I hate conventional wisdom. That's why I attack it more often than Mitt Romney or Newt Gingrich attack each other. Conventional wisdom in 2012 says that organic search and social media are the most prolific and efficient sources for inbound traffic and leads. Our data says otherwise. Referrals from authoritative sources, such as syndicated blogs, started to take over in late 2011, and the trend is continuing this year. Here's what I think is going on.
Unlike Presidential politics, interpreting raw data and trends leads to wisdom. If you look at our sources for inbound website traffic and leads over the past 2 years, there are some unmistakable trends (see charts below). First, while our inbound marketing efforts, especially blog writing and lead generation content, have yielded steady gains in traffic and leads, breaking down the data into discrete sources offers some surprises.
While organic search traffic is increasing steadily, lead conversion rates have been going down since the summer of 2011. We haven't changed our content or SEO keyword strategy over that period of time. In fact, if anything we are more focused on content and keywords that should convert very nicely into leads.
We had a nice increase in social media traffic in late 2011, but lead conversion rates have decreased over the same period, although they appear to be back on the rise lately. Having once been a dominant player in our overall traffic and leads, social media appears to be losing ground to other sources, especially referrals. Our social media reach and engagement has increased substantially over the past two years, so it's not that we aren't trying...
Wow! We appear to have struck gold with incoming traffic and leads from relevant content syndication sources, such as business2community.com and socialmediatoday.com. While referral traffic is still less than either organic search or social media, it is growing rapidly, and referrals are becoming our dominant source of inbound leads at nearly 30%. Our lead conversion rates for referal traffic are about twice as high as any other source.
Observing the raw data and trends is causing us to rethink our inbound marketing strategy in 2012. We are focusing more on high quality content designed to attract high quality leads. We are leveraging our visibility in syndicated blogs as much as possible and seeking new curation sources. If our traffic starts to tail off, so be it, but we think it will remain high as we expand our list of referral sources. We are rethinking SEO too, looking for more relevant keyword search results, even if they fall on pages 2-10 of the Google SERP's. We will stay in social media, but we will adapt to the trends and spend more time listening and engaging and less time publishing. We'll let you know how it goes as the year progresses.
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