Does Facebook Live Increase Engagement and Website Traffic? [STUDY]

When Facebook Live rolled out, the SEJ team knew we wanted to do something with it. We didn’t have any experience doing live video (never having jumped in the Periscope train), but we have a really engaged Facebook audience, so we knew this was a great platform to try live video.

Facebook is our second biggest referral source (after Google), so we wanted to leverage Facebook Live. We tried two formats and branded them under the name SEJ Live (using the #SEJLive for live tweeting):

  • Weekly News Show: Our Social Producer, Caitlin Rulien, wrote and produced a 10-12 minute weekly show on Facebook Live every Friday. She read the latest marketing news of the week, as captured by our staff writers Danny Goodwin and Matt Southern, announced our #SEJSurveySays results for that week, and gave any other related updates.
  • Expert Q&A Session: With the release of our new completely rewritten beginners guide to SEO, we asked all our contributors if they’d like to do a 30-minute Facebook Live session answering questions about their chapter in the SEO guide. We did about two of these per week for two months.

Both of these ways were quite different, as one was completely internal and the other required temporarily giving access to one of our outside contributors to go live on our Facebook page. When someone is live on your Facebook page, they have the power to say and do anything, but we trust our team and contributors.

Facebook Live Issues

We had a few small hiccups during our Facebook Live sessions:

  • Technical Issues: There were a few lags during the expert sessions where the video went blank or froze for a few seconds. When you’re going to do a live broadcast, make sure you have a fast connection and if you’re moving around, that the connection will remain strong as you move around your location. We found that in times of slow connections, using data instead of wifi was more stable, but it depends on your wifi/data and building setup.
  • User Onboarding: Most of our experts had never used Facebook Live before. Caitlin did a great job of walking through the steps with them 15 minutes before they were set to go live and we did a test broadcast in the SEJ Writers group to make sure they did it correctly first. Then, Caitlin would delete that broadcast. I also sent an email out to all the live guests with the questions to answer and a step-by-step how-to of our SEJ Live process, including reminders that the broadcast had to be done from their phone app (Facebook currently doesn’t allow live streaming from a computer).
  • Sexual Harassment: The struggle is still real out there for women. One of our experts received some sexual comments during her session that Caitlin and I quickly hid. We also blocked the offending user from coming to ’s Facebook page at all. The resulting private message I got from him was further proof we made a good call. I recommend a zero tolerance policy against bullying or harassment of any kind. Since it’s a live broadcast, we had at least two team members monitoring the comments at every SEJ Live broadcast. This helped us make sure questions were answered and inappropriate comments were moderated.

How to Promote Facebook Live

We had long discussions when deciding how to promote and create content around our Facebook Live broadcasts. Unlike a webinar, we don’t know the Facebook Live URL until the broadcast starts (this is now possible with the use of third-party software, but still not in the native app), so we could only use our Facebook page URL in our promotions of the events.

Here’s our step-by-step timeline for Facebook Live marketing promotion:

  1. Create Facebook Event: We have almost 400 subscribers to our Facebook Live events, so we made sure all our SEJ Live sessions had their own event.
  2. Schedule Social Shares: We regularly promoted the live events on our social media platforms, using the hashtag #SEJLive, and also tagged the expert for each session. We gave the URL of our Facebook page.
  3. Publish Schedule: At the start of our SEO Guide SEJ Live series, Danielle wrote a post announcing the schedule of all our live sessions. We kept the sessions on the same dates and times so users knew when to expect them.
  4. Live Tweeting: We live tweeted every SEO guide live session, and included a link to the direct URL of the live broadcast. That way our Twitter audience could click on over to Facebook and immediately start watching the current session. Once a broadcast is over, the direct URL will go to the archived complete recording, saved to the Videos section of our Facebook page.
  5. In-Video Promotion: In the comments section of all the broadcasts, we tagged the expert (if possible, according to their profile settings), their company’s Facebook page, their Twitter handle, and the link to their chapter in the SEO guide. For SEJ News Live, we linked to all the articles Caitlin mentioned during her broadcast.
  6. Recap Post: Af the end of every week, I wrote a recap post that included the embedded videos from all the experts that were live on our Facebook page that week (we didn’t do this with SEJ News Live, only the expert broadcasts). I was able to pre-write many of these before both recordings were available to embed, as I included a link to each person’s chapter in the SEO guide, their name, and company, and then the discussion questions they were going to answer during the broadcast (which, as I mentioned earlier, I had emailed to them a few weeks beforehand). If applicable, I also included other articles the expert had done and embedded any Marketing Nerds podcast episodes they had been on in the past. Once the broadcast was done, I hit the carrot in the top right of the video and grabbed the embed code. These recap posts went live every Friday AM for that week.

Does Facebook Live Increase Page Engagement?

Here’s some data on our Facebook Live videos and how they performed compared to one another:

Names in bold still need to be updated with post 30-day information.

We found that overall, the expert sessions did much better initially and in the long run when it came to participation (the audience asking questions and commenting), views, and engagement (likes and shares).

We also found that:

  • Average post reach more than doubled for live videos: Our regular post reach average is about 4k.
  • Average post engagement for Facebook Live videos was 178% higher than average.

Does Facebook Live Increase Website Traffic?

We found that Facebook referral traffic went up tremendously this year overall, but it was hard to completely segment. One thing we definitely needed to do better was to create UTM tags for ALL the URLs we shared during Facebook Live sessions.

We did this for some of the sessions, but we didn’t prepare all the links in advance like we should have. Therefore, we have no way of segmenting out which Facebook traffic came directly from Live sessions and which were simply clicks from our regular Facebook posts.

During the months that we were doing Facebook Live, we found that mobile   Facebook referral traffic did increase 213% when comparing the two months we did Facebook Live with our experts compared to the two months previous. We did not change anything else about our Facebook strategy.

We also found that the unique promo code we offered for SEJ Summit during sessions from SEJ Summit speakers (like Mark Traphagen) wasn’t used, so event promotion during Facebook Live events may or may not lead to ticket sales. This is certainly a strategy we will try again in the future, as it doesn’t hurt to include in the comments during the live stream.

The Future of SEJ Live

Based on the data and the reception of our community, we know we want to do more expert SEJ Live broadcasts in the future. However, SEJ News Live has been canceled indefinitely, as we found that the time and effort Caitlin putting into producing the broadcasts weren’t resulting in much engagement, participation, or traffic. This was no fault of Caitlin; we just found that users were more interested in hearing new information from experts versus recaps of existing news.

In the future, we’d love to have scheduled, preset URLs for Facebook Live broadcasts, as well as split-screen so both an SEJ team member host and industry expert guest can be live at the same time. This would allow us to do live interviews and make the broadcasts more engaging.

SEJ Live During Our SEJ Summit Conferences

We also have been testing SEJ Live at our SEJ Summit search marketing conferences. We live streamed the AMAs panels at both our Chicago and New York events. We got a tripod with a smartphone adapter so the shot stayed steady and kept it close to the stage to capture the best view of the panelists and their voices. We will continue to experiment with this at future SEJ Summit events, as we’ve found our audience likes getting a snippet of SEJ Summit, even when they aren’t attending! The New York AMA panel has over 1,200 views as of November 16, 2016.

We will continue to experiment with this at future SEJ Summit events, as we’ve found our audience likes getting a snippet of SEJ Summit, even when they aren’t attending! The New York AMA panel has over 1,200 views as of November 16, 2016.

Have you used Facebook Live For Your Publication or Business?

We’d love to hear your experiences. Leave us a comment with your thoughts!


Featured image via DepositPhotos. Graph created by Caitlin Rulien and screenshot by author.