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Facebook Might Drive More Traffic than Google: Should You Care?

Facebook and Google are in a constant tug-of-war for publishers’ affection. Even if you’re not with a publishing company, as a social marketer, this is a battle you want to pay attention to. Understanding the ebbs and flows between the two largest content discovery mechanisms can mean the difference between success or failure as a marketer.

New research from, an analytics company that works exclusively with major digital publishers, found that among top publishers in’s network, Facebook is now driving more referral traffic than Google.

New research from suggests that Facebook now drives more traffic for digital publishers than Google.
New research from suggests that Facebook now drives more traffic for digital publishers than Google.

This shift can easily be overlooked because, in many companies, social media and SEO are owned by different stakeholders, and often on separate teams, but these channels are often the two biggest traffic sources for websites. In fact, for the segment analyzed in’s study, social accounts for 43% of traffic, and search accounts for 38%.

referral sources for publishing sites
Facebook and Google the top referring sources for major publishers.

Facebook’s much anticipated publishing product, Instant Articles, is causing a stir among publishers, but as Facebook continues to add value, it’s publishing prowess will become more and more difficult to ignore.

As a marketer looking to drive traffic to your site from social channels, it’s valuable to understand not only which channels are driving traffic, but how that traffic stacks up to other sources, and what you should be doing differently.

Identifying Relevant Social Traffic

When analyzing traffic sources, sheer volume is a good identifier, but not the only one you should focus on. Social traffic should be judged based on quality as well.

To give some examples, lets use the Simply Measured Traffic Source Analysis. This report brings in data from different social channels like Facebook and Twitter, and matches it with our Google Analytics data to give a more holistic look at social traffic than I’d get with either native analytics tools or Google Analytics alone. This is analysis that you can do by parsing together various data sources, so I don’t want to sound too promotional, but I can’t really hide my bias here anyway.

1. Identify the Networks Driving Value

Social traffic to your website

The first place to start is by looking at which network drives the most traffic to your site. Is Facebook your biggest driver? Or perhaps somewhere else? Contrary to the study, our biggest social traffic source at Simply Measured is Twitter, although there’s been a recent surge in Facebook visits that is worth looking into.

2. Compare Conversion Rates

website traffic conversion rates from social media

By comparing conversion rates from different traffic sources, you’re able to get a quick look at the quality of traffic coming from each place. Pick a metric that’s most relevant to your company. This can be any of the goals you’ve set up in Google Analytics, like time on site, pages per visit, or a combination of each of these that help you score visit quality.

3. Take a Cue from Keywords

search keywords to use for social

One of the most valuable ways to tie search data to social is to understand the keywords that drive traffic to your site. If you know how people are finding your business, you can learn how to promote it.

4. Cross-Reference Landing Pages

Screen Shot 2015-08-26 at 2.16.02 PM Screen Shot 2015-08-26 at 2.15.52 PM

If you have blog posts that crush for search, identify the key factors that are leading to that success and apply them to social. The same is true in reverse. If you have content that’s killin’ it on Twitter, but falling flat on Google, what meta data are you missing that you might be including in your Tweets?

Stay Tuned to Trends

Most importantly, stay informed about trends in the market, especially when it comes to Facebook. The social network is changing rapidly for marketers, and it’s important that you understand how these changes impact your brand and strategy.

Kevin Shively

I lead marketing for Simply Measured. Recovering journalist. My team is embarrassed of my hilarious jokes. Firm believer that the best marketers are the best storytellers and the best storytellers use the best data.

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