Search engine marketing firms had reason to celebrate in 2017.

According to analytic platform Shareaholic, search engines drove 34.8 per cent of total website traffic last year, while social media networks delivered just 25.6 per cent. This is the first time since 2014 that search has accounted for more site visits than social.

“At a high level, it’s clear that social media’s tenuous grip on being the top referral category is over,” the company wrote in a report. “After beating out search for the last three years, it has given back the title, driven by changes to the algorithms behind Facebook’s News Feed.”

2016 was a tough year for social networks.  Concerns over fake news, foreign manipulation, brand safety, and extremist content prompted a widespread public backlash against Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. In response, the networks acted to protect their reputations, even at the expense of clicks. Facebook’s News Feed algorithm tweak is the prime example: referrals from the site dropped 12.7 per cent from the second half of 2016 to the second half of 2017. Despite the drop, Facebook still referred more site visits than any other social media network.

As search engine marketing professionals might expect, search’s rise can be attributed almost entirely to Google, which accounted for nearly 37 per cent of site visits in the second half of 2017, a seven per cent year-over-year increase. The bulk of Google’s gains came from mobile search, which suggests that strategies like Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) are working.

At GrowthEngine Media, we believe that a balanced, holistic approach to digital marketing generates the best returns. While search engines may generate more traffic than social media today, the landscape can change overnight. As a Premier Google All-Star Agency with access to valuable insights on Google’s preferred practices, GrowthEngine encourages a multi-pronged digital marketing approach that includes paid search engine marketing, SEO, display advertising, and social media advertising and management.

 

Image credit: Megan Elice Meadows/Wikimedia Commons