Facebook Fan Page Referrals Decreasing from Search

Posted on 11. Jun, 2012 by in Digital Marketing



The blending of Bing and Facebook to create a well-rounded social search experience has been well documented, with the most recent announcement for the US seeing this develop further still. These recent  changes included the ability to get a 2nd opinion from friend’s right within your results pages. Google have been seen to heavily push “Search, plus Your World”, alongside their own set of social annotations.

Thinking about this and how these changes impact visits to social sites, I would of expected Facebook Fan page referrals to increase from Bing and decrease from Google. Assumptions aside, we now have a data sample to find out!

Initial Thoughts & Scene Setting

PageLever, a Facebook Analytics company, put out some stats mid-May that highlighted Facebook Fan Page Referrals are decreasing from search across multiple engines – an interesting statistic that coincides and expands upon some of my thoughts on Search, plus Your World. In January this year,  I highlighted that the increased prominence of a fledgling social network within a large search engine such as Google wasn’t a great idea. I also noted that it may go as far as damaging the quality of the results that are being provided to searchers. In light of this, I appear to of been incorrect in one respect, as SPYW doesn’t appear to have driven the impact I suspected it would at the time.

Facebook Fan Page Referral Data

The data set highlights that Facebook Fan page referrals are decreasing from search right across the board, from both Google and Bing. (Please ignore before / after plus within the diagram). With the initial article over on their site being run primarily as a SPYW story, the data really is a lot richer than that, as has since been highlighted by Search Engine Land. Their initial story was centered on SPYW, however has since been revised after further commentary from the community, really cementing some of the clear take a ways from the data.

  1. Google averaged 9.25 external referrals per day, per page. On the 7th January 2012, this dipped to 4.52 per day per page, a drop of 51% – 3 days before the launch of SPYW
  2. Bing’s referrals dropped 59% year on year, from 5.19 per day, per page to 2.09 per day, per page
  3. Bing’s traffic mirrors Google’s, yet seems to have a two week delay when assessing peaks and troughs

Is Facebook Now Deemed Less Relevant?

There are a number of findings and conclusions that we can begin to identify from reviewing this data set around relevancy.

The implementation of SPYW doesn’t seem to of had a massive impact, out-with a wider reduction that has been seen within Bing as well. With this finding, it’s possible to draw the conclusion that this reduction may just be separate algorithmic change within each engine to improve relevancy. One of these changes could potentially have taken place in January this year within Google.

Reviewing the trending in general, it appears that traffic from Bing mirrors Google, except with a delay. The cause of this is unknown, however we do already know that Bing uses click through data from its toolbar to tweak results. It is however extremely unlikely it is anywhere near enough to cause this type of mirroring.

Final Thoughts

In summary, with Bing now pushing the integration of Facebook further still – will we see referrals spike off the back of this change? Or will the trend continue where-by we see less traffic being driven to Fan Pages on Facebook in general?

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  • http://twitter.com/TheJW Joe Wyman

    Danny Sullivan’s article on Search Engine Land in February told of Google’s suspicions toward Bing’s mirrored results from the MSN toolbar. Google set up a sting operation, creating a code that would allow them to manually rank a page, to try to prove their suspicions. It took the same 1-3 week window as seen here for Google’s ‘fake results’ to appear on Bing, so perhaps there’s more to the toolbar argument than first thought?

  • http://twitter.com/calumshepherd Calum Shepherd

    Hi Joe, thanks for the comment.

    I spotted the study awhile back that Google carried out. However, I believe that this was for a really small sub-set of terms that were searched for within Google, whilst the toolbar was installed within the browser. This meant that no matter how small a ranking factor the click-through data was, Bing began to rank a given page for the query. Previous to the study beginning, I believe Bing had no results at all for the query.

    Applying that to this scenario, we are more than likely seeing a lot more popular queries used for the referrals from search, thus I would assume any weighting ratio for it as a ranking factor would be far less! Thanks.