How well does paid traffic convert? And how does paid traffic compare to organic traffic, social media traffic or email traffic?

Whether you’re just starting out in marketing or whether you’ve been around the block a few times, you’ve probably come across the notion that not all traffic is created equal. And it’s true: sometimes it’s better to shoot for quality, not quantity. So what’s the return on investment?

Social Media as a Traffic Source

If you’re interested in monetizing anything, whether it’s a blog, a website, or an app, you’re probably in the market for some traffic – but not just any traffic. You want traffic that converts.

Social media has been criticized as a source of lead generation, according to the research firm Forrester, and there are statistics that show problems with social media as a traffic source.

  • Over 50% of social media marketers don’t measure their success.
  • Over 50% of social media marketers cite difficulties measuring ROI.
  • Facebook lead generation is a struggle.
  • Social media marketing automation drastically decreases its effectiveness.
  • Email marketing is 40 times as effective as Facebook and Twitter combined.

These are just some of the negative statistics that have come out in recent years regarding social media as a traffic source.

The inability to measure ROI sometimes makes it hard to persuade people to engage in social media marketing. And though many social media marketing campaigns sprang up around the popularity of social networks, there has also been harsh criticisms for the very reasons mentioned above.

In one study, the conversion rate from Facebook pages averaged at 0.061%.

So how does social media traffic compare to organic search traffic?

Organic Website Traffic

On the other hand, organic traffic has a much higher conversion rate, averaging around 20%. The cited survey breaks down as follows:

  • Multiple data fields completed: 49%
  • Sale completed: 25%
  • One data field completed: 10%
  • Other: 17%

From looking at these numbers, we can see why companies invest so heavily in SEO and organic results. Next to organic traffic, social media traffic doesn’t really compare. 

But why the huge difference?

The reason is simple: organic traffic comes from people who are specifically searching for something. They’re “in the mood” to buy. In most cases, someone searching for “best deals on shoes” is looking to make a purchase in the near future.

Someone on social media, however, doesn’t necessarily want to purchase shoes. Yes, Facebook may have figured out that you enjoy your Crocs, but when you’re browsing your friends’ baby pictures or party anecdotes, shoes are probably the last thing on your mind.

Context is vital to effective advertising, which is why search and recommendation engines work so well. Users are searching for something, so clearly they have some form of intent.

Paid Website Traffic

It’s true that the majority of searchers click on organic results, with a margin of 96% to 4%.

However, if you’re not making it into the top few search results, chances are you won’t even be able to generate much organic traffic. In other words, paid search traffic may be a good route to take (or the only route to take) if you can’t generate enough organic traffic.

Paid search traffic offers the same benefits as organic traffic, just in smaller doses. Namely, searchers have intent: they’re looking for something specific, and are more likely to convert.

There are some differences in the traffic you’ll receive from paid search results, however. According to the above statistics:

  • Slightly more women than men click on paid search ads.
  • Older people are more likely to click on paid search results than younger people: 65% are aged 35 and over.
  • Only 16% of paid traffic goes to people under age 24.

Where to Get Traffic

It takes a very long time to generate traffic for a website. Due to the overwhelming number of spammers and internet marketers that buy domains and try to dominate search results, it takes a couple years for Google to trust new websites.

Until then, website owners will need to look to other sources for traffic, including paid website traffic, sponsored search results, social media marketing, and other online advertising.

The key to higher conversion rates often lies in buyer intent: what is the buyer doing when they see your ad? Web searchers are trying to accomplish a goal, and keywords often give that goal away. People on social media, however, usually want to socialize – advertising has a much greater chance of interrupting their current activities and moods, which will bring down any conversion rates and returns on investment.

When you shop around for your traffic sources, target the traffic that is in the right frame of mind for what it is that you’re offering.