Search Engines Build Blog Traffic, Not Popularity

    April 17, 2007

Optimizing your blog for search will certainly increase the amount of search engine referrals that will come through, which sounds great on the surface to anyone looking to monetize that traffic. When it comes to retaining users and garnering popularity, however, search becomes less important.

Inbound traffic is the most commonly employed metric in determining the value of a website property. In calculating market share, analytics firms almost exclusively base their figures on the volume of traffic a site receives.

According to a Boston University Study, a majority of blog traffic can be directly attributed to search:

[T]he largest chunk of traffic (and user sessions) into our blogosphere comes through search engines. Since search engines tend to rank their results based on popularity (e.g., using page ranking algorithms based on web link structures), one would expect that popular blogs in a blogosphere would attract a disproportionate fraction of the traffic (sessions) emanating from search engines.

The study goes on, however, to produce data that runs counter to that assertion:

These findings include our conclusion that search engines have less of an impact on object popularity in blogspace, our conjecture that access to objects in blogspace underscores an interaction between authors and a readership community, which can be classified based on blog popularity and read/write access characteristics as broadcast, parlor, or register interactions, and our conjecture that unlike traditional web pages, blogosphere access patterns are much more dependent on the social networks that they catalyze.

In human speak, the research concludes that search drives a great deal of initial traffic to blogs, but does little to actually retain users.

As a blogger, you realistically have only one chance to make a significant impression on anyone directed to your blog via search. Most likely, that user was searching for a specific topic or news item that you ranked well for in the search results, and probably hasn’t ever heard of your blog.

While you’re no doubt happy that the user visited your blog and generated an AdSense impression, you’d better have some quality content if you ever hope to retain that reader and build the popularity of your blogging brand.