Wednesday, March 14, 2018

How important is Facebook traffic? An experiment traffic from social media and overall for March 7-13 (click to make this bigger)
I asked Orionites to help with a little audience experiment last week, asking them to post their work to Facebook with a tag to The Orion Facebook page to see what would happen to overall site traffic.

The short answer: It probably increased traffic. The number of times someone arrived on website last week was 6,488. The week of Feb. 21-18, that number was 5,148. I wrote "probably" because lots of factors affect traffic, including reader interest in particular stories. The content of the website could have been 26% more interesting.

Here's why I think it really did increase traffic. As the chart above shows, traffic on has a baseline of regular visitors and traffic goes up and down fairly dependably as social media referrals go up and down.

But how much affect does it have on individual stories?

Here are the numbers from Google Analytics for the top three stories in terms of traffic in the past week:
Fatal traffic accident - 791 pageviews, 305 referred from Facebook, 29 from Twitter = 42% from social media
Molester arrested - 570 pageviews, 88 referred from Facebook, 58 from Twitter = 25% from social media
Off-campus housing - 238 pageviews, 14 referred from Facebook, 44 from Twitter = 24% from social media
Where visitors to came from three weeks ago and last week (click to make this bigger)
Just how important is social media to website traffic? This chart shows referrals from Facebook and Twitter make up about 16 percent of arrivals (16.25% three weeks ago, 15.9% last week). More important were web searches and visits that started with someone typing in in the URL bar. Still, it's clear that a better social media effort last week was responsible for increasing traffic in proportion to overall traffic.

The increase also coincides with a PR team effort to write more engaging headlines for Facebook. I think it's important take a look at how that might have affected traffic and at whether the Facebook page had more engagement from visitors there.

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