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Search Trumps Social in 2017

by Rolando Herrera
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In 2017, social media platforms faced a significant amount of flak for “extreme content”, “brand safety issues” and “fake news”. The steps they took to curb the flood of malicious content, proved to be a catalyst for search referral traffic.

Shareaholic, the analytic platform stated that for the first time since 2014, search outpaced social in terms of the overall traffic that was delivered in 2017. As per the data published by them, search was responsible for 34.8% of site visits in 2017. Social stood in second place, accounting for 25.6% of referral traffic.

Another analytics platform Chartbeat that is used by media organizations and online publishers also reported a similar trend. The traffic from Google searches to publisher sites rose by more than 25% percent since the beginning of last year.

Social’s loses its sheen

Social has outpaced search for the last three years in succession. But in 2017, all of that changed. In its most current traffic report, Shareaholic states that social has lost its footing and that its reign as the top referral category is history. The analytics platform said that their experts analyzed some different traffic sources such as social referrals, direct traffic, paid search and organic search. The analysis was based on data that came from sites of varying sizes across categories including sports, marketing, general news, beauty and fashion, technology, food and more.

Google accounted for 36.82% of visits in the latter half of the year, topping the list of traffic referrers in 2017.  This indicated a 7% rise from its position in the second half of 2016. However, Facebook managed to hold its ground; despite its double-digit drop, it maintained its position as the top holder for shares of visits in 2017. The changes that Facebook made to its algorithm to curb spam content and fake news stood it in good stead and has had an impact on its overall referral traffic numbers.

However, Chartbeat reported that content is the most notable factor driving traffic to their clients’ websites. They dug a little deeper into the cause of this rise in sales to determine whether it was the result of a glitch in the system or the algorithmic changes Facebook made.

But that search yielded no results, and the platform channeled its attention to how mobile numbers were holding up against desktop numbers. They particularly looked at search traffic by device. The collated data revealed there was a significant rise in Mobile Google Search referrals while Desktop Google Search referrals had plateaued.

They also found there was a distinct difference in sites that used Accelerated Mobile Pages and ones that didn’t. The company reported that there was no movement in traffic to publishers that didn’t use AMP. However, in that same timeframe, there was a 100% increase in Mobile Google Search traffic flow to their AMP-enabled publishers. Over the last six months, searches have outpaced both desktop Facebook referrals and mobile.

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