest shift, that's going on the Internet right now.”

BrandAutopsy also points out:

“… most of the times you need to ignore your customers because the goal is to get your customers to talk to each other. And you need to listen to what they [customers] are saying to each other."

#13 iamlost


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Posted 06 March 2007 - 02:37 PM

I wrote the OP not because there is something 'wrong' with SM or SM traffic but because the din of 'good news' drowns out concerns raised.

A concern is not a putdown. It is a consideration that may or may not be valid for any given circumstance. It is like a road sign warning of an intersection ahead so watch for crossing/merging/slowing/turning traffic. It does not mean 'stop' but 'pay attention'.

I have been involved with SM since usenet and BBS days (yes SM predates the WWW) although the current explosion of formats and aggregation is breathtaking. The SMM potential is still largely terra incognita as are its potential hazards.

Currently linkbait can work extremely well on multiple fronts in many situations: that is not the point. There have been instances of linkbait implosion: that is not the point. There are many very different SM formats requiring differing advertising approaches: that is not the point. Some SM formats can deliver pre-qualified traffic: that is not the point.

The point is that there exist potential problems that you should know. There are always problems. If one applies to you but not another, fine. If none, great. But simple denial is neither healthy nor productive.

I guess my point is, it's about knowing all aspects of social media, and knowing which one is going to bring the "qualified" traffic.


The kicker to that is you have to know two things: (1) what exactly is your site specific definition of 'qualified traffic'; (2) which SM sites under what circumstances can best deliver that traffic.

Most webmasters I talk with don't really know the answer to (1) so can never hope to answer (2). But then most don't have an articulated business model (never mind an actual business plan).

#14 ukdaz


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Posted 06 March 2007 - 02:47 PM

($12 is what I spend a day on coffee...)

Just for yourself? You must be "caffeined" up to the eyeballs! ;)

I did a large jug of fresh coffee once in about 20 minutes.... it gave me the shakes and paranoia for hours...


#15 SEOigloo


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Posted 06 March 2007 - 05:19 PM

The kicker to that is you have to know two things: (1) what exactly is your site specific definition of 'qualified traffic'; (2) which SM sites under what circumstances can best deliver that traffic.

Yep, yep, yep. That's just the problem.

:search: Trying to figure that out, exactly.

Can I give a hypothetical situation here and receive some feedback from folks who are more accustomed to the SM stuff than I am?

As old threads here indicate, one of the clients we work with runs an American pottery in Virginia. One of the good things about their pottery is that it is lead-free. That may not sound like much of a claim to fame, but actually, you might be disturbed to discover that much of the pottery in your own home is not lead-free and you may be eating off of and drinking out of lead.

So, what if I wrote an article titled something like "Are you eating off of lead?" and then (having researched this) wrote about manufacturers who do not make lead-free ceramics.

These are my questions:

1) Would I submit this for my client, or would that be like voting for myself in the school election?

2) Where would I submit this (which SM site would be appropriate)?

3) If I actually named manufacturers in the article, would it look like we were badmouthing other pottery companies for the sake of bragging about ourselves? Would this look bad to you, the reader?

4) Would I even mention, in the article, that our company makes lead-free pottery, or should I leave our name out of it entirely (when I say 'our' I mean the client's name)?

I feel like if I could carry out a task like this once, I'd stop feeling so daunted by SM. Right now, it's like the elephant on the dining table for me.
Kind Regards,

#16 rmccarley


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Posted 06 March 2007 - 06:29 PM

If it were me...

I'd write an article illustrating the dangers of lead pottery. This is pretty tough actually because most people already know this. But if you can get some personal details about a person who recently got sick from this and/or their doctor you may have something.

Then work toward the scarcity of beautiful ceramics that are also functional. You can "interview" your client and drop a quote from them toward the end of the article along with a link.

The key is making the article informative - give new information. And a killer headline like...


Are your dishes killing you?

Another idea is: 101 Killer Ceramics Companies

That lists ceramics companies that use lead and lead paint. Outline a few bullet points of the dangers associated. Do this off the client site with a link to them as a "safe" brand at the end of the article along with a couple others to avoid suspicion.

Then there's the child angle: Protect your kids from this common lead posioning source

And then explain how kids don't understand the difference between safe dishware.

BTW I have a mug from the company Miriam mentioned and it is amazing! ;)

#17 Adrian


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Posted 06 March 2007 - 07:38 PM

See, that's how businesses who would usually think "well Digg readers aren't going to be interested in what we say", can get in on the act with a headline like "Are your plates poisoning you?". I reckon you could get some attention from those kinds of sites.

Anyone else notice how Digg seems more and more politics/religion these days, as opposed to tech stuff?

Whether an article with a title like the above hitting the digg homepage actually provides useful traffic.... hmm, maybe, maybe not. Yes there's a majority of something like 15-25 year old males, but it's not just that audience.
Even then, if you can hit that kind of audience when they are perhaps thinking about buying presents for their parents, christmas, mothers/fathers day....

Are you going to cover extra bandwidth costs, and possible site down time with the extra sales/ad clicks you get?

#18 SEOigloo


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Posted 07 March 2007 - 05:23 AM

Hey Rand,
Are your dishes killing you???

( well at least we know your coffee mug isn't ). :)

You're right...that is an interesting headline. I'd probably read an article with that title. Lead poisoning is actually an interesting subject when you come down to it...one of my sisters once had to move house because her home had old lead paint in it and her toddler wanted to eat the paint. Yikes!

But wait...a question: if I were to write such an article OFF the client's site, doesn't that mean that I'd be the one getting dugg? If the article were on my site (which, by the way, would be a weird place to post an article on lead posioning, us being a web design firm), wouldn't it be me that would end up with the insane amount of traffic and possible crashing server? Apart from which, wouldn't the wise guys at Digg realize I was an evil marketer if they saw my site, saw that client in my portfolio, and read my article talking about how great my client is? Would I not be serving myself up for a resounding burial?

Adrian - Rand's server didn't crash when he got Dugg. Do you know something about what it takes to make sure this doesn't happen. How much bandwidth is enough? I'd be interested to hear that.

I bow down to the expertise of the folks here!

#19 Adrian


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Posted 07 March 2007 - 05:45 AM

The bandwidth will depend on all sorts of things. How good the hosting is, what sort of servers you're on, if it's shared hosting, what as the other sites on the server doing when you get hit, how much bandwidth you get in your allowance, whether you hit mutliple sites (like digg and reddit) at the same time, how clean and efficient your code is, good caching in place etc....

#20 infonote


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Posted 10 March 2007 - 03:30 AM

I understand what you are trying to say. However, why do you think people will not visit your site if the post is not in the archives?

There is a misunderstanding with Blogs. Blogs is just another form of CMS. People searching through a search engine will find the blog in the SERPS, just like a normal site.

#21 iamlost


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Posted 10 March 2007 - 11:37 AM

infonote: When one rates traffic quality (what percentage will convert, i.e. buy something, click through an ad/affiliate link) SE traffic is relatively lower value than traffic coming through a linking site directly.

Archived link blog traffic that can only be found by SE becomes SE traffic. The search query returned the blog, not your site. Unless the blog subsequently pre-qualifies (substantively informs) the visitor about your site they may not have any interest in what they find.

That blogs often do little more than direct traffic:
A new group makes its debut... and a link
on a variety of topics on each page simply compounds the problem.

So yes the traffic volume still comes, which is good, but the conversion quality of that traffic is less than expected by the the referer, which is not.

Can blog traffic be high quality - yes. Is it usually - no. I am simply pointing out a concern when considering site analytics.

#22 Wit


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Posted 10 March 2007 - 12:11 PM

Hmmm, I can tell from experience that if your site is a bit "borderline" (*) when it comes to ad placement and stuff, you do NOT want to get noticed by a herd of social bookmarkers whose primary goal often seems to be to punch a hole in your site. Even if the other SB'ers are inadvertently making you a buck or two.
Howzzat for a reason to be careful with social media traffic.? My host handled it well BTW.

(*) well within guidelines according to the guidelines, but who am I to tell eh?

#23 john928


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Posted 27 March 2007 - 07:56 PM

If I understand you right, Iamlost on your first post of the thread are you trying to say that if you have a site that gets about 200 - 500 pageviews a day and then your site suddenly gets a burst of 10,000 pageviews from a social media site for about 2 days then it suddenly stops, it may look like fraudulent traffic and therefore you may get banned from the CPM or other advertising networks / affiliate programs that you are with or they may just discount this traffic.

If this is what you are saying then I am also a little worried about this myself. The sudden burst in traffic will only really not affect the high traffic sites as it will not really look like a sudden burst to them as they will already be getting alot of traffic and will only mean a little increase in traffic then once the burst comes alone.

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