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Facebook: Referral Traffic On The Rise

The writing has been on the wall for quite some time. Depending on Facebook as your sole traffic generator is a bad idea. This has been abundantly clear over the past two years as the organic reach of...
Facebook: Referral Traffic On The Rise
Written by Chris Crum
  • The writing has been on the wall for quite some time. Depending on Facebook as your sole traffic generator is a bad idea. This has been abundantly clear over the past two years as the organic reach of many Pages’ posts has drastically declined, but things have been pretty bad for even those who perform the best on Facebook this year.

    Have you seen your Facebook traffic decline this year or are you managing to overcome the challenges posed by the social network? Discuss in the comments.

    Major publishers – the top publishers on Facebook in fact – have seen major reductions in Facebook referrals since the beginning of 2015 according to multiple tracking sources. DigiDay recently ran an article about Facebook traffic to the top publishers falling 32 percent since January. This cited data from both SimpleReach and SimilarWeb.

    According the report, traffic (across both desktop and mobile) to the top 30 publishers on Facebook fell 32% from January to October with those most reliant on Fcaebook for traffic getting hit by as much as 42.7%.

    The report claims that desktop traffic from Facebook to The Huffington Post fell by over 60% while Fox News fell over 48%. Even BuzzFeed saw an over 40% decline according to that.

    Of course not all publishers are seeing such drastic changes, and some have even benefited. Refinery29 and Vice are named as among those who have seen signifiant increases in Facebook traffic since January. It might be a good idea to take a look at their pages and see how they’ve been playing the game.

    In fact, I just took a glance and they appear to both post pretty frequently with a post going up nearly once an hour at least, with more in some cases. Most posts are links for both pages, though Refinery29 utilizes videos more. It’s worth noting that they’ve also had a much higher increase in traffic. None of this is silver bullet stuff, of course.

    Adobe research back in the summer did show that links are getting better for interactions on Facebook as interactions on other post types declined.

    The Digiday article has a quote from Facebook, which maintains that publisher traffic is on the rise. Perhaps the playing field is just being leveled a bit, which would be a good thing.

    It quotes a spokesperson: “Over the past two years, we’ve seen referral traffic to publishers from Facebook grow significantly, nearly across the board. As the number of posts to Facebook has increased substantially over the past few months, there has been a corresponding increase in the amount of potential posts to show any one person, which impacts reach. In this newly competitive landscape, we’re seeing results vary by publisher: some are experiencing continued growth in referral traffic while others have seen declines. On the whole, referrals to the top 1,000 publishers are at the same level today as they were in January.”

    Mathew Ingram, who has reported on the publishing industry for years, writes that “Facebook and the media have an increasingly landlord-tenant style relationship.”

    He writes about the reported decline in top publishers’ traffic at Fortune, “Why did this happen? To put it simply, no one knows—perhaps not even Facebook. Something changed, but it’s unclear what. As I’ve tried to describe a number of times, the reality of the media’s relationship with the giant social network is that it holds all the cards. It controls access to its 1.5 billion or so users, and it does this by tweaking the algorithm that determines which updates appear in a particular user’s news feed.”

    This is an all too familiar story for websites who have been at the mercy of algorithms on the search side of things. Google has famously destroyed many sites’ traffic by adding new signals and continuously updating those over the years.

    The moral of that story was always to diversify your traffic sources, and the same applies to the Facebook story. Simply put, it’s just never a good idea to rely too heavily on any one traffic source because that source needs only to flip a switch and things can go downhill – way downhill – for your website very, very quickly.

    Are you optimistic about being able to count on Facebook for traffic? Let us know in the comments.

    Image via Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook)

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