Mobile aggregators: The next major source of referral traffic

Referral traffic to content has risen in recent years due in part to a largely unknown channel — mobile-first aggregators. Here’s what we know about mobile aggregators, why they matter, and importantly, their growing influence over reader traffic.

What is the mobile aggregators story?

Mobile-first aggregators present a growth story — the referral traffic they send to publishers has doubled in the past two years. A significant portion of this growth is driven by Google Chrome Suggestions and Google News, which each grew more than 50% this year (and drives significantly larger shares of referral traffic than Twitter).

The field of global mobile aggregators is also growing. Tokyo-based SmartNews and China-based news aggregator TopBuzz have shown rapid expansion, driving an increasing amount of traffic to sites. More importantly, their growth has changed the traffic landscape. Smartnews and TopBuzz are both now sending as much traffic as Yahoo.

mobile aggregator performance

Why content creators should pay attention to mobile aggregators

Digital-first organizations are still in the early stages of understanding the primary drivers of subscriptions. However, effective strategies rely on identifying the behaviors content creators can (and want to) encourage that will ultimately lead to more reader revenue.

From our research thus far, publishers have had far less success in converting readers from mobile-first aggregators compared to more traditional channels such as email. Connecting the dots is crucial.

Mobile aggregator growth

Therefore, a deeper understanding of mobile-first aggregators can open up a whole new level of engagement, and by extension, a new reader revenue channel.

Next steps: Demystifying mobile aggregators

Based on what we currently know about mobile aggregators, here’s what content creators  should keep in mind:

Strategize around these new mobile referral sources

Overall, we see the mobile-first aggregators as more of a missed opportunity than an unsolvable problem. We believe content creators can take advantage of this mostly untapped source of traffic by understanding their unique impact and optimizing content accordingly.

Audience development tactics are needed

For too long, mobile-first aggregators have been categorized as a subset of the larger platforms (i.e., Google search) we know well. However, we believe they should be seen as their own channel, which would get publishers closer to segmenting (and therefore optimizing) key drivers of traffic.

It’s all about attribution

Segmentation of traffic leads to better attribution. The ability to uncover mobile aggregator-specific patterns and better track their impact. Moreover, it can clear the path towards leveraging the channel for higher engagement, loyalty, and conversions.

Our data shows that the growth of mobile-first aggregators has significantly upended the traffic source landscape. Publishers would be remiss to take this shift lightly, as they may be missing out on a major source of referral traffic in the long-term.

It also coincides with a trend we’ve long seen — mobile-first readers are demanding better experiences. Therefore, it’s unsurprising that aggregators have become this increasingly influential source of traffic.

A version of this article first appeared in Digital Content Next.

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