In quest to replace Facebook traffic, publishers need to get back to SEO

If Facebook really turns out to be a busted flush for publishers, where’s the traffic going to come from in the future? Should everyone pivot to Pinterest? Leap to LinkedIn? Chassé over to Snapchat?

How you decide to move your platform strategy forward is your business, but getting serious again about SEO is critical.

The 12-month Referrer Dashboard published by web analytics and optimization business Parse.ly shows a green Facebook line dipping down and away from a steady blue Google line. This month, Google Search delivered 44% of all external referral traffic to Parse.ly’s customers, who include Conde Nast, HuffPost and The Wall Street Journal. Facebook sent 25%. According to Parse.ly’s data, Google has been sending people more traffic that Facebook since June or July last year, long before Facebook admitted to shifting the goalposts.

No one should write off Facebook as a traffic source. “It remains the world‘s most powerful distributor of that most precious of resources called attention,” wrote Conde Nast’s Wolfgang Blau in response to the social network’s switch back to friends-and-family content.

But with sites like LittleThings crashing out after losing 75% of its organic reach to algorithm changes, dependency is no longer an option. And with the next nearest social referrer — Twitter — accounting for just 2.3% of referral traffic, search is firmly back on the table. And these days search is Google. Although social traffic overtook search in 2015, Google has held a fairly steady 35% share of referrals for the last couple of years. And when Facebook traffic dropped last year, Google referrals increased 17%.

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