As 2017 draws to a close, marketers and agencies are focused on a big question: which channels will generate the most revenue for our clients’ businesses next year?
Answering this question almost always leads to a familiar discussion: Google vs. Facebook.
This isn’t to say that other channels aren’t also important to consider. LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Bing, and Yahoo will, and probably should, also be part of your strategy for generating traffic, leads, and revenue.
But as the sites with the largest audiences, Google and Facebook merit the most consideration.
Which is more important for 2018? Let’s take a look.
Both Facebook and Google can send two types of traffic to your site: organic traffic and paid traffic.
Organic traffic from Google is most often the result of SEO. Organic traffic from Facebook is most often the result of growing a large and engaged following on the social network.
Paid traffic, on the other hand, generates site visitors without SEO or preexisting followers.
If you’re willing to pay the right price, you can get your Google Ads ad to appear at the top of the search results, above all of the organic listings, and drive a lot of search traffic to your site and content.
Paid advertising is a great way to grow your audience on Facebook. Create targeted ads to get your content in front of the people who are most likely to be interested in it, sending traffic to your site and increasing the number of people who like and follow your brand.
Driving organic traffic from either site is a long-term goal. It can take months, or years, to build enough domain authority to earn top rankings in search, or to build a large and engaged following on Facebook.
For this reason, if you’re trying to drive traffic to a new business, or one that’s new to digital marketing, paid is often a good short-term approach for generating traffic, leads, and revenue.
It allows you to send traffic to a site while you’re working on longer-term strategies to increase organic traffic, such as building follower counts, securing inbound links, and building a library of high-quality content.
When it comes to advertising, Google and Facebook aren’t really competitors. In fact, one of the most effective ways to drive traffic is by running PPC ads on both sites.
Google Ads ads are displayed on search result pages and are designed to drive traffic from users who are actively searching for keywords and phrases that are important to a brand.
Say one of your clients is a theme park in Liverpool. With Google Ads, you can get a result for your client’s site to display for a query like “Liverpool attractions.” This targets people who are actively looking for things to do in Liverpool.
Facebook ads display in users’ news feeds, so they’re better for targeting people who may be interested but aren’t actively searching for information.
With a targeted Facebook ad, you can get theme park ads in front of people who may simply be thinking about, but not actively looking for, things to do that weekend.
With Google Ads, get content/promotions in front of people who are actively looking for what your clients are offering. With Facebook Ads, get content/promotions in front of people who are passively interested.
Used together, the two platforms allow you to attract traffic from all types of users.
Beyond advertising, Google and Facebook both offer ways to get brand content and messaging in front of audiences organically.
Web pages and content that adhere to the best practices of SEO can rank highly in search results and bring in traffic. Content shared on Facebook that gets lots of likes and shares can display to all followers of that brand, as well as those followers’ personal networks of friends.
But both platforms have their own unique algorithms, and neither is wholly forthcoming when it comes to explaining exactly what their algorithms prioritise. Instead, they divulge information in pieces.
For example, Google admitted that its top three ranking factors are quality content, inbound links, and RankBrain. Facebook will occasionally announce that certain types of content earn greater visibility in its news feed, such as pages that load quickly, timely posts, and live videos (while they’re live).
Additionally, both platforms have a history of overtaking each other for the number of referrals sent to publishers.
For example, in June of 2015, Facebook began sending more traffic to news publisher sites than Google. But this year, those referrals began to dwindle, and Google is now the biggest referrer of traffic to news sites again.
These flips are typical in the world of digital marketing, making SEO and social media marketing two approaches that work best when used concurrently. To drive the most organic traffic, agencies should really use both platforms.
Asking which is better, Google or Facebook, assumes that your clients’ businesses only need to focus on one of these platforms. The reality is that the best approach to digital marketing is a multi-channel approach, one that helps you build an audience of your own that isn’t dependent on any single channel.
Algorithms change, and platforms shut down. Google’s Panda update in 2011 destroyed the traffic of many thriving websites. Twitter shut down Vine in 2016, leaving many video creators without the audiences they’d worked for years to build.
Focusing all of your efforts on a single platform can be detrimental to your long-term, marketing-led revenue. You never know when major changes will impact referral traffic.
The better questions to ask are:
What data can I use to determine which channels are driving the most traffic and revenue today?
How can I monitor that data to notice when referrals are decreasing so I can react, shift, and recover?
To answer the question Google vs. Facebook, or Facebook vs. Twitter, or SEO vs. email marketing, you need an analytics platform, like Ruler Analytics, that allows you to engage in closed-loop marketing.
With any analytics provider, you can measure traffic from different marketing approaches and channels. But traffic volume doesn’t tell the whole story. For example: Facebook may send 75% of your overall site traffic, but that traffic may only convert 1% of the time.
On the other hand, LinkedIn may only send 5% of your site traffic, but that 5% may convert 75% of the time. In that case, prioritising your marketing efforts on LinkedIn may actually drive more revenue than prioritising efforts on Facebook—even if Facebook sends much more traffic.
Ruler Analytics allows you to tie revenue directly back to the channels and marketing campaigns that generated the conversion.
This allows you to go beyond metrics like traffic and referrals and determine exactly where marketing efforts are paying off for a client’s bottom line.
By focusing on the channels and campaigns that drive revenue, you can form strategies for growing profits in 2018, as well as show clients the exact ROI of working with your agency.
As you target channels and plan campaigns for 2018, consider taking the time to review your metrics from 2017 and see which drove the highest revenue.
If you don’t have this data, consider allocating part of your 2018 budget to a platform that enables its collection.
In the end, social shares, traffic, and leads are meaningless if they’re not ultimately growing revenue.
Find the platforms that generate the most revenue, focus your efforts on those channels, and work to build an audience of your own, one that’s not dependent on a marketing channel, for a profitable 2018.