Where news website traffic comes from: Google vs Facebook


The Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism has recently released some very interesting research on Navigating News Online, digging into how people navigate to news sites and what takes them away.

Among the interesting insights was data on how news website traffic comes from Google and Facebook, shown below.

Image source: Navigating News Online

A few snapshots from this data:
* Google drives 30% of the traffic to the top news sites, being the #1 traffic source for 17 of the 21 sites studied
* Most of the referrals comes from topic or news-related searches
* Aggregators of local news are particularly dependent on Google e.g. Topix.com gets almost two-thirds of its traffic from Google
* Legacy news sites with prominent brands get 28.4% of their traffic from Google
* Facebook is the #2 or #3 sources of traffic for five of the top newssites, with Huffington Post at the top with 8% and New York Times with 6%

The landscape of traffic sources for news websites is continually changing, but Facebook is certainly increasing in the mix, and other social sites will continue to rise. The mix of search engines as sources of traffic, and the relative prominence of different kinds of new sites in their search results, is changing over time. Google’s recent algorithm updates, while targeted at content farms, have also impacted the nature of how major sites receive search traffic.