Growth in search traffic, engagement: Global data insights for Q1 2021

The first quarter of the new year saw notable growth in search traffic across our global network, along with a few surprises in regions with the highest Average Engaged Time.

More insights from our first quarter research below.

Compare to our previous insights Q4 2020 | Q3 2020 | Q2 2020 

Engaged Time highest in parts of Asia, Africa

Readers in Africa and Central Asia surpassed Latin America in Average Engaged Time this past quarter at 33.9 seconds each compared to 33.4 seconds, respectively. Despite the slight margin, it represents one of the few occasions where Latin American audiences did not lead the world in Engaged Time over the past year.

In the fourth quarter of 2020, audiences across Latin America engaged with content for an average of 34.4 seconds, followed by readers throughout Africa and the Middle East (33.7 and 32.2 seconds, respectively).

Mobile referrals strongest outside of the West

Audiences in Central Asia also interacted with significant levels of content via mobile devices, which represented a whopping 87% of pageviews.

This data mirrors the last quarter of 2020, when 86% of readers in Central Asia and 82% in Africa discovered content via mobile devices. Across the rest of the world, mobile pageviews represent no less than 63%, continuing its trend as the preferred device of audiences compared to desktop.

Search referrals see rise since last quarter

Search referrals rose across the world for consecutive quarters, with 46% of pageviews in Central Asia coming from search, followed by Southeast Asia at 38%, up from 33% last quarter.

Audiences in Central Asia drove 40% of pageviews in the fourth quarter of 2020, while readers in the Middle East had driven the second most referrals at 33%. Referrals in the Middle East were flat quarter over quarter.

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The rest of the regions we track for this analysis also saw increases between 1% and 3% compared to last quarter.

Social referrals stay put to start the year

Social media referral traffic remained steady to start the year, seeing their share of traffic climb no higher than 20% across Africa, Central Asia, and North America.

Those figures are still down compared to last year, when we began to see single-digit declines quarter over quarter. While traffic and engagement have seen substantial highs in the past year, it’s possible that readers may be spending less time on social media due to fatigue or as pandemic restrictions are being lifted across the world.

Northern Europe reaches audience loyalty milestone

Europe continues to see the lionshare of traffic from loyal readers, picking up from where it left off in 2020. Northern Europe saw half of its pageviews coming from loyal readers, the first time it has reached that milestone in our quarterly analyses. Central and Eastern Europe and Southern Europe showed modest gains, with 43% and 40% of pageviews coming from loyal readers, respectively.

Our data also suggests that publishers across Latin America are starting to see the benefits of their consistently high Engaged Time over the past several quarters, as 37% of readers are now identified as loyal, up from 32% last quarter.

*A loyal reader is someone who returns to your site in at least 50% of days in a two-week period.

Takeaways from our first quarter research

Here are a few takeaways from our first analysis of 2021:

1. Search traffic continues rise

Upticks in search traffic remain consistent with what we’ve seen in the past year as major stories like the pandemic have dominated the headlines — readers are seeking the information that matters to them through search, so making sure you’re in line to answer their most pressing questions is critical.

2. Social traffic is static

Considering the above, it should come as no surprise that referrals from social media have not seen significant upticks in recent quarters — audiences are less interested in the emotional sentiments we’ve historically seen on social platforms, instead turning to search for “news you can use” types of content.

3. Engagement tactics paying off

It should come as no surprise that a growing number of readers in Latin America were classified as loyal this past quarter — the region led the world in Average Engaged Time for much of 2020, laying the foundation for a loyal readership in 2021.

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