Pinterest Dominates Social Referrals, But Facebook Drives Higher Performance

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by Yieldbot
Monday, September 23 rd, 2013 -- 10:44 pm

[Republished from Marketing Land]

Publishers in women’s programming verticals such as food and recipes, home and garden, style and health and wellness have found a deep, high volume source of referral traffic from Pinterest.

A new study by Yieldbot, which sees over a 1.5 billion page views per month come through its publisher analytics platform, looks at the impact of social referral traffic on the advertising performance of women’s sites. The ad technology firm found that while Pinterest sends oodles of traffic, those visitors don’t click on ads at same rate as Facebook referrals.

The table below illustrates the overwhelming dominance of Pinterest among the top social networks referring traffic to women’s sites. The exception is on mobile where Facebook refers significantly more traffic than Pinterest. Twitter and Tumblr barely register.

yieldbot-views-by-social-network-referrerNow, compare the volume of referral traffic by these social networks to the click-through rate (CTR) on ads from that traffic. Facebook — desktop and to a larger degree mobile — outperforms the other networks by far, while Pinterest lags well behind.

Click-through rate by social network referrals

Publishers that monetize based on ad clicks may now be raising their eyebrows. As AdAge notes in their coverage of the study, 66 percent of digital advertising is sold on a CPC or other performance-based metric according to the IAB. Whereas just 32 percent is sold on an impression basis.

What’s a publisher whose site is primarily monetized by ad clicks to do? Is Pinterest the revenue-driving dud it appears to be?

When I asked Yieldbot CEO Jonathan Mendez if Pinterest still drives more volume of ad clicks than Facebook despite the lower CTR, he replied, “From a volume perspective yes, orders of magnitude more clicks are from Pinterest than Facebook.”

So, yes, Facebook referrals drive a higher concentration of performance, but Pinterest still wins the volume game.

That said, social channels on the whole don’t perform as well as other channels in generating ad clicks — 36 percent below average. Mendez says that is due in part to the fact that the ads are not geared toward social referrers and sees opportunity in this area.

In particular, “publishers need to do a better job of generating volume on Facebook,” writes Mendez.

When asked by email whether Tumblr and Twitter’s poor showing is a reflection of low activity on these platforms by women’s sites or if referral performance is truly dismal, Mendez replied that publishers outside of news and entertainment haven’t figured out how to use Twitter and Tumblr to engage and drive traffic to their sites. He ads, “Don’t forget, many pubs spent the better part of the last few years focused on building apps and getting installs at the expense of inbound web marketing.”

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