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Ever felt like a lone voice?  I have tried to open the eyes of business owners around Carlisle, to the value of investing in search engine optimisation (SEO) to help them get more customers and boost their revenues. SEO is a little bit like having an architect set up of your next building project with a well thought out plan.  If the plan is rubbish then the building can implode!

Too many business owners are distracted by; the need (real) for a website to look good, or that they need an APP (!) and are never really made aware of the need to plan the information architecture of their online business around what existing customers and prospects are actually looking for – in their terms.

SEO has been sidelined like Cinderella, by the 2 pretty sisters: social media and responsive web design.  She’s stuck in the corner feeling a bit unloved and ugly herself, because she is hard work.  This Cinderella wants things done her way because she gets results and… remarkably grudge free, she still wants the other 2 sisters to play.

Like that sidelined Cinderella, SEO has become terminally unsexy as the bright lights of social media, and cutting edge graphical design have seduced people away from the one aspect of online marketing that has been, and remains, the best source of ongoing website visitors there is.  A bit of a bold assertion from a little guy like me, but now there is some up to date hard evidence from a wide range of websites in a variety of industries that has been compiled over the past year by the Good people of Conductor.  This is solid SEO data from a very well placed source.

 Natural Search Drives Nearly Half of All Visits: And the Data Says So!

Our analysis showed that natural search drives the most traffic of all channels, responsible for nearly half (47%) of all visits.  In breaking out social visits from overall referral visits, we can see that referrals drive 15% of visits, while social actually drives 2%.

Does anybody notice a little takeaway from this set of coloured pie slices? Where does the biggest slice of your online marketing budget go? How many businesses have actually thought about tapping into the biggest source of website visitors and ultimately customers that is still alive and kicking, even though the Penguins and Pandas of the Google Zoo have had their way?  Organic search important? You bet it is!  On the websites that were measured here, only 2% of their traffic came from identifiable social media sources.

Is the relative share of “driven” traffic the same across every industry? No there are significant differences, as Nathan Safran explains back on the original post. The example that stands out to me, in amongst all this SEO data, is how banking and finance are far more dependent on direct traffic.  In Conductor’s analysis they put this down to the constant logging in and out of bank accounts that goes on… most people probably having a direct bookmark to take them into banking dashboards quickly.  The travel industry also stands out from the others, even though its biggest driver is still organic search traffic. Nathan explained it this way…


Although natural search ­– like the other industries analyzed – is the largest driver of traffic for the travel industry, paid search drove a significantly higher amount of traffic in travel compared to the others.  Given the hyper competitiveness of search in the travel industry due to the large average visitor value, paid search has historically commanded among the highest CPC values and the highest investment of all industries. Our analysis confirms this trend, with 18% of traffic coming from paid, the largest percentage of all industries analyzed.

website traffic variations by industry. confirming importance of proper search optimisation

Variations in website traffic sources across different industries. Funnily enough it’s only the banks that can really calm down about SEO… who’d have though that after the last few years? I thought everybody would be searching like mad for an ethical bank!


In discussions with business owners, it is apparent that there is no real knowledge of what SEO actually is.  Without a raft of high powered clients to back up my assertions, my advice has been quietly ignored by most business owners I’ve approached.  Those that have talked… have baulked when they realise the fact that it is relatively hard work that might need to be paid for.  When the marketing budget has already been blown by having the website built and printing a few thousand flyers, it’s understandable that there is a reluctance to invest.  However it’s time to wake up and see search engine optimisation for the investment it actually is! And – it should be thought of before the site is built – not as an afterthought!

Take this data from the recent report from Hubspot, which has recently been published.  Part of their survey into inbound marketing, with responses from around three and a half thousand marketers (of many different persuasions), threw up this remarkable comparison on the costs of generating new leads into the business.

Relative cost per lead - inbound marketing channels

Relative cost per lead by inbound marketing channel. SEO is one of lowest cost per lead sources.

Though the graph singles out social media, blogging and email marketing as being separate items; in reality they are inextricably connected now!  Google measures everything it can to determine if a website is a good fit to the question that’s just been asked by the searcher.  Those social signals are still important as is the traffic from your email campaigns and the relevance of your blog to your customers.

The hype about social media marketing has drowned out the quiet effectiveness of optimising a website, so that it answers the questions that web searchers are asking. And yet, in the background, well optimised websites have continued to draw in visitors and generate higher revenues for their business owners. When Google brought in its Black and White Collection of Pandas and Penguins, there was a lot of hysterical flapping and disingenious sales crap bellowing that SEO was dead and social was the way. The truth of the matter is that social is part of the way and search engine optimisation is a bigger part of the way if you really want to get a return on your investment!

This Ugly Cinderella is wasted being left in the corner, she’s sitting waiting and ready to power up the two pretty sisters and get you some results.

The hard SEO data presented above by Conductor and supported by the Hubspot research is a massive endorsement of good quality white hat (that means “by the rules”) Optimisation.  SEO ain’t dead, it’s earning companies fortunes!