Social Media / SEO: More Important than You Thought

There’s a phenomenally interesting post over on Econsultancy today about the massive influence that both social media and natural search have on overall traffic and sales for websites.

The post was based on a stack of aggregated data from TagMan from a number of websites which can be used to understand proper attribution of sales based on influence.

There are many different attribution models in use by businesses, but in most cases, the sale is generally credited to the last click.  This is mostly down to convenience, and the difficulty in tracking multiple touch points through the user journey – a person might see a display advert last Wednesday, search on a generic term on Friday and remember the brand to click on a paid search advert, before finally buying something via a brand search through the organic search results on Monday.

To effectively track multiple visits and the whole user journey, you need some decent ad serving software- MediaPlex, Kenshoo, DoubleClick.  The list goes on.  I’ve seen a lot of attribution reports at client meetings, and the one thing that they all do is agree that every channel adds value, and has some part to play in the overall sale.

Of course the big challenge with most attribution models that are built on data from ad serving software is that you can’t add tracking codes to natural search or socially shared links you have no control over (managed social is a bit different, as you can tag shortened links).

Because of the way it was collected, TagMan’s data included accurate figures for both channels as referrer data, and as such it was able to provide some very compelling results.

The results

Generic SEO was credited with 1663 sales under last click attribution, but with 23,923 attributed conversions – 14 times as many!

Social media was credited with 100 Sales under last click, but 795.3 attributed conversions – 7 times as many!

There is a slight hole in the data, as the social media count does not include people who were influenced by social media through exposure to a particular opinion via a trusted advocate: how would you know if Jeff had been told by Terry that Sony was the best bet for a new TV and then clicked on a paid search ad?

An interesting extension of the TagMan experiment might be to investigate the social media profiles of a sample of the buyers who were identified, and see who might have seen a positive or negative message about a brand or product in the run up to making their purchase.  Not an easy study to carry out, but one that would provide incredibly valuable insight into the real value of social media in the buying process.