According to a new set of data from Parse.ly, a major web analytics firm, Facebook has emerged as the strongest driver of website referrals among the firm’s partnering media companies, beating out Google for this notable distinction. The Parse.ly data is comprised from over 400 companies, including large media firms such as Wired and The Atlantic. Facebook was responsible for 43% of the group’s website referrals, while Google, who had reigned as the champion for the previous three years of recorded data, came in at 38%. Website referrals are considered the links that direct a user or consumer to the company’s website. The report points to a shift in a way people are finding out about news and trends, as they rely more on social media as opposed to the once dominant search engines.
The change in online behavior could come down to a difference of function. Search engines such as Google require users to enter data directly themselves before returning relevant results. This allows users to customize their search to find precisely what they’re looking for, while still relying on active input from the user. Facebook works from the user’s network of friends and its own “Like” system to populate trending content into the user’s feed. News stories posted by friends arrive among pictures and notifications, creating a customizable buffet of information options for the social media user. So while Google may still be the go-to search engine method for targeted results (apologies to Bing, responsible for only 3% for Parse.ly’s reported traffic), social media has become integrated into user’s lives to the point where it has become an undeniable powerhouse, with Facebook leading the way.
As both Facebook and Google account for 81% of Parse.ly’s traffic, companies need to modify their business practices to reflect the changing dynamic. While before it may have been sufficient to create a website that handled search engine users, companies must now also create and monitor content that caters to an audience that is being referred to them via friends and colleagues. This new category of visitors may not have even realized they were interested before their network notified them of the content. This is a boon to companies who are able to capture attention in an engaging way, and the opportunity is there for those who wish to ride this new trend that looks as though will change the online landscape for the long term.
Source: Nandita Mathur, Livemint