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Report: search drives 10X more traffic to shopping sites than social media

Report: search drives 10X more traffic to shopping sites than social media

Search is the single largest traffic driver to websites, according to SimilarWeb’s Global Search Marketing Report 2016. The findings are based on billions of site visits to a global sample of websites but reflect only desktop traffic.

The report is focused on a variety of metrics surrounding paid search. It also shows the breakdown of traffic from a broader range of sources. Below, for example, is the relative share of traffic from paid search and display advertising in a variety of shopping-related categories. As a general matter, paid search generates more traffic than display except in the “general merchandise” category.


Source: SimilarWeb Global Search Marketing Report 2016


What I find most interesting is that, in contrast to a number of bullish reports on the role of email and social media in shopping, the SimilarWeb data argue these channels drive only modest traffic compared to search. Unfortunately, the report doesn’t give any insight into which channels are most effective in generating conversions.


Across a number of paid and organic sources, as indicated, search is the largest single traffic driver, followed by “direct,” and then “referrals.” After that, there’s a big drop in volume. Social media is fourth on the list, followed by display, and finally, email, which generates a minuscule amount of traffic, according to the report.

Within the search category, paid search is just over five percent of all traffic, and organic is just under 95 percent. If mobile data were included I suspect the numbers would shift somewhat toward paid in a purely mobile context.


If you’d like to see the full report, you can download it here (registration required).

Postscript: Originally I had written that the report included both PC and mobile traffic, which was suggested by the methodology discussion in the document. I asked the company to confirm the inclusion of mobile data. Two days later SimilarWeb’s PR representative clarified that the report was desktop only. I have made changes in the article to reflect this new information.