How the Facebook News Feed Changes Have Affected Traffic to News Websites

Last month, as we were putting together our Authority Report, we noticed that Facebook has been inching its way up our top twenty-five referrers list.

Authority Report Top 25 Referrers

Facebook is now listed behind Google as the number one external referrer to all Parse.ly news websites (over 5 billion pageviews, hundreds of media properties).

We, along with some of our astute Authority Report subscribers, wondered if this could be due to the recent changes made to Facebook’s news feed, accounting for higher-quality links. In the past few months, sites like Buzzfeed reported seeing a huge increase in traffic from Facebook. Many publishers wondered what it all meant for the industry.

Is it real? Are Facebook’s news feed changes the root cause? Of course, Facebook makes applying causation impossible, but after diving deeper, we’ve seen an incredibly strong connection.

 Facebook Referral Increase

It’s clear that referral traffic from Facebook drastically increased across all content, especially right around the time that Facebook announced the changes to their news feed. At the beginning of 2013, Facebook accounted for 1.8% of referral traffic to our network. At the end of 2013, it hits a peak of 5.7%.

To get a better sense for how many publishers are seeing increased traffic from Facebook, we grouped our publishers by their change in Facebook traffic. When looking at the data on a site-by-site basis, we compared only publishers with data for all of 2013 and corrected for their overall growth. Here are the results.

facebook-affect-on-sites

The results are pretty clear. Sites that use Parse.ly analytics are showing significant changes in traffic from Facebook. Over 40% of Parse.ly-enabled sites have experienced a 30%-or-more growth in traffic from Facebook in 2013. Over 60% of our sites have seen a 10%-or-more bump from the social network.

All other things being equal, this should be a great boost overall to news and content websites. Though keep in mind: what Facebook has given, Facebook can theoretically take away. While growth is good, this trend also shows the dramatic effect changes from Facebook can have on publishers. Parse.ly will continue to track the data and keep our customers informed as the story unfolds.

Has your site seen a dramatic increase from Facebook in the last few months? (Hint: you can check on Parse.ly by clicking the “Referrers” button.) Let us know in the comments, or on Twitter.

This data is part of an on-going series of reports on data and trends in digital media. Subscribe to receive the reports as soon as they’re released!

 

Parse.ly, December 19, 2013

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