More Sites Report: “Sharing Platforms” Become Top Source for New Readers

Last month (see ) a few online publishers announced that social-media sharing platforms have become bigger sources than Google for referral traffic — those site visitors who click on links rather than typing a site’s URL into a browser from memory. Web 2.0 and VC blogger Fred Wilson says he gets more traffic from Twitter than from Google. One PC Mag writer published server logs that indicate Digg drives much more traffic to their tech stories than Google. And Twitter itself gets more traffic from Facebook than from search (Compete data ).

So it’s no surprise that social-media optimization — including integrated buttons and widgets that make sharing easier — is a growth activity across the online publishing sector. Earlier this week Adweek on’s experience with Digg optimization. (Disclosure: I work for Digg.). Time replaced its generic “share” button with a widget that pulls together recent Time stories that have been Dugg, ranked in order of most to least Diggs.

Digg Widget on

According to’s general manager, John Cantarella, the integrated approach increased traffic from Digg to Time by 164%. Time stories now end up on Digg’s homepage more than 100 times a month, up from 55 before the widget integration. The article cites other publishers (such as Newsweek and Wired) taking the same approach, with similar results. Telegraph UK experienced an eleven-fold increase in traffic from Digg after deploying the widget.

Ben Straley, CEO of Meteor Solutions, piled on yesterday in his Mediapost column, . First he added a few more names to the list of publishers for whom “sharing sites” are rivaling or beating out search for referral traffic: “Etsy recently reported that Twitter is the third-highest source of traffic to their site, and according to a Hitwise study, PerezHilton receives more of his traffic from Facebook than any other source.”

Brands such as Microsoft and Alaska Airlines (both Meteor clients, apparently) are jumping in, too.

“After working with lots of companies to do this type of measurement and analysis, we’ve uncovered some surprising results: namely that sharing drives significantly more traffic than search in some cases. On average, we’ve found that between 15-20% of unique visitors to the sites we’re tracking come by way of shared links, and there is a consistent left in conversion rates among visitors from this source….”

In one case he references, “the visitors that came to the site via shared links were1.5x more likely to convert than visitors that came from other sources including search.” Impressive data.

  1. # Ben Straley said: September 3rd, 2009 at 1:54 pm

    Hi Chas. Thanks for the mention. Your insights and observations about the value that sharing is driving for online advertisers and publishers. What’s also interesting is how “sharing graphs” chart the trajectories of links as they get passed-along from person to person and site to site. What doesn’t get revealed in standard site analytics is the relationships between various sites and communities. For example, our system shows how certain niche blogs and message boards oftentimes act as the primary source of shared content which then finds its way onto Twitter, Digg, Facebook, etc. There really is a multiplier effect when content makes its way onto certain sites or gets picked up by specific individuals. A big opportunity for advertisers and publishers is to tap into that effect and identify those sites and users that are driving it.

  2. # Chas said: September 3rd, 2009 at 5:30 pm

    Ben–I’d love to figure out an “influencer score” for individuals within social networks, a social equivalent of PageRank. Ashton Kutcher has more followers in Twitter, but I’d rather have David Armano retweet something I’ve posted. In Facebook I bet there’s a similar phenomenon, where people who may not have the most friends have the most active-sharer friends or have unique abilities to motivate their friends to share stuff. Maybe your next column?!

  3. # Sharing Is Good, So Does It Matter With Whom You Share? said: September 28th, 2009 at 11:32 am

    [...] Perez is not alone. Twitter gets more traffic from Facebook than it does from Google. The top referring site to Fred Wilson’s AVC is Twitter, and for some sections of PC Mag it’s Digg. (More on that here.) [...]

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    [...] Platforms:  Chas Edwards has a great post that summarizes the importance of sharing platforms like ShareThis.  For instance, online [...]

  5. # Is there a “must-have” checklist for great content sites? (By Dave Knox) « Looppa said: October 15th, 2009 at 6:07 am

    [...] Platforms:  Chas Edwards has a great post that summarizes the importance of sharing platforms like ShareThis.  For instance, online [...]

  6. # We are now publishers by Dave Knox « TonyonMarketing said: October 16th, 2009 at 11:14 am

    [...] Platforms:  Chas Edwards has a great post that summarizes the importance of sharing platforms like ShareThis.  For instance, online [...]

  7. # Where TechCrunch Gets Its Traffic said: February 16th, 2010 at 10:57 am

    [...] stats on where big sites get their traffic. Comment on post digg_url = [...]

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