Google has well and truly taken the lead over Facebook as a referral traffic source to online articles. But recent data from Parse.ly demonstrates that publishers shouldn’t focus solely on search and social, as they represent only half the story.
To give an updated view of traffic referral sources, Parse.ly turned to its Currents product, which analyzes the 1 billion people reading 8 million articles monthly in Parse.ly’s network.
The results of the analysis indicate that search (31.8%) and social media (17.9%) combine for just under half of traffic. While that is certainly an impressive amount, it also means that largely owned and operated channels are responsible for slightly more than half of traffic to articles online.
In fact, the single most prominent way that readers find articles – besides search – is through editorial promotion. Almost one-quarter (23.1%) of traffic comes from “Editorial & Recirculation” – which refers to homepages, section pages, and other editorial promotion. Homepages aren’t dead, indeed… and keep up with those internal links..!
Another sign of this channel’s prominence: Editorial & Recirculation is actually responsible for more traffic than social media.
Meanwhile, the “Text, Email & Direct” category generates about 1 in every 7 page views (14.2%). Parse.ly notes that text and email may find appeal as sharing vehicles for sensitive topics, such as articles about Donald Trump.
Different Channels, Different Devices
The Parse.ly analysis turns up another interesting result: these different traffic channels have quite different device profiles.
Editorial & Recirculation traffic, for example, tends to skew more towards Desktops (47.2%) than either Mobiles (38.9%) or Tablets (13.9%). It may be that readers are scanning homepages and online media sites at work, whereas they’re more likely to check social media on their smartphones away from their desks.
Indeed, fully 88% of social media traffic to online media sites comes from mobile phones, compared to mobile’s 63% overall traffic average.
Finally, search engine traffic is the most representative of traffic across all sources. About two-thirds (67.6%) is mobile, while about one-quarter (26%) is desktop-based, and the remainder (6.4%) from tablets.
The full analysis is available here.
About the Data: Parse.ly’s network includes media sites such as Condé Nast, Time Inc., and Slate, as well as other companies that create content like HelloFresh, the NBA, Artsy, Strategy&, and Convene. Blogs such as Medium are also included in the network.