Search versus social media as referral sources

Search Overtakes Social Media as Top Source of Traffic

Shareaholic is a US-based 'content amplification service' used by many websites to promote their content across social media platforms.

Shareholic analysed referral traffic to over a quarter of a million websites in their network from more than 400 million visitors during 2017 and uncovered an interesting trend.

They found that last year, for the first time since 2014, search generated more referral traffic than social media. According to their report, search generated 34.8% of site visits in 2017, compared to 25.6% from social media. This trend is shown in the graphic at the top of the page.

Shareaholic isn’t alone in reporting an uptake in referrals from search. Chartbeat also reports it has seen an increase in traffic from Google Search while numbers from Facebook moved in the other direction.

Google traffic grows and Facebook traffic falls



Website owners need to be aware of changes in trends like these and adjust their online promotional strategies accordingly.

In line with this, three insightful key takeaways in the Shareholic report are worth highlighting:

  • 1
    Marketers, publishers and site owners should continue to invest in Search. It’s easy to get distracted by the ever-growing list of Social Networks, but at the end of the day, Search will continue to be the largest and most efficient traffic driver in 2018. The lack of fragmentation in Search also makes the return on your efforts even more apparent as you only need to focus on one or two platforms.
  • 2
    In Social, go where the users are. Facebook still has the dominant position, but Instagram and Pinterest are eating into that lead. In fact, Instagram is very close to overtaking Twitter, a traditional staple of these reports, in driving traffic. Make sure that your Instagram and Pinterest profiles are up to date, findable, and chock full of content for users to consume, share, and link out to your site.
  • 3
    Pinterest and Instagram both focus heavily on image related content, making image sharing a critical component of distributing and driving traffic back to the content and products you create. Make sure that in addition to optimizing content for site performance and SEO, you invest time to include beautiful shareable images for Instagram and Pinterest.

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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.