Thinking About Thinking

Who Drives Web Traffic?

Posted in Technology by larrycheng on June 22, 2009

In recent blog posts by Fred Wilson of Union Square Ventures and Bijan Sabet of Spark Capital, they have talked about how twitter and facebook (e.g. social media) will surpass Google in driving traffic to websites and blogs.  In fact, Bijan shows direct data on how 17.8% of his blog traffic comes through twitter (his top referrer).  I think the topic they both raise is a very interesting one because whoever drives traffic on the web sits on a very valuable piece of real estate.  And, if there are wholesale shifts going on, then it’s truly noteworthy.

The question I asked myself after reading their posts nearly in tandem is whether their experience of who drives traffic to their blogs is perhaps unduly influenced by the fact that they are both twitter investors and are fully invested on the twitter platform.  I decided to look at my own blog traffic to see if I saw the same trends given that I consider myself an active twitter (~1,850 followers) and facebook user.  Here’s the most recent data:

Top 10 Referrers – Last 30 Days (# of visits, % of all referred visits, % of all visits):

  1. TechCrunch (3,748, 57.2%, 22.0%)
  2. PEHub (630, 9.6%, 3.7%)
  3. Google Reader (603, 9.2%, 3.5%)
  4. (555, 8.5%, 3.3%)
  5. twitter (447, 6.8%, 2.6%)
  6. (167, 2.5%, 1.0%)
  7. (164, 2.5%, 1.0%)
  8. Delicious (113, 1.7%, 0.7%)
  9. (64, 1.0%, 0.5%)
  10. (62, 0.9%, 0.4%)

Over the last 30 days, this blog has had 17,034 overall visits and 6,550 referred visits.  Here are some of my observations on the data with all due consideration for the fact that this is only one website in a massive universe of sites:

  • Vertical content sites beat general content sites. Though this blog has been written about twice in the online version of and twice in print and online versions of the Boston Globe, those outlets don’t drive nearly the traffic that vertical blogs/news sites like TechCrunch and PEHub do.  And this blog has only been written about once in TechCrunch and twice in PEHub.  Hence, despite the fact that there have been more articles on this blog in and than TechCrunch and PEHub, the latter two have driven nearly 20x more visitors than the former two.
  • Other blogs matter.  It’s also worthy to note that the corporate blog for 37Signals, a very successful young company, and drove as much traffic as and
  • Organic traffic still looms large so SEO matters.  61.5% of the traffic was organic which means that SEO matters.  I noticed a major change in organic search result placement for this blog after the TechCrunch article.  The blog went from nowhere to the top 3 on Google when you search “top VC blogs”.  In fact the other two sites in the top 3 are referencing this blog.
  • Social voting sites have been more impactful than other social media sites. Ycombinator and Delicious are social news/bookmarking sites.  They have driven more traffic than twitter and facebook by about 50%.  Ycombinator is also a vertical content site further reinforcing the first point.

While it’d be foolish to discount the rise of twitter and facebook as important channels for web content delivery, it’d be equally foolish to underestimate the stalwarts like Google or solid vertical content sites and blogs.  No matter how you look at it though, the tectonic plates underlying web content distribution are shifting.  It’ll be interesting to see who the winners are 5 years from now.

3 Responses

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  1. FN said, on June 22, 2009 at 4:26 pm

    Larry, that’s funny, I was thinking the same thing when Fred and Bijan raved about Twitter driving traffic (and in support quoted stats from their own blogs). That said, for my blog Twitter is in fact the #3 source of traffic behind direct (mostly RSS readers) and natural search on Google.

    • larrycheng said, on June 24, 2009 at 5:34 pm

      To be fair to twitter, not sure I would have started my blog without twitter. I thought twitter would be my #1 distribution channel. It’s not, but it’s still a big contributor.

  2. Katy said, on June 24, 2009 at 2:32 am

    Pretty nice post. I just came across your site and wanted to say
    that I’ve really liked browsing your posts. Any way
    I’ll be subscribing to your blog and I hope you write again soon!

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