In 2015, Facebook usurped Google on the throne of website referral traffic across the web. Since then, Facebook has been delivering more website traffic overall than Google.
While it’s fascinating to see the competition between Facebook and Google in the graph above, perhaps just as fascinating is to see all of the gray lines of “other referrers” down at the bottom. Nothing comes close to Facebook and Google.
Facebook’s algorithm is always changing, and in September they announced a few key changes, namely the crackdown on clickbait link titles and other penalties for content that may deceive readers.
Contently.com noted that these changes are going to affect Facebook page managers in two major ways:
1. Link posts are on the decline
Facebook recently cracked down on clickbait posts that display a fake “play” button to trick people into clicking on a URL, which may explain part of the dip. But in my view, that isn’t the whole story. Facebook has long been transparent about its desire to prioritize native content that keeps you there over links that take you to an external site. It’s time to prepare for another drop in organic traffic to blog posts and other “owned” website content.
2. Paid distribution is more important than ever
For content marketers, Facebook’s biggest value is as a paid distribution network. It has the greatest combination of targeting, reach, and cost efficiency of any distribution platform. And that’s not just for B2C companies. Professional and B2B content performs much better than most marketers realize, even for niche topics such as “Logistics.”
Does This Signal Doom for Facebook?
In short, no.
In long, no, and here’s why. Facebook has been reeling from the reality that Russia used targeted Facebook ads in the 2016 U.S. presidential election to sow fake news in order to help win Donald Trump the presidency. They are cooperating with Congress to provide the evidence that Russia did this, and it shows that Facebook struggles to control the behemoth it has created.
But, amidst all of these problems for Facebook, this most certainly does not mean they are going anywhere. Facebook is busy tinkering with its algorithm and experimenting, as usual, in an effort to figure out how it can drive as much traffic to websites as it always has without being taken advantage of by bad actors with false messages.
Facebook may be struggling a bit right now, which has allowed Google to reclaim the top spot for web traffic referrals. But I doubt that will be the case for long.