Search is the number one source of external traffic for content sites, handily beating social media by more than 300%. That’s according to the Content Discovery and Engagement Report, Q1 2011 from Outbrain, makers of a popular widget platform that’s used on dozens of major publisher sites such as USA Today, Slate, Newsweek and others.
In looking at traffic from 100 million sessions in the first quarter of this year, Outbrain found that search drove 41% of external traffic, with other content sites (31%), portals (17%) and social media (11%) coming behind.
(Outbrain lists AOL Search under the “Search” category, but AOL itself under “Portal.” Ditto for Yahoo search vs. Yahoo. Other portals include Yahoo and MSN.)
Not surprisingly, Google was the primary source of referral traffic to sites in Outbrain’s network, directing almost nine times more traffic than the average site referrer. AOL’s homepage/portal surpassed Yahoo and Facebook to the the number two spot.
Search traffic is also quality traffic, according to Outbrain’s study. Reader engagement is very high with search traffic creating the highest number of average page views per session.
Outbrain also measured reader engagement via bounce rates and “hyper engaged readership” — i.e., readers who view more than five pages in a session. In both of those cases, Content Sites were tops on the charts (lowest bounce rates, most engaged readers), and search traffic was second. Social media traffic created the highest bounce rate per session in the study.
News and entertainment sites make up more than 50% of the publishers that work with Outbrain’s platform, so the results are skewed somewhat toward that type of reader. So, while it may not be indicative of web traffic on the whole, it’s still an interesting look at what’s driving traffic to content sites. You can read more and download the full study on Outbrain’s blog.