It was widely believed that social networks would eventually dominate referral traffic to websites, displacing Google search in a few years. The trend was clear, starting in 2014, traffic to websites from social networks began to exceed those from organic Google Search. The next two years saw the trend continue, with outpacing social search considerably. However, it looks like things are changing.
For the first time since 2014, Google search outpaced social regarding referral traffic to websites. In fact, in 2017 traffic to Google search increased more than previous years. It appears that the “fake news” epidemic and the steps taken to combat the proliferation of dubious links is partially responsible for the change:
“At a high level, it’s clear that social media’s tenuous grip on being the top referral category is over. After beating out search for the last three years, it’s given back the title, driven by changes to the algorithms behind Facebook’s News Feed,”
In purely numeric terms, Google provided an average of 37% of all referral traffic. Google’s share grew by approximately 7%. The biggest loser was Facebook, with a drop of 12% of referral traffic.
Another reason for the change is the positive effect that publishers see with the AMP initiative. Both users and publishers see massive increases, sometimes as much as 100% year-over-year. Google’s push for the lightweight content standard looks to be bearing fruit, increasing traffic and revenue for themselves and the publishers.