Tuesday 11th December 2018

New study: Google contributes significantly more referral traffic than Facebook across most website categories

The search engine outperforms the social network across most website categories, including news, technology and computing, home and garden and personal finance.
Jason Smith
by on 13th June 2018

Google outperforms Facebook for referral traffic (traffic driven from one website to another) across most website categories, according to a new a report by social analytics firm Parse.ly that analyzes 8 billion pageviews across 1 million articles.

The report also notes that Google overtook Facebook as the top external referrer to websites prior to the social network’s algorithmic updates earlier this year.

Total referral traffic from Facebook decreased by 25 percent between February and October 2017 while traffic from Google increased owing to adoption of Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP), the search giant’s controversial publishing technology for improving mobile page load speed.

Google’s dominance is particularly pronounced in categories like technology and computing, home and garden and personal finance, for which it drives 63, 57 and 52 percent of all referral traffic, while Facebook only contributes 16, 15 and 26 percent.

Aside from lifestyle categories, the only other categories in which Facebook outperforms Google are real estate, education and law, politics and govt.

In the lifestyle categories, the social network outperforms the search engine in the family and parenting, shopping, society, travel and style and fashion categories.

The latest report from Parse.ly follows a report from Shareaholic that found social traffic accounted for 25.6 percent of all visits to the 250,000 websites analyzed, while search traffic accounted for 34.8 percent.

According to Shareaholic, search displaced social as a consequence of changes to Facebook’s news feed. Meanwhile, a recent analysis by Indivigital found that the world’s top 100 brands on Facebook have an average engagement rate of 0.12 percent.

The report from Parse.ly also found that most users access news content through Google search and that AMP pages drove 27 percent of that traffic (which is the highest AMP percentage of any category).

Meanwhile, Facebook’s Instant Articles only drove 9 percent of news traffic. According to a report by Digiday last year, a number of large news organizations, including the New York Times, The Guardian and The BBC, are increasingly neglecting Facebook’s mobile publishing format, with some organizations claiming they can better monetize content on their own websites.

A recent report from competitive analysis tool SimilarWeb also found that total traffic to news websites decreased 12.8 percent year-on-year.