Social media is key driver for news consumption

No business can afford to neglect its web presence, and increasing web traffic is a key focus of most businesses with an online presence. So, how do the world’s most popular websites acquire their visitors?
Written by Eileen Brown, Contributor

Businesses are well aware of the need to have a strong online presence. But how do how sites acquire their web traffic?

Amazon company Alexa used internal records on web traffic to analyze 293,835 unique URLs across the 20 largest site categories within its data. It wanted to explore where businesses' online traffic originates. To determine if a site was a top site, it looked at all sites within a category and marked the top 10 for that category based on their traffic ranking.

To do this, it gathered data concerning the sources of web traffic to 450,000 distinct domains. It categorized these into subject matter groups based on categories, such as Automotive or Food and Drink.

It then identified the top 10% of sites in each category in terms of total traffic, analyzing how the top sites of each category compared to their less-successful competitors or smaller sites in terms of acquiring visitors.

The analysis showed that the top businesses' traffic is 72% more likely to be generated by direct searches than from the results of a search engine, yet only 1.1% of the top business sites generate their traffic from social media. Over 15% of the top business sites' traffic comes from referrals from other domains.

It discovered interesting differences in how traffic was generated across different categories, often relating to the subject that users were searching for. Although social media generally accounted for a smaller portion of traffic, it was a significant source for certain site types.

News, weather, and information sites gained a relatively striking percentage of their traffic from social media, reaching 12.2% of traffic.

Food and drink sites also saw a relatively large flow of traffic from social. Conversely, shopping, books, and literature only gained 2.6% of their traffic from social media.

Social media is key for news consumption according to study zdnet
(Image: Alexa)

Search engines play an important role in connecting businesses and customers. Direct search accounted for 64.8% of auto parts traffic -- from shoppers searching for specific parts.

Web design and HTML searches accounted for 52.6% of traffic -- again from people searching for specific services.

Internet traffic also shored highly in direct traffic, with 57.3% of traffic. Gambling accounted for 58.7% of direct traffic.

Non-standard content accounted for 26.6% of referral traffic. However, technology and computing accounted for 14.5% of referral traffic.

Keywords remain important to direct traffic from search engines. The top 10% of top sites had around 10 times as many keywords compared to other sites.

Technology and computing had 45% of traffic coming from search had 3,216 keywords compared to other sites with 293.

The top sites differ significantly in their traffic sources, so a mixed approach to traffic acquisition is recommended. No single set of tactics will guarantee an influx of new visitors, and it is important to remain flexible in your approach to traffic generation.

Social media, although relatively easy to implement across campaigns, is not the largest driver of traffic. Focus on the long-tail keywords to bring your business sustainable growth. 


Most Americans start their e-commerce journey on the couch

We are demanding more from our online shopping with free shipping and same-day delivery -- all from the comfort of our couches.

3 out 5 Americans use mobile first for surfing the web

The internet plays an increasing role in our lives today, with social media spanning half the world's population -- but there are still significant challenges for us all

Complaining users call out businesses on social media for better service

Customers in the digital age expect instant responses when they complain to brands. But what prompts their personal frustrations with a product or service?

Holidays traffic floods brands with 40% more social messages

With the holiday season upon us, how can brands equip their social media response teams for the influx of messages they can expect?

Editorial standards