The dynamism of the internet is taking a new turn. The changes are becoming so significant that they could throw up new challenges and influence behaviors and the way traditional ranking algorithm have functioned. A new referral traffic report from Shareaholic indicates that in 2017, search accounted for a larger share of website traffic than social network visits. This will be upsetting a trend which had been observed and remained consistent since 2014. It will be the first time since 2014 search will be generating a larger share of visits over social. This throws up some food for thought especially for people whose focus and traffic sources had been the social media channels which had dominantly been Facebook and Twitter.

Also read: On-Page and Off-Page Search Engine Optimization - Keys to SEO Success

Social Media Traffic Dropped in Relevance as a Ranking Signal

The rise in social traffic had come with its own problems with a year fraught with terms like “fake news,” and headlines centering around brand safety issues and extreme content. The social media had fought these nauseating experiences which has affected its credibility and strength as a ranking factor, taking actions to curb the influx of malicious content. This has also discouraged the growing abuse which had been experienced on the social media and turned out to be real boom for search referral traffic. The social media had to cope with a trust and source credibility issue becoming a platform for all kinds of fraud and unverifiable information. Nevertheless, its relevance as a platform for communication and social change has increased. It is therefore quite interesting to find search traffic outpacing the social media traffic.

Shareholic reports that for the first time since 2014, search outpaced social in the percentage of overall traffic it delivered in 2017. According to the analytic platform’s data, search drove 34.8 percent of site visits in 2017 compared to social networks which accounted for 25.6 percent of referral traffic.
Chartbeat, an analytics platform for online publishers and media organizations, has witnessed a similar trend with traffic from Google search to publisher websites up more than 25 percent since the start of 2017.

Also read: 7 SEO Tips That Will Help Your Website Rankings, Yet Are Not Often Talked About

“Google Search has always been the largest referrer to Chartbeat clients,” writes the company’s CEO, John Saroff, on Chartbeat’s blog, “In late August, Chartbeat data scientists noticed that Google Search referrals across our client base were trending up.”

According to the CEO of Chartbeat, the company thought initially that the rise in Google referrals were attached to events like last year’s solar eclipse and Hurricane Irma, but traffic continued to rise even after news headlines around the events subsided. Instead of falling back into normal patterns, Chartbeat saw Google search driving even more traffic to publisher sites.

“At a high level, it’s clear that social media’s tenuous grip on being the top referral category is over. After beating out search for the last three years, it’s given back the title, driven by changes to the algorithms behind Facebook’s News Feed,” writes Shareaholic in its latest traffic report.

Shareaholic’s findings are based on traffic to more than 250,000 mobile and desktop sites that have opted-in to the content marketing platform’s publishing tools. The company says it analyzed a variety of traffic sources — direct traffic, social referrals, organic search and paid search — for websites that ranged in size from a thousand monthly unique visitors to one million, and spread across a broad selection of website categories (food, tech, fashion and beauty, marketing, sports, general news, and more).

Google was the top overall traffic referrer for the year, and owned a 36.82 percent share of visits during the second half of 2017. While Google’s share of visits was up more than seven percentage points between the second half of 2016 and the second half of 2017, Facebook’s dropped 12.7 percent during the same time frame.

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Even with a double-digit drop however, Facebook remained the top social network for share of visits in 2017.

Shareholic notes the changes Facebook has made to its news feed algorithm, boosting content from “trusted” news sources while penalizing spammy, click-bait headlines, influenced the site’s drop in share of visits: “After a rocky 2016 US election year, Facebook made a number of major changes to what content they display in the news feed and how they display it.”

The two charts below, one from Shareaholic and the other from Parse.ly convey similar trends with respect to search vs. social referral traffic in 2017, through the third quarter of the year. The Parse.ly data reflects the upward trend in referral traffic from Google (all – including AMP – Google’s Accelerated Mobile Pages format) and declining trend in referral traffic from Facebook specifically (all Facebook – including Instant Articles).

While Shareaholic’s traffic referral report is based on a wide category of websites, Chartbeat’s data is specifically attached to publishers’ web traffic.
As mentioned earlier, Chartbeat saw a 25 percent surge in traffic to publisher sites by Google search over the last year. Josh Schwartz, Chartbeat’s chief of product, engineering and data, told Digiday that Facebook referrals to publishers was down fifteen percent in 2017 — aligning with Shareaholic’s findings.

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Facebook’s news feed algorithm tweaks to curb fake news and spam content are definitely impacting its overall referral traffic numbers, but Chartbeat reports the most significant factor driving traffic to its clients’ sites is AMP content. After analyzing whether or not the rise in traffic was the result of a bug, or “un-darkening” of previously dark social traffic and finding nothing, Chartbeat turned its attention to mobile versus desktop traffic numbers.
“We then looked specifically at search traffic by device and the answer was clear from our dataset. Mobile Google Search referrals were up significantly while Desktop Google Search referrals were flat,” writes Saroff.

Chartbeat then dug further into its data to evaluate sites using AMP and said it found a “stark” difference between the sites using AMP and those that were not.

“While Mobile Google Search traffic to our AMP-enabled publishers is up 100 percent over the same time-frame, traffic to publishers not using AMP is flat.”
Chartbeat says, during the last six months, Google Mobile Search referrals now outpace both mobile and desktop Facebook referrals.
What Does This Mean For Website Owners

A few deductions can be made from the foregoing. Firstly, this shows a growing number of website users now trust the searches to deliver what they desire. It simply mean it has become easier for people to find answers and solutions they seek through the searches than social media shares. This is connected to Google's increasing emphasis on content quality and the updates Google is making to their search engines which is lacing websites with better quality in the top ten of search results.

Webmasters therefore face the challenge of delivering better quality for their websites to gain better rankings. This has been well covered in our blog post earlier today. The emphasis of Google is quality and we have no other place to turn outside building on and continuously improving the quality for our websites. So what then is the way to building this quality and improving the chances of higher ranking in the searches/

9 Easy Steps to the Top 10

Search Engine Optimization is increasingly coming out as the way to go if traffic and business to a website can be guaranteed and consistently maintained. Because of the enormous care and tactics involved with this task, many companies have contacted their SEO work to Search Engine Optimization companies who are making a fortune by doing the menial work that is overlooked by many designers. In this post we will look at 9 main points you should focus on to achieve better search engine performance.

• Keywords
• URL Text
• Description, Meta tags
• Title tags
• Image Names
• ALT tags
• Heading tags
• Content
• Hyperlinks

Also read:  A Guide to Google Website Ranking

The focus of these steps is to load your pages with as many "keywords" as possible.

Keywords

Keywords are the most important aspect of good SEO, this is where you tell the Search Engines what your site is about. Search Engines use an algorithm to determine the "Keyword Density" of your site, this formula is:

Total Words ÷ Keywords= Keyword Density

Use this formula on your competitors web site and see how they score, then aim to beat that score.

Choose keywords that best relate to the information, products or services that you are offering.

However, most people don't just search for just one word, they type phrases, so you should consider the phrases that best suit your sites target market. For example, if I am creating a site about "Web Design" in New Orleans, I would include "New Orleans web design" in my keywords. Another way around this is to not separate my keywords with commas, just use spaces, and the Search Engines will make the phrases for you. The most important thing to remember is that the content of each page is different, so only use keywords pertaining to that page.

URL Text

When you name a new page you have the option to call it anything you could possibly think of, why not se a keyword? After all, the URL address is the first things a search engine comes across when indexing your pages. You have to remember content doesn't come easy to everyone, so you gotta slip in your keywords when the process gives you an easy one.

Description Meta tags

These tags are dwindling in importance since Search Engines are now looking at content, but every little bit counts.
Optimize your meta tags to match your content, products, and services, and the Search Engines that still look at meta data will reward your efforts.

Title Tags

Title tags are the tags that tell the Search Engine the title, or formal description of the document or page. This is the word or phrase that is seen at the top of the browser window. The most important rule about title tags is, don't put anything in the title tags but keywords. Once again this is an easy time to slip in your keywords, so don't miss out.

Image Names

As I said before, content doesn't come easy to everyone, so slip in your keywords whenever possible, this applies to image names. If you are saving a picture of a guy working on a computer for your web design web site, don't call it "some_dude.jpg", call it "web_site_design.jpg". The Search engine will look at the code for the site and see the image pertains to the content of the site and this will be another relevant element on that particular page. You have to take the easy ones when you are given a chance.

ALT tags

Alt tags are keywords that you can attach to images, giving more weight to the image since Search Engines can't analyze the content of the image itself. Here is a chance to slip in more keywords without writing great content, use it.

Heading tags

Heading tags are associated with the bold font that leads into a section of text. Like this: In setting up your website, your heading tags should only be keywords, and should be presented in the order that your Meta tags follow.

H1= first meta tag, H2= second meta tag...

Try to utilize all 6 heading tags on each page to ensure maximum page optimization.

Content

As every expert will tell you, "Content is King." Each web page should have at least 350 words on it, and the more the better, but keep in mind the formula for keyword density. You don't want to fill a page with 1500 words containing only 5 keywords in it. Some people get hung-up on how browsers display text, and use images with text in them because they want a cool font, but browsers can't read the text embedded in images, so this content ads no weight to the page in the eyes of Search Engines.

Linkbaiting is the new trend among high ranking sites. Linkbaiting means writing quality content, or articles that other web sites can display on their pages as long as they give credit, and a link to your site.

You don't have to be an expert to write good web content, just be thoughtful of how you word things and incorporate your keywords.

Hyperlinks

Hyperlinks are text links to other pages on your site. The rules of SEO and hyperlinks are easy:
• Use hyperlinks so the Search Engine will have a text link to follow to the next page
• Don't use one word links, use long link phrases, preferably keyword phrases
• Use bullets, or some sort of small image that you can attach an ALT tag to, this will ad more importance to the link, and throw in a couple of free keywords for you.

Also read: A Search Engine Friendly Guide to Link Building

Conclusions

Search Engine Optimization may appear to be a light term especially for exact match domains that has enjoyed the benefit of privileged domain names and have enjoyed high traffic and sales. But the most of internet users do not actually have keywords in their domain names and need to work hard to get top rankings. Fortunately, Google has started de-emphasing the power of keyword-based domains and focusing on the quality of websites.

The growing quality of the search engines is also throwing up a new challenge resulting in greater traffic from searches than the social media channels which before now have taken the lead. We recommend that webmasters take SEO ore seriously following the 9-step guide provided above especially writing focused and quality content mixed with appropriate keywords and relevant internal and external links.


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