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On the internet, there’s Google and Facebook, and then there’s everyone else.
Digital publishers know this. They know it on the business side, where the two companies have been accounting for just about any and all online ad growth in the last couple years.
Digital publishers also know this on the referral side. Unless you’re one of the lucky few websites that is still a destination for readers, you’re playing the Facebook/Google game. Together, they accounted for 75% of all internet traffic referrals (aka when you first click on a link to somewhere else from them), according to data analytics firm Parsely.
They’re big, but they’re not the same. Parsely found that Facebook and Google tend to drive people to very different kinds of stories. Whether that’s indicative of who is using the platforms or what they’re interested in is up for debate. What’s clear is that treating them equally is a bad move.
The standout number is 87 percent — that’s how much referral traffic "lifestyle" articles receive from Facebook. Google accounts for 6.7 percent, while other referrers come in at 6.2 percent.
Google tends to dominate in newsier subjects, including technology, business, and sports.
The graph below provides insight into the various topic areas studied by Parsely.
Parsely based its research on a survey of more than 10 million articles published in 2016.
Also among the standouts is job postings. Google takes a monster 84 percent of job postings referrals, which provides some idea of why Google recently announced that it’s going to be doing more in this area.
Facebook emerged in recent years as the dominant force in digital media. The social network can drive massive amounts of traffic to publishers, but Clare Carr of Parsely’s marketing team warned against overweighting the platform’s influence.
"Our most recent data analysis shows, however, that if you use Facebook news feeds alone to judge what types of news people consume, you’ll end up with a distorted picture," she wrote in a blog post. "When on Facebook, you’ll see readers especially engaged with articles on entertainment, lifestyle, local events, and politics. Articles on business, world economics, and sports also attract readers, but mostly through Google and other long-tail referrers."