Content Discovery Trends: Social Media Lags Behind Search

Outbrain is a content recommendation solutions company, which is effectively the content version of eBay, Love Film and Amazon. They spend lots of their time figuring out what makes content interesting and why people read it, but also recommending content that they think fits well with a company profile. Outbrain published a report into trends in content discovery, which we at Brightfire found quite illuminating. Here’s why…

Outbrain’s findings

For starters, the report unsurprisingly concludes that the majority of content discovery still happens through direct navigation (about 66% of clicks into publisher articles come from a link on the home page, a bookmark, etc.)

However, of the remaining 33% of traffic:

• 41% comes from a search query;

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• 31% comes from a link on another publisher website or blog;

• 17% comes from large portal site like Yahoo, AOL, MSN, etc.;

• 11% comes from social (Facebook, Twitter, Digg, etc.)

Content Discovery Trends: Social Media Lags Behind Search image Outbrain Breakdown of incoming traffic 550x355

It is no surprise that direct traffic is the most common traffic generator, followed by search queries but what got me was that social media was as far down the list as it was. I thought this would be much higher so it goes to show that social media still has a long way to go before it gets an equal share of the traffic generation pie. Social hasn’t really been a major player like search or links for that long so it will take time for it to catch up with its older peers.

Another finding is that referring websites have a big part to play, and Outbrain dug down on a granular level to see which ones had the heaviest weight behind them.

The top 10 referring sites

1. Google

2. AOL

3. Yahoo

4. Facebook

5. Drudge Report

6. Bing

7. MSN

8. Twitter

9. Outbrain


Google is head and shoulders above the rest when it comes to referrals, with about three times as much traffic as AOL.

Most of these players seem like they should be in the top 10. For those of you who aren’t aware, the Drudge Report is a news aggregation website run by Matt Drudge. The site consists mainly of links to stories from the United States and international mainstream media about politics, entertainment, and current events.

Outbrain also looked at the difference in bounce rates to try and get to the bottom of after-click behaviour. As expected, for people clicking through from another content website, the bounce rate is low as people effectively continue on their journey of finding and reading content.

Social media has a high bounce rate, which is probably down to people being nosey and seeing if the content their friends read is of interest to them. When they find it isn’t to their liking, they leave without progressing on the journey.

These are all great insights into how people find the content they are looking for, how they get there and what they do once they have browsed around. This information could really help companies decide on strategy plans on where to place their content so that it’s best found.

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