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The Year Facebook Blew Past Google

For sites like BuzzFeed, Facebook is now the most important traffic source. By a long shot.

Rena Schild /
Peter Kafka covers media and technology, and their intersection, at Vox. Many of his stories can be found in his Kafka on Media newsletter, and he also hosts the Recode Media podcast.

For the past few years, Web publishers like BuzzFeed have insisted that Facebook was going to be more important to their future than Google.

It looks like the future arrived last year.

Here’s a chart from BuzzFeed that shows referral traffic from Google and Facebook to the site, as well as a couple hundred other sites that participate in the BuzzFeed Network, its ad/content network. The data spans the last two years, and it’s striking:

Again, BuzzFeed has been orienting itself around Facebook for years — and telling people this was going to happen for years. So you would expect its Facebook traffic to be increasing. It would also be worth comparing BuzzFeed’s data with people who track a bigger swath of the Web, like ComScore.

But BuzzFeed’s pretty darn big, and its network has some 200 other sites in it, so while we’re not looking at all of the Web here, we’re at least looking at a good-sized chunk of it.* And that chunk has watched its Facebook traffic soar in the last year, while Google traffic stayed relatively flat.

Bear in mind that Facebook took an active role in moving that blue line up and to the right. Starting last summer, it began an active campaign to push referral traffic to media sites. It sure seems to have worked.

Then again, if Facebook has the ability to inflate your traffic, it could also let the air out. Remember the Panda!

* It’s also easy to find lots of publishers that still live and die based on Google’s results, even brand new ones hatched in the Facebook age. Ask the RapGenius dudes.

This article originally appeared on

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