Facebook, Twitter send more traffic than Google

Liz Gannes posted that Perez Hilton is now seeing more traffic coming in via Facebook than Google.


My colleague Udo Szabo at Nokia HQ in Finland has a theory that I call the Unified Theory of Interweb Economics. The theory goes something like this:

  1. Advertising is a function of your traffic volume, the more traffic that comes to your site, the higher rates you can charge.
  2. Social sites such as Facebook and Twitter have a lot of link sharing going on as friends post links to share them with each other.
  3. When Facebook and Twitter send more traffic than Google search referrals, advertising dollars will follow the source of that traffic.
  4. Google’s dominance in online advertising will be threatened.

One would think we’re seeing the first hints of that with perezhilton.com and it will take a long time before we see this trend across the board. But in hindsight this is obvious and looking at my stats for the past month I find that 44% of my visitors are coming from search engines and 45% from referring sites with a vast majority coming from StumbleUpon, a social site for sharing links.

The more you think about it, the shift in balance of power has already taken place.  SEO is still a big industry but now there are companies that will help you with SMO (“social media optimization”).  On twitter we’re starting to see scam artists try and insert themselves into the conversation just as they used to do with Splogs.

And so the wheel turns round once again and there appears to be a new king of the hill – AOL Keyword > Yahoo Category Link  > Google Keyword Ranking > Social Site referral.

The jury’s still out as to which social site will send you more links but it’s looking more and more like Facebook. We used to have the Digg effect but no one talks about that anymore. Twitter certainly has the ability to send you a bunch of traffic in short order but the audience is still mostly the early-adopter set and any traffic will most likely be short-lived as the re-tweets scroll into the past.

Facebook, with 175 million users, certainly has the right broad-based distribution to broadcast a link and send back traffic. They have added new features such as FriendFeed’s “like” feature to make quick sharing easy. The Facebook Connect and Comments widgets also will help insert new links into Facebook for redistribution.

But while it’s great to get an influx of new visitors via a social site, it’s no good if it’s not a lasting reference. Has the pendulum swung to far the other way? There are some searches that work great on the real-time web, the latest viral video comes to mind, but others such as the listing for your local plumber just don’t work on something like twitter. Not that it’s worth anything but I still get a regular influx of traffic because I’m the #2 listing for insulting british slang even though the post is over three years old.

I think it’s fair to say that the social sites such as Facebook and Twitter will erode Google’s monopoly on online advertising. Google’s never been really good at building social sites and have shared in the growth of social networking in the past by providing the advertising engine for the most popular social sites. What happens with these sites start to go direct to the advertisers? Will Facebook advertsing revenues come from traditional cost-per-click/auction model or is some other type of model required to succeed in a social networking site?

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13 thoughts on “Facebook, Twitter send more traffic than Google”

  1. Interesting estimate for direction shifts in advertising dollars. I perceive link following and ultimately user actions/purchases happening because of two fundamental components. 1)Content 2)Trust You get users to spread your message because something about your web site is contagious and worthy of sharing. You get people to sign up/purchase something because they trust your business/site. Social media can provide a powerful trust element, we instinctively trust our friends. It also turns out that our friends are familiar with information that interests us, so they can make relevant reccomendations/link sharing. More thoughts to develop on my blog. Thanks for sharing the post on AVC’s blog Ian

  2. So I have gotten to this post by this circuitous route: WallStSource started following me on twitter, I didn’t know who wall st source was so I went to the twitter feed. Hmm, a few things caught my eye, GM and CAW interesting, not anything I can act on in retrospect but interesting. So I look look look at the twitter feed and other interesting snippets, I wonder what the web site looks like. My first impression it’s sort of a Drudge of business stuff. I have no idea if I’ll agree with that statement in 10 days or even 10 minutes from now. But look, there is something about twitter and facebook eclipsing google for sending leads to Mark Cuban, ok heard of him (I think of course there’s probably 100 Mark Cubans in the world so maybe this is the same one maybe not it’s getting hard to tell without research which I’m relegated to doing myself since the disintermediation of the press and publishing). Hmmm, so now I’m looking at Marks site (in retrospect as I’m writing this comment did I go to his site or his twitter feed….can’t remember anymore) and yea this is probably the guy I’ve heard of. There’s interesting stuff here including …..facebook, twitter send more traffic than google. And here I am at……hmmm…. another pretty smart human …… seems there’s alot more of them out there than you might guess from going to the local ….. (insert your own local joint full of dolts).

  3. That’s so cool. Thanks for sharing the route to which you discovered this post. I’m seeing some traffic coming from my comment on Mark’s post, shows you that good ol’ comments are still an important source for traffic too.

  4. Thanks Ian. It wasn’t till your reply that I realized the entire text of my comment didn’t fully post. So here is the rest (hope you still think it’s cool) (continued from above) Ok, so I have now used up 30 minutes that I should have been working on something else. I’ve learned about REALLY interesting people who I’d love to know more about but there’s 50 other REALLY interesting people I’ve heard about also and I can’t get back to because there’s only a certain amount of time in the day. I am Curious, most certainly to my detriment. The smartest guy I know has built a 700 million dollar company and won’t come near any of this I’m told because he is a curious guy as well and he figures his time will get swept up in being curious about everything. I feel the same way. It used to be the barrier to entry in writing interesting stuff was to get in front of a publisher and have them decide to spend money to get your writing to the world. The world could look for publishers they trust and get the “feeds” from them, targeted and filtered by someone they trust. Intermediation at work. Facebook and Twitter have broken that down. Will Drudge like sites be the “answer”? Is there an answer? Should there be an Answer? Curious minds want to know before they are overwhelmed by a tsunami of really interesting stuff and wind up in the funny farm.

  5. @Bill – thanks for the comment. The problem of trying to figure out which signals you need to pay attention to has been around since people starting speculating on shares of companies under the Buttonwood Tree on Wall Street. When it comes to applying technology to the problem, financial forms have an endless pool of resources so they are a good place to look for innovation. David Leinweber, currently a professor at UC Berkeley’s Hass School of Business gave an interesting talk in February 2008 which gave a great survey of the state of the how technology is being used in the financial industry: Slides:


    So this is coming from financial professionals using the web to get a jump on news in order to profit. For how this all applies to our everyday life think about the flipping the problem on it’s head. Here’s a post I did a while back on the topic. It’s not information overload, it’s filter failture:


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