Facebook Is Losing Big Time To Google: Referral Traffic Down by 25% in 2017 [REPORT]

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Aarzu Khan
A full-time data scientists and a part-time industry analyst; still learning power of effective presentation and firm believer of the thought "Numbers are always magical". Love to be in the network of people who 'know' how to respect their time and keep others engaged in meaningful activities.

Despite the swelling user base and increasing profit with each passing quarter, Facebook Inc. (NASDAQ:FB) is finding it tough to compete with Google, when it comes to generating referral traffic to brand websites. After dominating the referral traffic market for three years in a row, Facebook has slipped behind Google which accounted for 34.66% of overall site visits in 2017, according to the latest data from Shareaholic – an easy-to-use suite of tools to engage and grow sites visitors.

The growing popularity and freshness of the platform had helped Facebook to narrow the gap significantly with Google, in terms of referral traffic share, by the end of 2014. However, in 2017, equations changed once again as Facebook’s share of total visits tumbled down to 22.63% from 30.9% in 2016. Google started winning back the lost grounds as its share of visits soared to 34.66% from 28.56% during the same time.

In 2015, Google’s share of total site visits declined to an all-time low. It was the time when a great shift was recorded as brands, marketers and publishers had started diverting their marketing funds and efforts from Google Search to Social Media. Consequently, the net income of Facebook doubled, to $2.94 billion in 2014 from just $1.5 billion in the previous year.


It was the high time for Google to pull up the shocks. The search giant made many changes in its algorithm and introduced few new features to allow marketers have better targeting and ROI mechanism in place. The results of the efforts started showing off from the beginning of 2016.

Facebook’s share of site visit started stagnating in 2016. Between first and second half of 2016, Facebook failed to record any notable growth in its site visit share. In contrast, Google’s share of site visits swelled to 29.2% in the second half of 2016 from 27.91% during the first half of the same year.

Between 2016 and 2017, Google improved its share of site visits significantly and recorded 21% YoY Growth. On the other hand, Facebook’s share of visits declined nearly 26% YoY during the same period.

The Shareaholic report is based on the data collected from 400+ million users to 250,000+ mobile and desktop sites.


Facebook Referral Traffic Decline: CTR Is Down by 4%

It’s not a secret that young internet generation is failing to find Facebook as lucrative as it used to be a few years ago. The rise of mobile-focused social networks like Snapchat, Instagram and the exploded adoption of video content have made Facebook struggle to keep users glued. It is the first time ever in the history of Facebook when users are showing a great degree of disappointment and have started spending their time on other social networks. Facebook users are reportedly spending 50 million hours on a daily basis.


Besides, to make the platform more personalised for users, the latest strategy of Mark ZuckerbergLess is More – will have a more adverse effect on brands and marketers. The declining organic reach and increasing cost of advertising on Facebook will only decrease facebook’s share of site visits further.

Facebook is also facing another colossal problem of justifying the ROI to advertisers. Brands, especially from eCommerce industry, are spending 20% more dollars on Facebook advertising now, according to the report published by Nanigans, a company that provides software for brands to automate their Facebook ad buys and that is a part of Facebook’s Marketing Developers program. The rising competition has resulted in increasing eCPM and eCPC. But, on the flip side, the performance of the ads have dipped. Facebook’s CTR has gone down 4% YoY in Q3 2017, to 1.84%.

The rising cost and decreasing CTR on Facebook have narrowed the gap with Google advertising. Brand marketers are able to justify the ROI from Google advertisement more effectively than Facebook, which is emerging as more of branding platform and less of sales tool.

Actionable Insights & Takeaways

  • As a long-term strategy, brand marketers and publishers must keep investing in Google Search. While social media networks are mushrooming as the flavour of the month, Google search is more efficient and ROI driven platform. Unlike Facebook, Google Search is less fragmented and allows publishers and marketers to acquire qualified leads and customers besides branding.
  • The internet is indirectly controlled and dominated by Google. Be it Chrome browser or Android smartphone OS, when it comes to bringing internet users to a site, Google has an edge over Facebook. Designed and driven by the collected users’ demographic and other invaluable data, Google Search Ads offer unparallel targeting to reach potential customers besides seemingly interested visitors.


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