The oil spill and American environmental websites – what happened to the traffic?

Micah Sifry at the techPresident has a very interesting blog post: The Big Spill and the Enviro Group of Ten: Why Isn’t Their Web Traffic Surging?

He’s been checking the web traffic of the ten largest American environmental organizations, and to his surprise, he finds that the traffic is hardly increasing:

If you total the raw numbers up, the overall change in unique visitors to the Group of Ten’s websites between April and May is a paltry 3.3% increase, from 2.19 million to 2.27 million.

How can this be the case, in the middle of the  biggest American  environmental disaster since the Exxon Valdez? Sifry has several theories and explanations himself which I recommend you to read. He also explains that he has not included social media activities (particularly Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Flickr have been used heavily by the environmental organizations) in his analysis. But he is raising a bigger question that also applies to other organizations: How do you measure success/impact/attention in 2010?

  • Fundraising
  • Legal changes
  • Political attention
  • Media attention
  • New members
  • Volunteers
  • Social media engagement
  • Web traffic
  • Number of signatures/emails sent
  • Number of fans/followers/likes

I particularly like this paragraph by Sifry:

While this shift in tactics is real, I still find it surprising that any enviro group would be seeing a decline in its organic web traffic during this crisis. Part of the reason may be tactical: None of these groups appear to be buying AdWords placements against searches for “BP” on Google. Nor do any of them show up on the first page of search results for BP. The same is true for searches or placements around “oil spill.” Compete’s data also shows that the top referring terms to all ten of these groups’ sites have nothing to do with the spill. Is it possible that the digital strategists at all ten of these organizations have no budget for online advertising and no interest in organic search?

Are we seeing organizations moving their tactics away from organic search and over to social media engagement? Any views?

One thought on “The oil spill and American environmental websites – what happened to the traffic?

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