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Search Solidifies Domination of Referrals

On mobile and the desktop, in Europe and North America, search is No. 1—and gaining ground

September 25, 2015 | Advertising & Marketing

Search is king when it comes to last-touch channel share in Europe and North America, according to a report from Adobe Digital Index.

Last-Touch Channel* Share of Desktop/Laptop Site Visits in Europe, 2013-2015 (% of total referral traffic tracked by Adobe)

Over the past nearly three years, the last-touch channel share of desktop and laptop site visits in Europe coming from search has grown at a modest but steady rate, reaching 47.5% of total referral traffic in 2015. Direct traffic share, on the other hand, has been shrinking, albeit at a snail’s pace, and will amount to 29.2% this year. Most other referral shares have remained largely the same. And looking across the pond to North America, the story is familiar: Once again, search has grown a small amount, up to 44.5% of total referral traffic in 2015. Direct has seen a very minor uptick as well.

Massive increases in search referral share for mobile site visits also correspond for both North America and Europe. From 2013 to 2015 search ad share has grown in North America from 24.4% to 42.9%, an increase of almost 20 percentage points. That growth comes almost entirely at the expense of direct traffic, which decreased from 51.2% in 2013 to 30.9% in 2015.

Last-Touch Channel* Share of Mobile Phone Site Visits in North America, 2013-2015 (% of total referral traffic tracked by Adobe)

Meanwhile, search referrals have climbed to 47.2% in Europe, up from 27.4% in 2013. And, again, direct traffic has suffered almost all of the losses, plummeting from 52.5% in 2013 to 33.1% in 2015.

When it comes to ecommerce conversions specifically, email leads the way in both North America and Europe. However, search is still quite a good choice for conversions, regardless of it being a relatively old channel.

Of course, marketers worried about the tiny share of traffic coming straight from banner ads or other sources would do well to remember that last-click data tells only one small portion of the total attribution story.

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