I just checked our blog stats for the month of June and a whopping 18.5% of our traffic came from Facebook compared to 60% from Google. I nearly fell off my stool after seeing that and it dawned on me just how important Facebook is going to become to publishers and websites over the coming years in terms of traffic. Now it's important obviously to remember that we are a social media agency and I'd like to think we know what we are doing when using tools like Facebook so the traffic numbers are not going to be weighted like this for all sites but we all know that social is on the rise so I'd be confident in predicting most sites will follow our own stats in the future. So just how come Facebook is becoming so important when it comes to traffic....
Facebook Is Getting Bigger
Seems pretty obvious this one but as more people join the world's biggest social network the traffic that it sends to site will only continue to increase. This time last year we got nowhere as much traffic from Facebook as we do today but you only have to look at the graph below to understand how our traffic would increase in tandem. With over 500 million people on Facebook and the likes increasing, the real time nature of the network improving by the day and users inevitably growing the question you have to ask yourself is just how much traffic will Facebook be sending us next year? 30% 40%?
The Like Button
Fast becoming as important on the web as incoming links on Google are to Google. Pages all over the web are getting like buttons and those likes are in turn getting pushed back in to people's news streams and as a result content is getting pushed around news streams in an entirely new way. As soon as I like something on a 3rd party site that is getting pushed back to my Facebook profile and has the chance to be seen by 100s of my friends and in turn passed on to their friends. It's still very early days for the like button but as you can imagine this is only set to grow and increase links between publishers and Facebook further over the coming years.
The bigger your site gets the more likes you generate. The more likes you have the more people you have within your community and the more people within your Facebook community the more traffic that will ultimately end up back on your own site. Facebook will become like a drug to publishers because the more that they need to rely on it for traffic and the bigger their community gets the deeper they will integrate it throughout their site.
The Captive Audience
Lots of people find this blog through Google when they are looking for certain subjects but more often than not they come along, read the post and then head off never to be seen again. People who read a post and like us on Facebook are people who hang around for as long as ourselves and Facebook are around. We have over 5000 people who like our page and when we publish a story and link it up on Facebook those 5000 people are going to see that link, can you imagine the power of that? That is something that Google just can't compete with.
The Shareable Content
Good stories spread around Facebook in a way that they could never spread on Google. Facebook have been very quick and nimble in the way the way they spotted the threat from Twitter in terms of real time content and have integrated the stream and sharing features right at the heart of Facebook. Google is the ultimate destination for users who want specific search terms or products and places etc but the content is static so if and when I do find a great blog or restaurant I can't share that with my friends and that sharing is the key and what Facebook have down to a fine art.
Real Time Factor
Google have made some changes to their search pages to try and keep up with the real time nature of the web including integrating real time search results but it just doesn't seem to be working at all for them. If I publish a story here on the blog that is topical and newsworthy it will spread a lot faster on Facebook than it ever will on Google. How do people hear about the news on Google? They don't, they usually hear about it somewhere else before going to Google to look for it. Facebook sits in the middle where news and interesting stories will often pass through a users stream. If people find my story interesting enough they will like it or even share it passing it on even further through the Facebook ecosystem.
How Do You Benefit From Facebook?
If you have a website, are a publisher or have a blog and are not integrating Facebook with your site I think you would seriously have to start thinking about doing that now. The good news is that it is not too hard and that lots of people are probably already sharing your content via Facebook. The key is to make it even easier for your readers to share by doing simple things like setting up a page and adding share and like buttons to your site. It's time to start thinking of Facebook as a platform rather than a closed social network. A Platform that has 500 potential readers is too big to ignore as a publisher. The biggest question of all to ask is where could this be heading in a year's time? In the same way that sites currently rely on incoming links to grow traffic at the moment on Google I firmly believe likes on Facebook will play a similar role in the coming years. If you want to increase your traffic then I would suggest the first place you look is Facebook.