How to Figure Out Web Traffic from Personal Messages, emails


When I wrote that email is the new offline, I was on the money in more than one regard. Because in many cases the greatest slice of traffic to content on your site — especially if you're set up to refresh articles, posts, and provide good information regularly — comes from direct links people share with each other in the body of an email.

Layer on this data point the fact that we still get things done via email — certainly more than by phone, and most of the time more than in meetings and you know why your approach to publishing and measuring inbound visits should take this private sharing into consideration.

In a recent article in The Atlantic [hat tip Gianluca Diegoli], Alexis Madrigal outlines why "the sharing you see in social networks via Facebook and Twitter is the tip of the social iceberg" (see chart above), and implications:

1. Operational-ly, you need to focus more closely on the nature of the content itself.

Make the content good, and people will share it. Period. Take it a step further if you publish to multiple devices and you intend to refresh fairly frequently. In that case, you will need to COPE or adopt the "create once, publish everywhere" strategy.

2. Social-ly, the sites and networks that emerged in the early 2000s didn't invent this form of sharing, they structured it.

In the words of Madrigal, they "made sharing an act of publishing". With that comes the ability to find and be found through search, to create a public persona, and gain visibility, for example. Hence content marketing, search engine optimization, and data optimization were born and developed as disciplines.

3. Behavioral-ly, the real trade-offs we are making with our data are for "for the ability to publish and archive a record of our sharing."

I would add that part of the appeal is that to be seen in the act of sharing, and thus in the publicness of the act itself, find some modicum of satisfaction or high. In some cases, looking to increase that high or keep it up to the benefit of social networks and the brands and businesses that sponsor them.

 * An important observation in the article about the nature of the data jives with data from other sources. In this case, only 4 percent of the traffic is from mobile, according to Chartbeat.

I know that most of my sharing in the last couple of years has happened by email, posting to an internal team forum, and by IM.

I wanted to quickly address the quality of inbound traffic from emails vs. from social networks.

While time on the site may be shorter, especially if the contact doing the sharing already pulled out relevant quotes and parts of the article to draw attention to them, the mental model has likely shifted to more receptive to the content (and thus the site).

And this post doesn't even begin to cover integrated applications of email newsletters and my account portion of a site that uses a custom version of a personalization engine to collect, recommend, and remember what I like. That part is where most of the conversion opportunity is going unrealized, still.


For The Atlantic, almost 69 percent of social referrals are generated by email and direct link sharing. What's the percentage for your site?


[image source: Chartbeat for The Atlantic]


Valeria is an experienced listener. She is also frequent speaker at
conferences and companies on a variety of topics. To book her for a
speaking engagement click here.

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