Facebook Referral Traffic To Publishers Now Seem Stabilized

Do you remember that last year, Facebook’s head of news partnerships, Campbell Brown openly told publishers that they should not depend on Facebook for their business plans or referral strategies?

Well, a year down the lane, according to Parsley data, Facebook still stands as one of the most reliable sources of referral traffic available to publishers. In fact in the past 11 months of 2019, the slope has been pointing upwards and much of the credit for this goes to the noticeable decline in the month-to-month variability in referrals which Facebook gave to the publishers.

Facebook: a slow and steady turnaround

Going deep into the statistics, the average month-over-month change in the number of referrals from Facebook has been absolutely zero, a slight rise to 0.04% and a standard deviation of 8% (8% increase to 8% drop). This change is less as compared to the 2% increase every month which was recorded by Parsley last year, along with the fact that deprioritization of publisher content was just announced at the start of 2018. Moreover, if we talk about the overall growth in 2018, it was volatile, especially for the first part. As per Parsley’s data again, the standard deviation in 2018 was 10% (-10% to 14%) and -13% to 7% in 2017 (including the month-over-month change of -3%).

Although being slow and steady doesn’t seem very favorable but after years of referral going up and down, publishers are more satisfied with the fact that finally the internet’s second-largest source of referral traffic would be more consistent.


The sudden steadiness from Facebook began back in August 2018, exactly six months after the news of deprioritizing publisher content came out. A lot of publishers experienced significant drop in referral traffic and the announcement even took away the lives of some media companies as well. For those that survived, first the Facebook traffic increased steadily and then the number of referrals Facebook sent to publishers in Parsley's network rose 14% in 2018.

The steady growth is the same till date, however Facebook referrals are far below 2017. If we further analyze the difference then as times have changed, publishers have also found new ways to use Facebook to reach out to their audience. More recently, some publishers have even raised the spending budget for Facebook all with the aim to distribute commerce content or subscription offers to the readers or the ones who like readers.



And as rightly said by Leigh Silver, the founder of the marketing consultancy SilverSight Consulting, this seems to be the reason of steadiness. Gone are those days when hacking tactics used to work for growth. It’s time to do the right investment to capture the attention of already low traffic.

Read next: Will Facebook’s Recently Announced Privacy Tool Actually Be Released?

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