Facebook overtakes Google as a traffic source for news

Over the last couple of years Facebook, and to a lesser degree Twitter, have become increasingly important sources of referral traffic to news publishing websites as social media users share links to news stories. This is something we’ve observed in NZ and it’s a trend reflected in other markets.

Last week a report issued by a Traffic analytics firm Parse.ly emphatically confirmed this. According to their latest figures, Facebook has convincingly overtaken Google in terms of the traffic it sends to news sites.

Historically Google has contributed the lion’s share of referral traffic to news sites, however since a peak of traffic in late 2013 Google’s share of traffic has been slipping whilst Facebook’s has shown dramatic growth, as the chart below show.


The data from Parse.ly shows that Facebook now accounts for 38.3% of referral traffic to news sites, whilst Google has slipped into second place with 35.8%.

Whilst the above study doesn’t purport to necessarily reflect what’s happening across  the entire news media sector, it’s likely to be a good proxy. This is because Parse.ly clients include more than 400 major news and media outlets, including traditional publishers such as Wired, Reuters and The Daily Telegraph, as well as a large group of digital-only publications such as Mashable, The Next Web, and Business Insider. Collectively, the network accounts for about 6 billion page-views and more than one billion unique visitors per month.

Last year Google’s chairman Eric Schmidt said Google’s biggest competition is Amazon, rather than Yahoo and Bing. However, with reports like this we’re increasingly of the view that what really keeps Google’s senior management awake at night is Facebook.

Why should you care?

There’s no question that social sharing is becoming an increasingly important source of traffic for many businesses – not just news websites. Andrew Montalenti, the CTO of Parse.ly, made the point that Facebook is a huge and growing traffic source but compared to Twitter it’s like a black box in terms of how it operates.

The challenge for those wanting to leverage Facebook as a channel and use it to drive traffic to their websites is understanding what works & why.

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About the Author Mark Sceats

Mark is a Partner and Senior Consultant at SureFire which he founded back in 2002. Prior to establishing SureFire he worked for KPMG Consulting. Today Mark heads up SEO, embracing the challenges that can come with complex website implementations. Outside of work, his interests beyond his family are running, snowsports, diving and fishing (badly).

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