A Comprehensive Look at Referral Traffic from Facebook and X - Digital Ratha
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A Comprehensive Look at Referral Traffic from Facebook and X

A Comprehensive Look at Referral Traffic from Facebook and X

What does the news report say about the referral traffic on both Facebook and X?

In news that will come as no surprise to anybody who manages any website, a news report has found that referral traffic from both Facebook and X has declined over the past year, with social media traffic now contributing a much smaller chunk of your overall visitor numbers.

According to data from Similarweb and analysis conducted by Axios, Facebook referrals to news websites have declined by around 80% since September 2020.

While the traffic of X has shrunk by around 60% in the same period, it has been even more pronounced of late, as both platforms look to lean into shifting user behaviors, like short-form video, to maximize engagement.

Which, again, is no surprise.

What does Meta’s data suggest?

Based on the Meta’s data, views of Facebook posts that include links have declined by almost 50% over the past two years.

That, in part, is driven by Meta’s attempts to reduce the presence of political content in feeds because users have repeatedly told the company that they do not want divisive political debates to dominate their experience.

What’s more, has been noted as the most significant impact?

Although, it has been noted that the most significant impact has been the rise of short-form video. It currently sees over 200 billion daily views across both Facebook and Instagram.

Why has Meta been leaning into AI-based content recommendation?

Following TikTok’s lead, Meta has been leaning into AI-based content recommendations to feed into this.

It enables the platform to highlight the most engaging content to every user based on their interests instead of restricting what they can see to only the people and pages they have chosen to follow in each app.

It has been a paradigm shift for social media, which could also alter the definition of what “social” media will become.

These days, fewer people are posting personal updates to social apps, but they are consuming more content. It would make social platforms and other forms of entertainment media, not social apps, with the social elements now merging into messaging tools.

What is the outcome?

But in any event, the outcome is that fewer people are clicking on links, and Meta’s apps are highlighting fewer link posts, opting to feed into video instead.

It is slightly different on X, though the emphasis is essentially the same.

What X is looking into according to Elon Musk?

X owner Elon Musk has noted that X wants to encourage direct posting to the app. It means that link posts now get less reach than they used to, while the X algorithm also increasingly emphasizes video, in line with the usage mentioned above trends.

As a result, link posts, overall, are getting far less exposure. It ultimately means fewer clicks.

Logically, it all makes sense and is in line with the broader usage trends and shifts. But it will still have an impact on your social posting strategy.

It could prompt you to re-think how to engage your audience within each app best.

Some media publishers, on Facebook in particular, have now switched to posting a description of an article in an image post, with a link to the actual post then added in the first comment.

We tried this at SMT, while our reach on Facebook went up initially. As a result, link clicks saw no significant impact, and reach also normalized after a week or so.

It may be an option to consider and could lead to a better response, but we did not see any significant change from this. It is more mucking around because you cannot schedule comments.

Some publishers are also looking to post more visual elements, like carousels and videos, to explain all their latest posts to enhance brand engagement and drive more interest.

With referral traffic in decline, it could be time to reconsider what social media is doing for your branding and engagement efforts and whether using the medium in another way could be more beneficial in driving more subscribers, sign-ups, and more.

There is no definitive answer to this. But the stats on traffic declines are clear. It is worth factoring into your planning. There may be other ways to drive website traffic aside from posting links. But the numbers here underline that you will get different referral figures than you used to.

Do you want to know more?

Click here to learn more about both X and Meta and other social media platforms.

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