Episode 14: Discovery vs. Search: 2018 Edition

“There are all these different little niches of content.”

Sachin and Andrew dig into how major traffic sources to content differ depending on what it’s about. People’s interests lead them to niches of content on platforms beyond Google and Facebook. Plus: +1/-1 on Facebook trending topics and GitHub.

Data that held our attention:

0:59 – High-level takeaways from the research: Google search drives a higher percentage of traffic to content about tech, business, personal finance, and sports, while Facebook drives a higher percentage of traffic to lifestyle content. This is interesting to consider in terms of the modes people find themselves in on one platform versus the other: searching with intent on Google vs. browsing serendipitously on Facebook.

Andrew: “As usual, Google and Facebook are very big external referrers of traffic to content. But as we learned as we started to dive into the category and topic level, there’s a lot of subtle differences between these two traffic sources based on which category of content you’re looking at.”

Andrew: “I think that what was really interesting about doing this study, though, is that we learned that there are all these different little niches of content on the web and they each have a different makeup of traffic. And so it’s not good enough to just take a content strategy that just goes overall at the site level, trying to acquire audience.”

5:02 – How changes in platforms could have contributed to the overall traffic distribution. For example, since the 2016 election and algorithm changes on Facebook, there’s been a more even distribution of traffic to politics articles from multiple sources.

attention for politics articles

7:55 – Digging into recent traffic trends with Google AMP and Facebook Instant Articles. Traffic from Google AMP is fairly balanced across categories. FBIA sends less traffic than AMP on an absolute scale but certain categories of content, like politics, sports, and shopping, do well on FBIA.

AMP vs. FBIA traffic

9:48 – Looking beyond Facebook and Google search to other referral sources, including Twitter, Pinterest, Flipboard, and Google News, and the categories that see the highest percentages of traffic there.

14:26 – Discussing other interesting data points surfaced in the analysis, such as the categories that perform well on Instagram (only the most window-shoppable) and the top topics in politics (guess who) and sports (football—sorry, soccer—teams and players).

Sachin: “Instagram actually comes up in only two categories. The first one is style and fashion and the second one is shopping. So that makes sense in terms of my own personal experience with Instagram…a lot of people use Instagram as almost a way to window shop.”

+1 or -1? Quick takes:

19:18 – Facebook getting rid of trending topics

21:12 – Microsoft is buying GitHub

Show notes: