The current consensus is that Facebook has become a more important source of traffic to media companies than Google is.
New data shows this consensus may be wrong.
In February, tech news site Re/code published a story headlined, “The Year Facebook Blew Past Google.“
Shortly afterward, The Atlantic published a story called, “And Just Like That, Facebook Became the Most Important Entity in Web Journalism.”
Both cited data from another outlet, Buzzfeed, which published this chart.
It shows traffic from Google and Facebook to its network of 200+ partners:
Looking at the above chart, you can see why The Atlantic and Re/code headlined their stories the way they did.
But there’s another chart that tells a much different story. It’s from search engine optimization firm Define Media Group.
It also shows traffic from Google and Facebook to a bunch of publishers — Define’s 87 clients. Define says it pulled the data directly from Google Analytics and Omniture.
Check it out:
Define also published this chart, breaking down where its clients get their traffic from:
Looking at those two charts, it’s not so clear that Facebook became more important than Google in 2013 the way Buzzfeed, Re/code, and The Atlantic proclaimed.
Now…obviously, Define Media Group has a bias.The only reason it published these charts is to remind media companies that they need to worry about optimising their content for search engines — and that they should hire a firm like Define to do the worrying.
But Buzzfeed also has a bias. It’s pitch to advertisers is that social media is a massive trend they need to be a part of, and that buying Buzzfeed sponsored content is a smart way to play the trend.
In the end, it’s pretty easy to reconcile the disparities in the charts. Clients of a SEO firm would get a lot of traffic from search. Partners of a social media powerhouse like Buzzfeed would do really well on Facebook.
The point is: while Facebook traffic to media sites is certainly on the rise, you can’t dismiss the power of Google traffic quite yet.