Social Stats Case Study: Are You Making the Most of Socially Active Traffic?

Search engine optimization is currently experiencing one of its most significant periods. We all know that change is the only constant in SEO. (Click here)  It was clear how Google Plus would affect the SERPs visually and their actual ranking position (albeit through personalization). It has been suggested that Google Plus has been promoted in search results unnaturally, which could have adversely affected the quality and integrity of their search product. This seems to have been somewhat curbed by recent algorithm changes. One of these was an improvement in indexing public social networking profiles. Mark Zuckerberg’s empty G+ account is no longer ranked first when searching for his name …..

Facebook – Mark Zuckerberg

Some SEOs have made this prediction for quite some time. It is since links have become distorted and spammed. Also, they are sold, bought, and manipulated by people trying to make quick money online. Social engagement was the ideal external metric for assessing the quality of websites. Social engagement is a public endorsement for a website, just like link building. Google, like link building, can also assess the quality and quantity of social shares a website or piece of content has received. Social engagement, unlike link building, is not so simple to manipulate (at least not yet).


Rory and I are SEO Consult and decided to study the socially active traffic received by a few of our clients’ sites. We wanted to provide actionable data on the potential for social engagement and the importance of having a social presence. This is what we did.


Social Engagement Experiment Methodology

Our experiment is  on 28 websites from clients. Sites were  from many industries with different traffic volumes and target markets. About 60% of the sites were B2C and 40% B2B. This approach allowed us to have a natural and diverse data range, which we felt was not unnecessarily large.


We added the following JavaScript code snippet to generate the results (inspired by Mike Cardwell here at Grepular and Tom Anthony here @ SEOmoz) on the client websites we would be tracking for this experiment.

This is how the experiment turned out:


The URLs to the image sources are login pages for the respective services. They use referrer URLs or redirect URLs in their query string to direct the visitor to the desired destination once they log in.

Logging in will allow the visitor to pass through the login “doorway” and redirect them to the URL in the query string.

In this example, they’re  to

If the visitor logs out, they will be redirected to the login page.

If the image element gets , the image at fires the ‘unload’ event because it has successfully loaded. This activates Google Analytics which logs the visitor into a particular social media account.

If the image element is served on the login page ‘doorway,’ it will fire the ‘onerror event. This happens because it was expecting an HTML image and received HTML instead. This triggers Analytics and records that the user is not in to the social media account.

Facebook works similarly. It automatically serves a header with a 404-response code if you visit the hidden account we created and are not  into FB. It will also serve a 200-response code if you are. Analytics records this in the same manner as other social networks.

The Results

Facebook Statistics:

Facebook users 38.77%

out from Facebook 61.23%


Facebook stats


We monitored 28 sites and had 31,888 people sign up for a Facebook account on each site. Fifty thousand three hundred forty-seven visitors weren’t.


This site has lower traffic than other sites. This could be because it must load a separate page instead of loading an image that triggers a response. This makes the process much slower.



Google Plus Stats:

Google Plus users signed up 5.40%

Google Plus 94.60% of users have opted out


Google Plus Stats


We monitored 28 sites with 5,800 visits from people who were signed up for a Google Plus account. One hundred one thousand five hundred eighty-nine were not.



Twitter Statistics: users 5.42%

Users logged out of 94.58%


Twitter Statistics


We monitored 28 sites and received 5,330 visitors who had signed up for and 101,585 non-registered visitors.


B2B Stats:

Socially signed B2B customers in 13.97%

Users of B2B were not socially connected in 86.03%


B2B Statistics


We monitored 7,861 users who signed in to social accounts on B2B websites and 48.395 who weren’t.

B2C Stats:

Socially signed 14.63% by B2C customers

B2C users are not socially signed up in 85.37%


Stats for B2C


We monitored 35,157 users signed in to social accounts on B2C websites and 205.126 users not signed in to social accounts.


All Stats

Avg. Users who signed up for a social account had 14.50%

Avg. Users not signed in to a social account 85.50%


All Stats


Overall, we found that 43,018 users signed in to a social account. Two hundred fifty-three thousand five hundred twenty-one weren’t.


Additional data:

Pinterest Statistics:

Pinterest users signed up 0.065%

Users have not yet signed up for Pinterest 99.93%


Pinterest Statistics


We monitored 28 sites and received 682 visits from users who had signed up for a Pinterest account. One hundred three thousand four hundred ninety-four users weren’t.


We decided not to include this information in our overall statistics due to the relative newness of Pinterest and its limited influence over Twitter, Facebook, and Google Plus.


Google Stats

Google users signed up 15.69%

Users who have not yet signed up for Google 84.31%


Google Stats


We monitored 28 sites and found that 16,971 people signed in to Google accounts on each site. Ninety-one thousand one hundred twenty-five users were not.


We are aware that Google isn’t a social network. However, we felt it was worthwhile to analyze it. The impact of the keyword (not provided) was not fully understood when we implemented the experiment. SSL had not been  default in the UK.

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