Google dominated as the main source of web referral traffic…until Facebook’s Instant Articles came along. Now, Google’s AMP is dominating referrals again.
Enter mobile optimizATION
From a marketing (and product) perspective, mobile performance has always been challenging. For legacy web based systems this was especially challenging (I have worked on such systems, and they are painful!). When such systems were developed, they didn’t have ready support for mobile devices (they weren’t as ubiquitious as they are now). Thus, emerged the mobile site, a separate code base that was optimized for mobile devices.
Newer websites chose to leverage a responsive design – the responsive design allowed for one code base, and rendered the site better on mobile devices. While both approaches helped load sites better on mobile, there are inherent drawbacks. The responsive design loads the entire site (slower speeds), while the mobile site, though optimized, requires more development effort (higher overheads).
It wasn’t long ago that Google anounced favourable rankings for mobile traffic. It was not really that big a suprise – after all more than 50% of the world’s web traffic is now generated by mobile devices. With this news, Google focused on developing mobile friendly website guidelines, and Facebook took it a step further.
ANNOUNCING FACEBOOK INSTANT ARTICLES AND GOOGLE AMP
Facebook’s domination as a referral traffic generator had started garnering a lot more focus more publishers – search was, probably in the first time it its recent history, overtaken by a new channel. Continuing with the momentum, Facebook launched Instant Articles in 2015. The launch included strong publisher credibility – The New York Times, National Geographic, BuzzFeed, The Atlantic, The Guardian and the BBC News to name a few. Google followed suit, and launched its own version of a framework called Accelerated Mobile Pages. Google had a marquee list of publishers onboard, but there was an air of caution and wariness. That was until Facebook changed focus.
The initial momentum that Facebook Instant Articles had, started fizziling out. The social network originally focused on a lot of text based articles, and that recently changed to video. Publishers started getting penalized – some publishers went to the extent of dropping Instant Articles completely. It could also impact newer engagement opportunities on Facebook – like chatbots. Google AMP, on the other hand, has been gaining significant momentum.
GOOGLE AMP VS FACEBOOK INSTANT ARTICLES IN NUMBERS
Parse.ly, an audience analytics company, backs this discussion with numbers. When the company looked at its clients’ website traffic, they found 42% of external traffic comes from Google AMP! Here’s the break down.
This traction has led to Google investing more in AMP – for example, the AMP Stories feature is intended to provide better interactive content. And, it will keep getting better.
SO, Should I stop using Facebook Instant Articles?
Definitely not! Facebook has started taking active measures (such as making Instant Articles AMP friendly) to woo publishers. The focus on networks, the new feed formats, among others are all geared to revitalize the platform. How it will impact publishers and whether they can restore the traffic they had been generating remains to be seen.
Until then, it’s best to wait and watch.