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Ever since 2015, Google and Facebook have been locked in an epic struggle to see which one can deliver more website traffic to publishers. If you run a website, chances are that referral traffic from Google and Facebook accounts for at least 50 percent of all traffic that you see. With every new innovation, Facebook and Google promise to deliver the most referral traffic in the fastest period of time.
That should be good news for publishers everywhere, right? It means that these two titans of the Internet world are competing to deliver you the best possible results. In the case of Facebook, it means making near-constant tweaks to its newsfeed algorithm to help publishers, and for Google, it means introducing innovations like Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) to help websites of publishers load faster and appear higher in search rankings.
An advertising duopoly isn’t good for anyone
But here’s the thing: Internet advertising is a duopoly. Publishers are stuck with Facebook and Google, and there’s not much they can do about it. Case in point: Facebook’s latest newsfeed algorithm tweak managed to infuriate publishers, who saw less and less of their expensively-produced content showing up in the newsfeeds of their followers. So what did they do?
Well, they ran right into the outstretched arms of Google, which is playing up the value of its AMP solution as a way to drive referral traffic. There was simply no other option. According to Google, there are now 31 million websites using AMP, up 25 percent since October 2017. For publishers looking to regain traffic – and especially on mobile – AMP sounds like a fantastic solution: pages load faster, and you show up higher in search results, so you get more traffic at the end of the day.
Publishers in search of page views will do anything
And, certainly, Google is promoting AMP as a new savior for publishers. In February, Google claimed that it delivered 40 percent more page views to publishers in January 2018 than in the year-earlier period. And, at the same time, Facebook saw a drop of nearly 20 percent in page views delivered to publishers. It’s not hard to infer what’s going on here, especially when you see the Google traffic charts superimposed on top of the Facebook traffic charts for the period October 2017 to February 2018. It does appear that Google is taking over from Facebook as the chief referrer for websites.
That’s all part of the master plan at Google, of course. Google lives and dies by advertising, and its goal is to get publishers spending on ads once again. The more pages it delivers, the more ad money it can collect. At the same time that Google announced the blow-out-the-doors performance of AMP, it also announced that it was coming up with an innovation called AMP Stories, which surprise-surprise, is just a rip-off of Instagram Stories.
Just imagine what we can expect next in Google Search results: you’ve just entered in a search query on your mobile device, and all of a sudden, right next to real, useful search results, you have Google AMP Stories for related brands? Imagine searching for “burger restaurants near me” and being forced to wade through a page of burger videos!
What Google and Facebook will never tell publishers
Publishers need to wake up to the fact that Google and Facebook are not there to help them – they are there to take their advertising dollars. Pick your poison and hope you make the right choice, that’s about the only thing left to tell any publishers still bending over backwards to fulfill every little demand of Google or Facebook in the hopes of some incremental traffic boosts.