A changing trend
Parse.ly’s finding is based on the data from 400 major digital publishers such as Conde Nast, Reuters, Mashable and The Atlantic. Facebook, which has been growing slowly and steadily, has been able to take referral traffic market share from Google sites including of Google News and Google.com web search. With the growing use of social media, SEO experts have been replaced by social media optimizers. Such a shift could be seen as a reason for the dramatic drop witnessed in the web traffic by the biggest publishers globally. Co-incidentally, Facebook rolled out an algorithm tweak around the same time in April.
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“Facebook is already providing close to 40 percent of traffic among other referral sources that we’ve identified, and that is only rivaled by Google and search as a channel,” said Parse.ly CTO Andrew Montalenti.
Google is still the top referral source when we talk about search and the overall web traffic referrals, and the search giant is not going to lose this position anytime soon in the near future, said Montalenti. The executive said the data from Parse.ly is not representative of a larger trend in the overall web, instead it is more representative of a trend in the media industry.
Facebook improving ties with publishers
Earlier this summer, Facebook unveiled Instant Articles, a publishing product through which media companies can directly post their articles to its iOS app. Publishers like The New York Times and The Atlantic were reportedly using this feature from Facebook.
Facebook will continue with its strategy of developing relationships with the publishers, and using the News Feed for prioritizing content, said Montalenti, adding that it is very much possible the growth trend has already peaked, and Facebook will maintain its dominance as the top referral source alongside Google.
One piece of good news for Facebook is not all new traffic funneled to the digital sites is free. Going by the internal financial documents published by Gawker, BuzzFeed is spending millions of dollars on the promotion of its clients’ ads. Several other digital publications are also willing to make occasional payments to give a boost to their popular posts.