When Google announced AMP almost two years ago, the media industry responded with cautious optimism, but some trepidation. Adopting new platforms requires a risk/reward calculation from publishers: how much time/resources do you want to spend for the benefit that’s promised, but isn’t guaranteed.
For those that took the risk on Google AMP, that risk appears to have been well placed. With the addition of AMP data to our referral dashboard, Google referrals to the Parse.ly network now account for 42% of all external referral traffic.
Google sees consistent increase after lagging behind Facebook in sending traffic to pubs
While Google had long been the dominant source of traffic to media and content websites, in 2015, Facebook surpassed Google.
Earlier that year, Facebook had launched Instant Articles, and in October Google announced their AMP program.
However, the lag time between announcements, adoption, and measurable impact differed for FBIA and AMP. Our data indicates that FBIA replaced the existing user experience; it didn’t grow overall referrals from Facebook to media content in our network.
Google AMP, on the other hand, has been steadily increasing, along with overall Google referrers.
Google’s growth and Facebook’s decline, by percentage to our network, have a number of factors, but clearly AMP has contributed. While this trend existed without Google AMP, and was available to view in our live referral dashboard, this week we’ve added in just AMP traffic, which shows just what an impact this traffic source has had.
Overall Facebook decline in traffic to our network by 25%
Since we report on each network by percentage, it’s easy to wonder how this compares to absolute numbers. Did all traffic increase?
While not true for every site, on the whole we’ve seen Facebook send 25% less traffic overall, while Google has increased by 17%. AMP specifically has increased by 87%. Some of the latter may be due to further adoption by publishers
Similar trends have been found by SEO experts. Rand Fishkin, co-founder of Moz, presented at the 2017 Web Summit that the number of Google Searches has increased 10-15% since 2016, not including voice and audio searches.
What’s causing the changes
While our data gets us to this point — that Google has increased and Facebook has declined in sending traffic beyond that — we can only speculate about why. It may be different from site to site, as audiences’ actions don’t stay consistent even from topic to topic.
However, industry trends have pointed to a few possibilities that may explain the external referral trends. From a technology perspective, Google could be increasing the rate at which it shows AMP articles on search. Google’s official word is that they do not favor AMP results over non-AMP, but perhaps the adoption by more publishers has led to an improved experience for users that increases their usage of the platform.
Facebook has over the past year continuously focused on on-platform video products, including Live and now Watch. Their “Explore” experiment also points to more ways that the newsfeed may keep people from seeing articles they previously would have.
As we explore these trends further, keep your eye on our updated dashboard to see how the changes these platforms make in the coming months affect aggregate traffic trends to media sites.
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