Which Traffic Source Has the Best Conversion Rate?

We spend a lot of time around here discussing the concept of whether or not social media marketing is worth the effort. We’ve seen reports that show that website traffic from social media networks is pretty low and I’m about to show it to you again. But this time, I’ll take it a step further thanks to the folks at SeeWhy.

SeeWhy studied a sampling of 60,000 ecommerce transactions across a variety of sites in February 2011. The first thing they did was chart where the traffic came from, but not all of the traffic. Since running an online store is about selling things, they looked at only the people who actually loaded items into their shopping cart. Here’s what they got:

As you can see, email brought in the most traffic, with direct and search right under that. Social media came in at only 4.3%, not great, but better than display advertising, so that’s something to think about.

Next they took that info and charted the percentage of people from each source who completed their transaction. In other words, the people who handed over their credit card number and hit submit.

Here you can see that email and direct hits to the site still resulted in the best conversions, social media picked up 2.11% of the overall, but look at display advertising. Yikes, only .53% conversion rate? Maybe you should be spending money on your Facebook page and not on display ads.

At the end of all of this, SeeWhy does put in the usual disclaimer. Your mileage may vary and different types of ecommerce sites will have different results. While I’m sure that’s true, I imagine the shift wouldn’t be huge.

What I get from all of this is that email is still king when you’re trying to get people to buy from you. So why isn’t email marketing in the news more often? Maybe because it simply isn’t as new and trendy as social media marketing. Perhaps one day, we’ll see the flip, social media will be the old school method we take for granted while holographic email messages will show up as 2% of the pie.

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