Much of this is due to Google’s recent announcement that they’ll be placing more emphasis on personal results from users of Google+ and other Google services.
Part of this comes from Google’s ongoing battle with Facebook; and a lot of it comes from Google trying to increase mainstream acceptance of their fledgling Google+ platform.
However, as much as Google is increasing relevancy for their signed-in users, this doesn’t mean that you should give up caring about “normal” SEO – far from it.
The Power of Search
There’s no doubting that social search and traffic is important. Look to the bottom of this post and you’ll see various options to share the content. Look to the sidebar and you’ll see our Twitter account, which lets our followers know when a new post is live.
But as important as social sharing is, it’s still just a single piece of a bigger puzzle. And - for now – most of the remaining pieces of the puzzle reside with search engines.
Take a look at the image below from our analytics (click to enlarge):
This shows our traffic since the start of the month. As you can see by the blue section of the chart, more than half the traffic that comes to our blog arrives from search engines.
This tells us two things – our SEO strategy is working, and if we relied on referral traffic (much of which comes from social sites like Twitter, Facebook and Google+), then we’d immediately lose half our readership.
Say what you want about social sharing, but any blog owner that loses half their traffic overnight is going to be a little upset, to say the least.
Why Social Isn’t All That. Yet.
To give you another example of why search is still important, here’s the direct traffic from social referrals:
As you can see, the largest driver of traffic from a social angle is bookmarking site Stumbleupon. While it’s great to see that traffic, it’s fair to say that Stumbleupon visitors rarely read the page they land on, as they’re more interested in quick visits and new finds.
Because of that, bounce rates (how long visitors stay on a website) are usually poor, which affects how well your site performs in site ranking (so if you’re looking for advertisers for your blog, you might want to keep that in mind).
Now look at the other referrers. Twitter is second, followed by Facebook, my blog, then Google Reader. So, of the Top 5 referring sites, one isn’t great for bounce rates, one is my own blog, and one is our subscribers by RSS.
As far as Twitter and Facebook goes, they only provided approximately 650 visits from a total of 4,500 referrals. Now, compare that to search, that sent 8,800 visitors our way, and that’s a heck of a difference in numbers.
So while social shares may be great for social equity (advertisers love seeing large amounts of retweets, for instance), they’re not necessarily great for actual traffic. And ask advertisers what they prefer most on blogs – traffic or retweets – and you’ll always get the traffic answer. Always.
The Best of Both Search Worlds
That’s not to say social traffic is worthless – far from it.
But to say that social traffic and search is replacing traditional search is probably jumping the gun just a little bit, at least from where I’m standing.
Instead, if you really want to maximize your blog and its reach, learn and know how SEO works, and combine that with a healthy social presence, whether it’s as your blog’s brand or personal sharing.
And you don’t have to search Google to know that’s how things will remain for the foreseeable future.