Do You Know Where Your External Traffic Comes From?

Search bests social for many content publishers

The next time someone tells you SEO has lost relevance, share some of the following information with the person making the claim.

According to recent data from Outbrain’s “Content Discovery and Engagement Report, Q1 2011”, 41% of external referrals to content publisher’s websites come from search.

Social media, on the other hand, only accounts for 10.5% of external referrals.

For those sharing socially, the content categories that drive the most traffic include news with 42%, entertainment with 30% and lifestyle with 13%.

With this new data, you may be wondering why social media gets so much attention, yet doesn’t necessarily attract the numbers one would expect. In a recent article from eMarketer, it states, “Industry watchers have posted that one reason for social sharing getting so much attention from the media is their outsize impact on media websites.”

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Search and content sites more engaging

The study from Outbrain also showed that referrals from search and other content sites were more engaging than social media referrals.

When it came to specifics, social media referrals had a higher bounce rate with fewer page views per session.


The user intent has to be considered while looking at this data. Users who are already engaging on content sites are actively reading and seeking additional content that interests them. Their engagement level is high at this point.

Users finding content through search are seeking specific content to help answer questions that are important to them. Since they search with intent, they want to engage with content that is relevant to them.

Social media users are typically active within a social network for entertainment purposes. They may click on links that look interesting to them, but they aren’t necessarily looking to engage with further content.

For more on this information, take a look at this recent article from eMarketer or download a copy of the study at Outbrain’s blog.


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