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Oct 30, 2012

Marketing Research Chart: Most effective traffic sources for website conversion

SUMMARY: In this week's chart, we compare survey responses for top sources of traffic, and conversion of website visitors. Share your thoughts and insights on this topic in our LinkedIn discussion group.
by Brad Bortone, Senior Research Editor

In the MarketingSherpa 2012 Lead Generation Benchmark Report, we learned that organic search is the top source for generating website traffic. But, much like actual lead generation, volume alone doesnít offer much value. In many cases, itís the quality of both leads and website traffic that generates revenue and returns.

The following chart compares the responses for top sources of traffic, and top sources for conversion, of visitors on study participantsí websites.

Q: Which of the following sources generates the GREATEST VOLUME of traffic coming to your site?
Q: Which of the following sources generates traffic with the greatest CONVERSION RATES on your site?

View Chart Online

Click here to see a larger, printable version of this chart

In the chart above, the darker bar on the left shows response to the greatest volume survey question, while the lighter bar on the right shows response to the conversion rate question.

Survey respondents indicated that organic search is the top source for volume and quality of website traffic. When buyers research products online, the search engine is often where they begin, and the majority of search engine users appear to trust organically placed ads over paid advertisements.

This experience creates a powerful combination of volume and quality to websites that are well optimized for organic search results.

What are your other thoughts on this data? Share your own analysis in the MarketingSherpa LinkedIn Group for a chance to be published in a future blog post. Include your feedback as either a comment or a link to a blog post where you offer advice based on this data.

Here are a few items to consider as you evaluate this data:

Why is there such a discrepancy between organic search and email marketing campaigns?

Email marketing offers marketers the opportunity to generate a high volume of targeted traffic to specific landing pages. This creates an engaging experience that is ideal for qualified lead generation.

Yet, despite the fact that email campaigns generated about half of the overall traffic of organic search, they were responsible for very similar conversion rates. Has your company seen similar success in generating traffic with email marketing campaigns? Have your optimization efforts made organic search your most effective way to generate leads that convert?

Are social media ads effective enough to include in future planning?

Despite social media no longer being a fledgling channel, our respondents indicated that social media ad placements generated just 2% of overall traffic, with just 1% that converted. Has your company invested significant time and resources into strategic social media ad placements? What were the results? Has low performance made you reconsider social media ads when budgeting for future lead generation efforts?

For more information about lead generation tactics, be sure to download the free excerpt from the 2012 Lead Generation Benchmark Report.

Useful links for this research

Webinar Replay -- Maximizing the ROI of website traffic by reducing visitor anxiety

6 Tactics for Increasing Site Traffic and Improving Content

Driving Traffic from Print to Web: 50% increase in website traffic in six months

See Also:

Comments about this Chart

Oct 30, 2012 - Tim of Pardot says:
What a survey result! I've never seen email campaigns with this kind of success metric. A higher conversion rate than paid search? I have to dig deeper and ask what kind of lists they were mailing to, what their CTA was, and whether it was B2C or B2B. Nevertheless, that is a phenomenal stat.

Oct 31, 2012 - Cheryl of Real Goods Solar says:
Same question: can you filter the data to look at B2B and B2C separately?

Nov 01, 2012 - Jim Rudnick of KKT INTERACTIVE Inc. says:
Um...great chart with a really surprising (as Tim noted above) email statistic! I'd ask that you update this with more info for those of us who are in the B2B channel....

Nov 01, 2012 - Prugh Roeser of The Devereux Group, Inc. says:
Hi Daniel, Interestingly, all of the traffic and conversion sources are inbound marketing channels except for email. What's not clear is whether this pattern is a result of deliberate strategies or budget management. In our experience, email's performance isn't so striking -- perhaps because we focus on it -- but also because it's the only source that we can manage proactively and tweak to optimize it to its target audiences. The very nature of the other sources limits our ability to target them precisely, and requires responders to be solely responsible for deciding whether there's an interest match or not. With email, we can help them make that decision, which is why it can be more efficient in weeding out low-interest leads and boosting high-interest leads.

Nov 01, 2012 - Brad Bortone of MECLABS says:
Dear Tim, Cheryl and Jim, Thank you for your interest in our research. For the 2012 Lead Generation Benchmark Report, we broke out the data in question by industry sector, but not by primary market. However, we have related information about top online lead generation form fields (such as email address, name, etc.) broken out for primary market. We encourage you to download the free excerpt ( from the 2012 Lead Generation Benchmark Report, which includes a thorough overview of our research (with charts) and a complete Table of Contents, to see if this publication can offer you the information you need. Thanks again for getting in touch. If you need anything else, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Nov 02, 2012 - Jagjit of Beevolve says:
I think the stats are a bit tricky. The converting traffic is a subset of the traffic. So those who visit the website through email campaigns convert to the extent of 25%. But still, the traffic from email seems to be very high according to my experience. My assumption is that the sample size contains organizations with very large customer base and that the email campaigns here are used as lead nurturing.

Nov 04, 2012 - Pete Hayes of Chief Outsiders says:
This doesn't reflect our experience at all. For our targets (mid-market CEOs) we're getting more traction in Social Ad Sites (LinkedIn and, yes, Facebook) which are converting to soft leads (get a report, ask for more) than our organic or paid search. Email, in bulk, is a joke to our target. But can be used when highly customized with local contacts.

Nov 13, 2012 - Igor Mateski of webmaxformance says:
This is a very valuable chart! With all the SMM fluf out there it's easy to get distracted and forget just how strong brand perception is for getting a visitor and converting him/her into a client. The bottom line for business owners isn't click count, Likes, Retweets etc... it's ROI. A recent Chris Brogan interview at Search Engine Journal matches this research result: email trumps social. In a slow economy and instant-gratification mentality, it's quite difficult to please clients with real results, so many marketers are tempted to point to simple metrics to justify the next payment. I spent some time discussing this in a blog post, here's the link, hopefully it will help fellow marketers work with their clients and help them see the big picture and what metrics really make a difference.

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