A study conducted by BuzzFeed may finally confirm the sneaking suspicion that social is surpassing search. They report that traffic from Google to digital publishing sites has dropped 30% over the past eight months.
BuzzFeed tracked traffic referrals to over 200 publishers from August 2012 to March 2013, including: the Huffington Post, Time, Sports Illustrated, Rolling Stone, Us Weekly and Daily Mail. Although the difference between search engine traffic and social network traffic to these sites – reaching an audience of over 300 million people – has typically been up and down, this was the first time a social site had sustained a solid lead over search. The graph below illustrates this with Google and Facebook.
“In March, Facebook sent 1.5x more traffic than Google, the greatest difference we’ve ever measured between the platforms,” BuzzFeed stated. “At the same time, we’ve watched traffic from other social platforms — Twitter and Pinterest —continue to grow an audience and drive traffic to publishers.”
Search Engine Land believes the above information is a result of Google withholding from publishers the search terms people used to find them on the search engine. They suggest that these “dark areas” make the social increase less certain, and issues with mobile Safari may have influenced it as well. Either way, the fluctuations still demonstrate an alteration in digital habits.
The resulting change in both consumer and publisher behavior demonstrates the importance of having an optimized social presence. Device type – namely, mobile – is impacting this evolution as well. Users are finding less need to go out and search for information when it’s all there, presented in an easy, on-the-go format right under their best friend’s Facebook update.
Social networks are shifting to accommodate user intentions and desires, streamlining news and content. This presents an opportunity for brands to better connect with consumers, and increase digital visibility, traffic and sales as a result. Social media optimization (SMO) is the perfect solution to make this connection, optimizing social media in much the same way websites and content is optimized for search.
Although the social overtake is recent, BuzzFeed remarked that “the trend doesn’t appear to be a transient one.” It’s vital that any social media and online marketing strategy include SMO to take advantage of this trend in the growth stage.