Reduce Dependence on SEO With A Visitor Source Portfolio

If you’re focusing only on SEO, you’re missing out. If you’re sinking all of your ad budget into Google AdWords, you’re missing out. If you are putting all of your eggs in one basket, well, you know what they say…

With the rapid rise of social media platforms some are hailing the demise of email marketing, direct mail, SEO and other client-attraction (or annoyance depending on your view) methods that have been around for quite some time. I say poo poo to all these folks.

Today if you want to ensure that you’re in front of your current and potential ideal clients, what you need to build is a visitor source portfolio.

There’s been a lot of interesting reactions to my previous post about how Google is making search smarter and SEO harder. One retweet by Mark Schaefer garnered this question from Mars Dorian:

Mars Dorian - Is SEO Less Important

Mars Dorian - Is SEO Less Important

I’m not lumping Mars (or Mark) into the folks I was talking about above. He’s asking an excellent question, so let’s take a look at this.

Our latest research shows the massive number of people using the “major” social networks:

Social Media Growth

Social Media Growth

But you know what they say – content is king. And where does a lot of that content reside? That’s right – blogs. Over the past 6 years we’ve seen more than a 500% increase in the number of blogs online:

Blogs, Blogs, Blogs

Blogs, Blogs, Blogs

That’s a lot of content. And how does that content get found? Mainly 3 ways:

  1. People search for it – SEO
  2. It’s shared – social media
  3. It’s sent – email

It’s no wonder that those three tactics continue to top the charts for the tactics used by marketers for lead generation:

Marketing Sherpa Lead Gen Chart 2012

Marketing Sherpa Lead Gen Chart 2012

So you might be thinking that’s a lot of data, but what does that have to do with Mars’ question? Just because SEO is popular now doesn’t mean it will stay that way…

People Are Everywhere

There is no doubt that the time spent on social networking sites is increasing. However when we look at the latest data from comScore (one of the companies tracking all of us everywhere online) we see 5 areas of measurement:

  • Social networking
  • Search and navigation
  • Communication
  • Retail
  • Other content
comStore - Time Spent Online

comStore - Time Spent Online

ALL of the numbers are going up!

What that tells me is that for a business today what you want is a visitor source portfolio.

The Visitor Source Portfolio

At the highest level, a website has 4 main sources of visitors:

  1. Search
  2. Referrals
  3. Direct
  4. Campaign

Each of these can be further broken down:

  • Search => organic (search engines), paid (ads)
  • Referrals => social media, other websites
  • Direct => email, browser bookmark, browser auto-complete
  • Campaign => paid advertising

We could then further segment each of these to an individual source such as a social networking platform (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn) and device. In short, we can go crazy with it.

The point here is that there is no “one true source” of visitors. More and more people are coming online each day, and once there the time they spend online increases.

So how do you build a visitor source portfolio? Like so:

  1. Grab your ideal client definition
  2. Research where (and if) your ideal clients “live” online
  3. Create your account
  4. Start interacting
  5. Measure everything – I suggest with HitSniffer and Google Analytics (yep – use both)

If you’re a one-person operation (aka solopreneur) don’t spread yourself too thin. Join one or two social networks and start connecting with people.

Build prospecting time into each day and proactively create relationships. Don’t wait for people to come to you – they won’t. And don’t forget offline networking. People need sun and other people so be sure to go outside and go to some local events.

The Final Answer

So to answer Mars’ question as to whether or not SEO will become less and less important I’ll say that I don’t think so. Within the visitor source portfolio it may play a smaller role; however I don’t think that role will become much less significant over time, especially if Google has anything to say about it.

The year-and-a-half of updates Google is making says to me they are working to improve search for the modern webizen. For search engines to stay relevant they need to continue answering our queries, especially when it’s difficult at best to reach anyone on an overcrowded social network.

Is content important? Yes.

Is community important? Absolutely.

Is SEO still a highly viable method of connecting potential community members with your content? You betcha.

Don’t give up on SEO. Just don’t put all your eggs in that basket.


  1. Actually Google created and still decides what SEO is, especially because people let it do it. Unfortunately in its effort to always push big dogs and slay small businesses Google is forcing webmasters and bloggers to find other way to get traffic outside search engines which in the end will kill Google or make it a kind of Yahoo clone.
    The social numbers are interesting but are they active users? And those active users do share content or just kitten pictures and celebrity gossip? So this social thing and social search are really important for businesses? Twitter more or less is but FB? And the real ROI? Especially time vs conversions
    Luckily, and thanks to you, there is as being a solo blogger time is an issue and when you write posts and comments on other people blogs there isn’t much left if you want a real life. 😉

    •  @Andrea T. H. W. to answer your question about the social numbers, the Twitter numbers are active users while the rest are total user counts. Our research shows though that active users are typically around 50% of the numbers reported, so still in the millions or tens of millions for the heavy hitters in social.
      As for what those people are sharing, I can’t speak to that. However they are still filling the content pipeline which we all feed into.
      I can say without a doubt that being active on social media has brought both myself and my client business. However it’s only one source, which is where diversification and the visitor source portfolio come in.
      ROI? Oh yeah – it’s there. However you really need to laser focus and be proactive. ROI delivery can take varying times, however it’s there.
      I can’t take credit for That’s Sharel and his awesome team. I’m fortunate that I met them when they first started and was able to give them advice as well as promotion. Definitely a must-use tool.

      •  @RobertDempsey Thanks for the reply, I’ll stick with Twitter though because really I can’t like FB. I’m there but it’s not my cake. 🙂
        Maybe you can’t take credit for but I got there thanks to your invite so it’s thanks to you. It’s a wonderful tool just like Livefyre is for comments.

  2. Sounds about right to me Robert. SEO is almost passive when you do it right – even though a lot of bloggers stress link building and Google Page Rank, relevance and on site optimization are by far the most important aspects of SEO when you’re doing a content marketing strategy such as blogging.
    The most important part of relevance and on-site optimization is in the title, URL, and the first 100 words. Is it really that big of a deal to spend an extra 3 minutes per post making sure your content is self explanatory, and to forgo the theatrical titles some bloggers like to use?

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