Though sometimes it seems like we’ve been talking about it forever, Facebook became a leading referrer to publishing websites only in mid-2015, according to Parse.ly data. Around that same time, other news broke that was poised to impact traffic drivers: Google officially launched AMP.
Today, the two news stories again converge. We’ve seen Google take the “referral king” crown back, with Google accounting for 44% of traffic to our network, and 12% of external traffic to media sites specifically coming from Google referrals AMP pages.
We can thank supply and demand for some of this. According to Google, there have been more than four billion AMP pages published and over 25 million domains creating AMP pages. Google purports that AMP brings benefits that can explain the rise in referrals. The web giant commissioned a study that shows that “AMP leads to a 10% increase in website traffic with a 2x increase in time spent on page. For e-commerce websites using AMP, the study also found a 20% increase in sales conversions compared to non-AMP pages.”
While these numbers point to a fairly big success for AMP so far, multiple causes likely contribute to the big picture numbers. Some of this shift to of referral traffic back to Google, AMP or otherwise, may be result of user preference for broader sources of information. Digital Content Next’s recent research showed that consumers have low levels of trust for news they get via social media, which could be a contributing factor. And perhaps the decline in Facebook as a primary driver of publisher traffic reflects Facebook’s desire to keep people in their app to try get a grip on the shifting tide of awakened media consumers.
However, it definitely shows the success of Google’s ability to sell AMP as a non-proprietary solution, versus Facebook Instant Articles. In short, development work done for AMP isn’t constrained to one audience or platform. Our research on referral traffic to publisher websites shows that the additional benefits may be mounting.
Adoption of AMP, it seems, has not just been embraced in Google searches but more broadly across the web. Over 3% of visitors to our publishing network visit through AMP off of Google, from sites like Twitter, Pinterest, and LinkedIn. For context, all of Twitter’s referrals to publishers’ websites only accounts for 2.5% of total external referral traffic.
Whatever the cause, for publishers still considering the adoption of third-party distribution channels, or considering their continued support in 2018, understanding these numbers for your site and for the industry should play a role in decision making. Audience acquisition, engagement, and retention through them becomes not just an editorial strategy, but a product development one as well.