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Who generates more traffic? Facebook, Google Plus, Linkedin or Google Search. A Traffic generation comparison study

I had always wondered where traffic to my sites came from. A superficial look at Google Analytics had indicated that search was the primary source of traffic and within search Google was king. By March 2011 it was generating more that 75% of visitors to three topic specific domains I run.

But after being hit by Panda in April, I had started wondering about exploring non-search sources of traffic. My Linkedin network had about 1,000 connections, the Facebook Fan page boosted 240 + 500 friends, Google+ had quickly grown to a network of 300 people and search was obviously search. I had some followers on twitter but am not an active poster and hence the complete absence of twitter in the results below.

In late June I decided to run a small experiment to see what I could do for traffic on my site with social media primarily. I had already run one experiment earlier with targeted mail shot but was not very happy with the conversion results. This exercise though would provide some interesting answers including the one about the efficacy of Google+ as a visitor generating tool.

Here are the results from a 4 week long exercise.

The Social Media – Traffic Generation experiment

The context: Comparing the results of a traffic generation campaign for an e-learning blog focused on Finance.

The motivation: Dissect my traffic patterns and see the primary sources of my traffic.

The question: A Facebook fan page and a Google search engine optimizer had different advice. One swore by Facebook fan pages. The other swore by Google search. Who was right?

The experiment: A fifteen day campaign to post new blog posts links on Facebook, Linkedin, Google+

The medium: Traffic analytics with Google Analytics

The traffic comparison study results: The death of Facebook is greatly exaggerated.

The first analytics snapshot shows the baseline results from 1st June to 5th August. A little over 2 months of traffic data from referring sites and includes results from 4 weeks before the experiment was launched and two weeks after the experiment finished. As you can see Google leads the band. The SP Jain referrals are from my students at the EMBA program in SP Jain in Dubai and Singapore.

Then comes the surprising result which I didn’t expect. It is Facebook followed by Linkedin followed by answers.onstartups.com. The other referral sites are subject specific sites that focus on a specific content topic.

Let take a second look and rather than two month we review the actual month when the experiment ran with Facebook, Linkedin and Google+.

While Facebook and Linkedin immediately jump to claim the number 1 and number 2 slot (ignoring SP Jain referrals), Google+ comes in at a below the curve number 15 and is trumped by answers.onstartup.com. The mail.yahoo.net chunk is from a job posting mailshot that was also shipped in the experiment period to see how job posts effect traffic.

A third and final looks reviews the last two weeks of traffic where the frequency of posts slowed down from one post a day to three posts a week. Facebook and Linkedin tie for the 1st position. Google+ disappears and answers.onstartups.com slides to number 12.

Only one last question is left. Is there a location or geographic bias in these referrals? The answer is yes. Since my primary networks are here in this part of the world, Facebook and Linkedin primarily generate Asian traffic while answers.onstartups.com generates North American traffic.

Atleast based on the crude analysis performed above, it is obvious that Facebook, despite its many challenges is the way to go if you are looking for traffic. Which creates a strong incentive to build Facebook fan pages. Search still dominates as a source of traffic but social media allows you to build a supplementary source that comes with the added benefit of geographic targeting.