TikTok appeals as search, referral traffic falls

May 19, 2024 at 12:13 pm by admin

While the Paris Olympics and the US presidential election may drive an increase in search traffic, it’s unlikely to rebound to past levels.

Yet while new research indicates a decline in important organic search, optimism remains.

These are the main findings of a survey of 115 publishers by tech provider Arc XP in partnership with Digiday. In an INMA digital strategies blog, Arc XP marketing head Dorinne Hoss says news companies have weathered significant shifts and declines in search and referral traffic in the past few years.

“Search traffic has declined overall for most publishers with Google changes and consumer behaviour shifts,” she says. “At the same time, referral traffic from social media, news aggregators, and other channels has also fallen.”

All the survey respondents said search traffic had a “moderate or very significant impact” on their annual revenue, but most experienced a decline between one and 20 per cent in 2023.

News companies experienced traffic declines across the major search channels, including Google (Search, News, and Discover) as well as Bing and Yahoo. “These declines are likely due to a combination of algorithm changes and shifts in audience behaviour,” says Hoss, “for example, more users are turning to AI tools or TikTok for information instead of search engines.”

She said news fatigue was another potential cause of search decline as many sought to avoid reading negative news.

Respondents said search traffic decline impacted their revenue most through decreased advertising ROI (50 per cent of respondents) and reduced affiliate programme performance (also 50 per cent). They also cited a change in the quality of their audience (49 per cent), followed by decreased marketing ROI (43% of respondents).

Publishers said they were responding to the decline in search traffic by increasing their focus on other channels. Three quarters said they were now focussing on creating short-form original vertical content for TikTok and other social channels, and 73 per cent were increasing their presence across social media channels overall. “Live streaming, long-form video content, and direct traffic efforts like newsletters and owned podcasts are also popular tactics.”

Hoss also said publishers were facing challenges in getting the right data analysis and insights (60 per cent) and keeping up with constantly changing search algorithms and updates (56 per cent).

“Conducting thorough site audits, analysing site analytics, and keeping up with hundreds of changes from search engines every year requires specific technical skills and bandwidth that could be a stretch for many news media teams,” she said.

To a question about their response to AI, nearly all (95 per cent) said they had taken “some form of action” in the past year to address its impact on their search traffic.

She said publishers’ cautious optimism about 2024 might reflect confidence in the tactics they’re implementing to rebuild their long-term search traffic. “But with platform changes, user behaviour shifts, and the emergence of AI, it’s likely search traffic will never fully rebound to the level experienced in recent years – they’ll need to continue exploring ways to boost traffic across all channels, including owned and third-party avenues.”


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