Liz Gannes

Recent Posts by Liz Gannes

How Much Traffic Does Twitter Really Drive?

Twitter drives four times as much traffic as you think it does, say co-founder Jonathan Strauss and his investor Mark Suster in a minor media assault today.

That’s because traditional analytics tools don’t always give an accurate understanding of social media traffic. For instance, when users click on links from desktop and mobile clients rather than browsers, many analytics tools label this as “direct traffic,” which is supposed to mean people who went to your URL independently of clicking on a link to it somewhere else. Strauss describes this measurement technique as “arcane.”

And more broadly, unlike other referrers such as the Web sites for Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn and StumbleUpon, Twitter doesn’t rewrite or tag its outgoing links or frame linked Web pages to maintain attribution and/or a consistent experience and/or prevent phishing. (Though Twitter has started doing some of this with its URL shortener.)

So, for instance, it’s much harder to know when a link shared on Twitter was then syndicated to LinkedIn, where it was clicked. And in that case, both Twitter and LinkedIn should share some credit for what Suster calls “last mile social media attribution.”

Strauss and Suster, of course, are pitching, which helps customers track links for $15-$50 per month. AllThingsD, for example and as a disclosure, uses similar enterprise tools from bitly.

Strauss concludes that Twitter gets credit for less than 25 percent of the traffic it actually plays a part in driving (see chart above). He writes:

  • only 24.4% of clicks on links shared on Twitter had in the referrer;
  • 62.6% of clicks on links shared on Twitter had no referrer information at all (i.e. they would show up as ‘Direct Traffic’ in Google Analytics);
  • and 13.0% of clicks on links shared on Twitter had another site as the referrer (e.g.,

Photo from Flickr user buzzsnap.

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— Om Malik on Bloomberg TV, talking about Yahoo, the September issue of Vogue Magazine, and our overdependence on Google