Are Your Social Media Efforts Really Having an Impact? Here’s a Quick Way to Find Out!

Social media is responsible for about 31 percent of all referral traffic to websites these days. It’s no wonder, then, that so many local businesses are turning to Facebook, Twitter and the likes to promote their business.

There’s just one problem: Social media ROI is a tough one to prove.

One way you can ensure your time on social media is paying off is by monitoring your website’s traffic sources through Google Analytics. Standard analytics reporting has a whole section dedicated to social networks and tracking the number of times a social media outlet brought someone to your business’ site. Cool, right?

Unfortunately, that report doesn’t always give you the most accurate representation of your social success thanks to a little mix-up in Google Analytics’ reports. Keep reading to find out how your social media and referral traffic work together to give you the full picture.

What is Referral Traffic?

So what makes up referral traffic? Basically, referrals are any visit that came from a website outside of Google’s search engine. For example, if you’re on your favorite news site and you click a hyperlink. That hyperlink takes you to a new website, so Google counts that click as a referral. This is just one of three traffic sources Google Analytics identifies, with the others being search traffic (visits from a search engine) and direct traffic to your website (this can be folks directly typing in your website address, linking from an email, etc.).

You build up referral traffic through link building, which is an important part of any SEO strategy. The basics of this include getting your website published in online directories and review sites. Writing guest posts for and commenting on other people’s blogs is another way you can build referral traffic.

And, of course, being active on social media drives referrals. You’ve probably shared social posts containing links to your website, your services or a blog article you wrote. If a customer clicks on that link and finds their way onto your site, you’ve got yourself a referral!

So Why the Mix-Up in Google Analytics?

In theory, referral traffic is traffic that comes from other websites, but Google Analytics tends to catch a little more than that.

You’ll notice that links you shared on social media often find their way into the referrals section of your “all traffic sources” report rather than under the “social networks” one. What gives? The simple answer is that Google just hasn’t found a way to segment this data properly. They’re working on it, though!

If you’ve been questioning whether your social media marketing efforts are paying off based on the “social networks” numbers, try digging around your referrals. There’s a good chance much of your social traffic is reflected in this section of Google Analytics.

An easy way for you to keep track of your social success in Google Analytics is by using UTM parameters for your links. These are just tags that you can use to differentiate links from one another and help you track campaigns. You can include tags that will tip you off in the report that the link came from a social media post. You could list the source as “social media” and the medium as “Facebook.” Now anytime you see social media / Facebook in your referrals report, you’ll know those visitors actually came from a link you shared on social media.

Yes, using UTM parameters is going to require a little more work on the front end, but it’s well worth the peace of mind that your social media marketing really is doing its job!

Looking for more great advice on how to make the most of your digital marketing efforts? The team at Higgins Marketing Group would be happy to offer a free initial strategy conversation. Contact us today to learn the best way to put YOUR small business in front of more prospects!

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