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Under pressure from a greater number of search ads and the rise of social platforms, organic search’s contribution to brand site visits has been falling over the past couple of years. But that appears to have stabilized in recent quarters, according to new data from Merkle [download page].

Merkle’s Q3 2018 Digital Marketing Report reveals that the share of total site visits produced by organic search was 26% during the quarter. That was relatively unchanged from the year-earlier period, after having declined from 30% share in Q3 2016.

It’s a similar story for organic search on mobile devices. Organic search’s share of mobile searches was 25% in Q3, down only a point from the year-earlier period (26% in Q3 2017), after having declined from 29% in Q3 2016 and 34% in Q3 2015.

Majority of US Organic Search Visits Produced by Mobile Devices

Mobile devices accounted for 56% of US organic search visits during the past quarter for Merkle’s clients, up from 53% in Q3 2017 and 48% in Q3 2016, reflecting broader mobile device usage in the US. (Earlier this year, comScore reported that smartphones now capture two-thirds of US digital media time.)

Smartphones indeed far outpace in tablets in organic search visit share, per Merkle’s data, and are on pace to soon hit half of all organic search visits. In Q3, smartphones produced almost 48% of organic search visits, with tablets accounting for slightly less than 9%. Although tablets’ share of organic search visits has remained relatively steady over the past couple of years, declining slightly, smartphones’ share has grown 10% points in just 2 years.

Social Share of Visits Dips

Compared to search, social is only a small player in terms of traffic referrals. (Of course, it depends on the sample used – for news and media sites, Facebook only recently fell behind Google in referral share.)

Nonetheless, Merkle’s data indicates that social media sites produced 3.4% of all site visits for clients, down from 3.8% a year earlier. Social referred more traffic on mobile – 4.2% share – but that was also down slightly from the preceding year (4.5%).

The growth engines for social are Instagram and YouTube, which referred 111% and 70% more visits to brand sites year-over-year in Q3. By comparison, while Facebook is the main social referrer of brand site visits, its visits were down by 13% year-over-year.

The full study is available for download here.

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