Tag Archive for: referral traffic

The bad news just keeps coming for Elon Musk’s X, formerly known as Twitter. A new report from Automattic indicates that the social network is sending less traffic for publishers compared to a year ago.

Twitter built much of its popularity on being a reliable way for publishers to drive interest and traffic to content because it allowed users to easily share and discuss the latest news and media.

As the site becomes more controversial and its user base dwindles, however, it appears to be sending less traffic to these types of links.

What The Report Says

From the first half of 2022 to the first half of 2023, traffic from X fell by an average of 24% based on a random sampling of 25 large and small publishers. The impact varied depending on the publisher, with some larger publishers taking particularly large hits to their traffic. 

Among the publishers that saw the biggest drops in referral traffic from X were Buzzfeed (-70%), Reuters (-67%), The Washington Post (-42%), CNN (-39%) and Fox News (-39%).

Not a New Trend

It would be easy to put all the blame on Elon Musk’s recent ownership of the social network. Along with the rebrand to X, Musk has made sweeping changes to how the platform functions including reducing moderation, introducing paid verification services, and unbanning prominent controversial figures. 

However, this is just the latest plunge in a years-long pattern of dwindling referral traffic. 

Twitter has been gradually delivering less traffic to publishers since 2018, though the pattern appears to have accelerated in the last year. 

Of course, this trend hasn’t hit all publishers. Some have even reported seeing more referral traffic this year than in the past. Still, it would be wise for publishers to keep an eye on their referral traffic and potentially make plans for finding new ways to drive traffic if the pattern continues.

Search engines and social media are battling for the top spot as the leading source of referral traffic to publishers on the web. Recent accounts suggested that social media may be taking the lead.

However new data from Parse.ly, a content analytics platform that counts Reuters, Mashable, Slate, and The Next Web among its many clients, shows that search has retaken the lead from social media as the top source of referral traffic in March of this year.


Parse.ly’s publishers saw 32.8 percent of its traffic coming from search in March, compared to 31.2 percent from social media. That is the exact reverse of results from data, when data showed social traffic outdid search 32 to 30 percent.

Overall the trends still favor social media, despite the good month for search in March. If you look at reports from further back, it becomes clear that search has been steadily losing ground. In October 2013, Parse.ly reported search was by far the dominant source of traffic at 36 percent, compared to only 22 percent for social.


Google sites were still the No. 1 overall source of traffic for the analytics platform’s clients during the most recent reporting period, with Facebook coming in second. Those two net giants were significantly higher sources than any other individual sites.