Search giant Google has once again become the publishers’ main source of external page views over the course of 2017, surpassing Facebook. Google used to be the main source of referral traffic for web publishers. Then Facebook eclipsed it. According to digital analytics company Parse.ly, Google sent more traffic than Facebook to publishers — Facebook sent 25 per cent less traffic to publishers in 2017, while Google increased its traffic by 17 per cent.
In January, Facebook provided nearly 40 per cent of publishers’ external traffic which is now down to 26 per cent. Google, which started the year at 34 per cent, generated 44 per cent of the total traffic. Parse.ly pointed out a number of factors for this turnaround. In 2016 Facebook tweaked its algorithm to prioritise posts from friends and family over publishers. Also, Facebook’s “Instant Articles” feature, where the service hosted some publishers’ content directly but promised to send more readers to the original site as well, has declined in importance, the analytics company found.
Since users can now publish videos directly on Facebook, this might have affected how many links to web stories publishers put on their Facebook pages. Google’s “accelerated mobile pages” (AMP) feature, which also hosts publishers’ content directly on Google’s servers, became more important over the year. AMP stories – typically from news publishers – are surfaced at the top of mobile search results as “Top Stories,” which drives clicks.