This might sound unusual coming from an SEO provider, but you don’t want to rest the long term success of your website solely on the search engines. I can hear what you’re thinking now; “but if I shouldn’t rely on the search engines than what is the point of SEO?” The point of SEO is to help drive more qualified visitors to your website over time by helping grow your online brand presence (which includes, but is not limited to the search engine results). In my experience, I’ve found that when site owners worry about building their organic traffic from a variety of sources and NOT just on the search engines their SEO. That being said, what kind of traffic sources should you be building and how can you tell if they are any good?
Referral websites can be a great traffic source for many reasons. First off, although they might send fewer visitors to your website in the long run when compared to the search engines they tend to be a much more targeted audience. For instance, let’s say you are heavily involved in a community forum and your profile link on that site sends a few hundred visitors to your site each month. Forums were the first online communities and target a specific audience—your audience!
This is exactly the kind of traffic source you want because it’s a direct line from your target audience over to your website. The more involved in that forum you are the more powerful that profile link becomes as a traffic source. Whenever you are building links it’s important to think of each link as a potential traffic source—will it send the right kind of visitors to your site?
By building up the amount of referral sites serving as traffic sources for your site you are making your SEO program less vulnerable to the whims of the search engines. For instance, if 80% of your traffic comes from Google and you suffer from an algorithm update you could (in theory) watch 80% of your traffic vanish over night.
Few sites can survive a hit like that for more than a few weeks and recovering from a penalty usually takes a lot longer than a few weeks. On the other hand, if your website only relies on the search engines for 50% of its traffic (which is still a lot) but has plenty of referral sites as traffic sources as well you can suffer a hit and hold on a bit longer while you try to recover.
Depending on whether you are a B2B or B2C company, different social sites are going to prove to be valuable traffic sources. For instance, LinkedIn is a phenomenal traffic source for B2B websites, especially the LinkedIn groups. You can submit content to up to 50 groups (from one profile) and know that your content is getting seen by exactly the kind of traffic you want coming to your site. You can reach both the influencers and decision makers with customized content based on the groups you submit to.
B2C websites might have better luck with Facebook or Pinterest as a social traffic source because of the user base on those sites. A word of advice—in order to make sure social sites become a traffic source you need to make sure that your social profiles link back to your actual website in many, many ways. There are a lot of distractions on Facebook and LinkedIn that could pull your audience away from your brand so you want to funnel them through to your website as quickly as possible.