It’s no secret that Facebook’s referral traffic to websites is huge. What’s more surprising, perhaps, is just how rapidly the company got to that point.
In the last year, Facebook’s sharing power has more than doubled, according to a recent report. In September 2013, Facebook drove 10.37 percent of websites’ overall traffic, based on a survey of 300,000 websites across a range of sizes and categories (fashion, sports, religion, news, the list goes on). In just the past twelve months, that number increased to 22.36 percent, making Facebook the undisputed social referral king. In comparison, the next biggest social referrer, Pinterest, drives only 5.52 percent of overall traffic. Twitter, the third largest social referrer, is a pittance at 0.88 percent.
These numbers were published the same day as a widely shared New York Times article about Facebook’s power over publishers. With Facebook’s rapid traffic referral ascendence in the past year, Google is no longer the only algorithm mistress in the game. The stats show that content creators are right to fear their new overlord.
The stats come from Shareaholic, a company that offers plug-in tools for publishers to help them grow their traffic. Its Social Media report comes out quarterly, tracking the rise and fall of the companies routing the traffic of the web. Shareaholic pulls the data from the sites that use Shareaholic’s products. It’s not necessarily a foolproof estimate, but 300,000 sites is a trustworthy sample size, one that gives us at least a rough indication of the traffic referral trends.
The other piece of news from the study, aside from Facebook’s uninterrupted referral dominance, is Pinterest’s continued climb upwards. Pinterest should no longer be discounted as the cheesy domain of Midwestern middle-aged soccer moms. Whomever Pinterest’s audience is – and it’s still overwhelmingly women – they are responsible for Pinterest’s website referral power, which is nothing to laugh about. Pinterest drives 50 percent more traffic to other sites now than it did last year. It’s still a miniscule number — 5.52 percent of total website referral traffic compared to Facebook’s 22.36 — but it’s far more than all the other social sites combined (Twitter, Google+, YouTube, StumbleUpon, Reddit, LinkedIn).