Social Sources

Google Analytics has a relatively new feature that allows you to look at your "social sources" of traffic. According to Google, about 27% of the vists to AVC in the past month came from social sources. For those who are curious about the rest of the traffic, 30% is direct, 15% is search (much of which is really direct traffic), and of the rest, about half is from social sources.

Here are the top social networks that drive traffic to AVC:

Social sources

Twitter and Hacker News have been the mainstays of the social traffic to AVC for a long time. Last year, StumbleUpon was driving a ton of traffic to AVC, but that waned early this year and it is much less of a factor today.

Facebook, Techmeme, and Disqus are the other big social drivers of traffic. 

And the traffic that Disqus drives is markedly different than all of the other social sources. These folks hang around longer, read more pages, and engage more.

If you have a blog or some other form of online media and have a Google Analytics tag on your pages, I suggest you take a look at your social sources. I think you'll find it interesting.


Comments (Archived):

  1. pointsnfigures

    for my blog, it’s being linked to other blogs and twitter. but I have a lot less traffic than avc!

  2. Julien

    I’d be interested in seeing out of this “social” traffic the portion that is directly from you sharing links (like you do on Twitter, not sure about the other), vs. 3rd party shares…

    1. fredwilson

      that would be interesting

    2. brian trautschold

      I was thinking the same thing.

  3. Pravin J

    My guess is that traffic from disqus will continue to increase over next months. The new social features are awesome – as a user, you end up discovering more context behind every user / discussion. Within its widgets, there loads of engagement in its new version – evident in the stats (its 4x of other sources).

    1. falicon

      They are def. heading in a good direction in terms of driving engagement and discovery…

    2. fredwilson

      yup. and more discovery is coming soon.

      1. Silverborn

        Cool. Discovery and personal firehose management are two of the biggest challenges out there. I get way too many notifications from my current services yet know I’m missing lots of great content.

      2. Pravin J

        fred, i think what disqus is doing here is powerful and beyond just commenting. with its follower/following modules, it is building a network of bloggers; though bloggers have existed – they connected / discovered through other platforms – like twitter / guest posts / etc. that piece was broken. this might evolve to a quora equivalent.

        1. JamesHRH

          Twitter Pro. Great insight.

          1. Pravin J

            thanks james

        2. fredwilson

          I agree that it is powerful

          1. Techman

            Now if Disqus can make a discovery that was not ad based. Sites like mine could still benefit from that.

    3. Brandon Burns

      what are these social features?all i see in my disqus dashboard are comments i’ve made, and replies to those comments. how do i use disqus to discover new content from blogs/sites i’ve never even visited? or is something else going on here?sorry if i’ve missed something obvious.

      1. Cam MacRae

        Scroll to the top of this thread and click “Community”. Despite the nomenclature it’s not entirely obvious — I just click on people to get their comment stream and explore that way. Also, dashboard does a great job in this regard.

        1. Brandon Burns

          whoa… a world of stuff sitting right under my nose. gotta remember to stop and smell the roses / click on stuff.thanks.

      2. William Mougayar

        I re-activated your Engagio account so you should receiver a Discovery email we send daily.

        1. ShanaC

          I didn’t get today’s discovery email 🙁

          1. matthughes

            Me neither.Edit: Yes I did – just came a few minutes ago.

          2. Dale Allyn

            I think they’re just a little later today. Mine arrived at 9:40 a.m. (Pacific time). Normally it’s much @5231a9041ff4388ddef31eef0b0dd0fa:disqusEdit: Weird discus funkiness this a.m. This was cc’d to Matt Hughes.

          3. William Mougayar

            Check now. We sent it around 1pm. Overnight updates messed some things up. Geez you’re good. I like it when users complain they didn’t receive it. That means it is valuable 🙂

          4. fredwilson

            She’s a noticerThat’s a compliment

          5. William Mougayar

            Yes, it was a compliment. (we’re changing some plumbing on the inside)

          6. awaldstein

            Email is so powerful but non trivial on a tactical level to get perfect.I’ve been saying that for a decade or more! still true.

          7. ShanaC

            why thank you :p

          8. Abdallah Al-Hakim

            People do seem to love the Engagio newsletter!!

        2. Brandon Burns

          i didn’t realize it was deactivated! i still get / use the daily email. which i think i actually get every other day.

      3. Pravin J

        as a blog-owner, one gets to manage own community of commentators. you are able to discover what other blogs are these users active on. – discovery other posts / users / a user, when you get to discover top community members of any blog (say in this case). discover their posts and other content they look up disqus is spreading to more sites – one gets notified on every other site disqus is embedded on. this makes engagement with other users possible.

        1. awaldstein

          Cross site, Disqus web-wired discovery has and continues to be the inspiring promise of the future.

          1. Pravin J

            nice perspective. never thought this works for me.. i read lot of blogs; comment on very few; and write one post a month on my blog. for frequent bloggers like avc; it should be a different use case. like you said, maybe this is how this vertical will continue to be. Few blogs / portals will drive the system.. (similar to twitter.. few users have large followers, a smaller set will discover other users through interactions).

      4. Techman

        The discovery box is found on the actual embed on websites. It is at the bottom of a comment thread.

    4. Techman

      Of course, the new Disqus continues to encourage high quality discussions. Disqus was #1 in my top 3 after Discovery live for most of Disqus 2012.

  4. bridgetwi

    Surprised how low Linkedin is for you. Many months, it’s our biggest social referrer.

    1. fredwilson

      i don’t promote my posts there

      1. bridgetwi

        We don’t either but we do have the LI button embed. That is the algorithm that starts the Linkedin Today referral machine, if I’m not mistaken.

  5. JamesHRH

    Do you consider SU social or search or some other category?

    1. fredwilson

      i am mystified by SU…

      1. JamesHRH

        Garrett has a unique ability to turn concepts into products.SU – make internet work like TV remote controlUber – car service without the overhead costHe is working on his third act…….

  6. Mark Essel

    The hacker news users load the page, scan the title and the first few words then bounce – 21sec. Just about the opposite of the Disqus traffic which hangs around and digs in.

  7. awaldstein

    Hacker news time on page is surprisingly low for such a high percentage of your traffic.

    1. Elia Freedman

      Jumped out at me, too. StumbleUpon is the same way. I’m certain you couldn’t read one of Fred’s posts in 20 seconds. Maybe just long enough to form an opinion and move on without reading the article? Or, since Hacker News only shows the title, most of them are rubber-necking, trying to figure out if it is an article worth reading?

      1. awaldstein

        Time on site, page views, old/new visitors are my quick look metrics.For a blog page views are low but it’s logical though that new visitor will jump and check other posts.Sample size is big so this analysis is a juicy one to dig in on.

      2. Cam MacRae

        The HN value proposition has traditionally been in the comments*, so it doesn’t strike me as unusual that they’re clicking through, reading the lede, and returning to the action.*Rant about decline of HN omitted out of compassion for Fred’s audience.

        1. Elia Freedman

          * And apparently not making snarky HN comments keeps you from getting downvoted. Thanks for the restore 🙂

      3. Cam MacRae

        Restorative +1; vote equalising superpowers unleashed.

      4. ShanaC

        rubbernecking is fine if you want to maximize pageviews. I also suspect that the actual posts fred writes can be read in under 60s – and as hackernews peeps want to talk on hacker news, the comments here aren’t so important

        1. Elia Freedman

          I visit HN once a day. It’s a great place to find a wide variety of fairly interesting articles. But since it only shows the title, sometimes you don’t know if the whole thing is worth reading unless you click over first. So I’m sure that HN can create a huge amount of traffic without massive long times in the site, since a great majority will click over just to see if it is interesting.

          1. fredwilson


    2. William Mougayar

      That’s how HN likes it, ie to keep users on their site.

      1. awaldstein

        Isn’t that everyone likes it!

      2. matthughes

        Yeah, I’m always impressed by the number of tech-centric blogs that don’t even offer commenting and simply link back to HN comments.That could be a cool API for HN to offer.Granted, I prefer Disqus and almost never comment anywhere that doesn’t offer Disqus.

        1. William Mougayar

          Don’t get me started on HN’s API 🙂

    3. fredwilson

      i think they click through, read it, and then head back so they can discuss it there. i often join in that discussion too

  8. Brad

    I am always amazed at the traffic my site gets every time I post on your site. I think that disqus is a great feed.

    1. Dale Allyn

      But I miss the direct path to registered members’ web presence (site, twitter, etc.) via user name/handle in the disqus thread. Having to hover the emoticon, click “full profile” (leaving the discussion), and finding your blog or other site on your profile is too buried IMO. In the past I would visit everyone’s site or Twitter stream from disqus threads – now I rarely do due to the UI. That means I don’t know you (others) as well.I’d love to see the name link to the members location of choice (as before) and prefer that it open in a new window (avoiding the requirement to right-click), so that one can return to finish reading without losing the place.Edit to add: One can click on the name to go to a member profile page, eliminating the hover over emoticon step. I just did it for the first time even though I read A VC everyday. I haven’t clicked it before because there is no title attribute on the name link informing me of a result and the status indication of the link (the path) is “Go to # on this page” indicating an incomplete href (link) – typical in anchors used in javascript, but not user friendly.So clicking the name takes me to the profile where I found the url and could visit the member’s site, clicking the back button took me to the landing (home) page (previous location in browser history) and I had to navigate back here and find my place to continue reading.I really like to know about other commenters. Disqus can make this discovery process much easier with better UI/UX. I say this respectfully and as encouragement for continuing improvement for a great product/service.Edit 2: In fairness to the folks at Disqus I have now discovered that if one clicks the user name, and goes to the profile, then clicks the provided link “return to comments” the paths are kept in tact and one returns to discussion in place. However, if one opts to open the member name link in another tab or window (for later browsing) the path breaks. This is all too convoluted and too much work, relying so heavily on js for the navigation which causes users to modify their browsing and discovery habits.I know… crazy long rant, but I’m passionate about user experience and wish only the best for Disqus.

      1. Techman

        They did that based on feedback about spammers. Spammers would use the website field to post their URLs for guest comments, and you could directly click on that. I told Disqus about it, and they said that the new Disqus would fix this. It sure does.

        1. Dale Allyn

          Yes, spammers use that, Michael, but there are workarounds. One would be to have the personal url available under the emoticon hover directly for registered members. Of course spammers can just as easily create the account for that as they would for the primary name link doing the same thing.Spammers suck, but breaking useful UI/UX to deter spammers is not the most desired solution. It’s a real battle to reduce comment spam, but easy access to bona fide members is an important part of engagement and discovery.

          1. Techman

            Either way, someone is going to be disappointed. You can’t win them all!

  9. takingpitches

    Fred, how much of the traffic comes from being linked to in other blogs? Like disqus, another way in which people more fully engage with the topics on AVC, but in longer form and not always quite as instantly.

    1. fredwilson

      it’s meaningful. it is pretty much all the referral traffic that is not social. so about 15% of the traffic is coming from being linked to in other blogs. but it is highly dispersed. feedreaders also make up about 14% of traffic.

      1. takingpitches

        Thanks for the response — it would be interesting to have a way to see a discussion topic wind its way through the broader internet, whether twitter, blogs, other social, etc — both in the development of the topic and the offshoot thoughts that emerge. Perhaps, a “Disqus” overlay on the internet as a whole.

        1. DRMC

          Or maybe a purpose-built p2p information-sharing platform. One that organizes time and geographic sensitive information (news) from a global scale (Internet/blogosphere) down to the hyper-local community level. If you can do news information, you can do anything!Next week the nwzPaper community-driven news platform launches and I’m building it with the writer and the reader’s needs in mind. By its structure, analyzing “memetic pedigree” will become a real possibility.

  10. D Sushant

    Could you share the details for direct & search traffic too? It would be interesting to compare the degrees of engagement.

    1. fredwilson

      here is direct

      1. bridgetwi

        Wow, you’re search bounce rate is lower than direct. That is amazing.

        1. fredwilson

          Search is direct. avc,, Fred Wilson blog, and stuff like that makes us most of it

      2. D Sushant

        Thanks for sharing, Fred. Both direct & search traffic rank in the top four for avg visit duration & pages/visit. But then, visiting AVC is but one form of engaging with the content – Twitter & HN possibly represent the two extremes of engaging with your content outside AVC (retweets vs commenting on HN). I suppose it would be useful if all forms of engagement could be tracked.

    2. fredwilson

      here is search

      1. Techman

        What is “bounce rate”? I don’t have GA installed on my site, as I use Blogger. Blogger should just really merge with GA IMO.

  11. andyswan

    Direct is the main metric. The rest are just drive-bys. They only count if they become direct (although when someone comes from YOUR twitter links that should count as direct as many follow you just to get that link daily)

    1. ShanaC

      no. First off, from usability perspective, not everyone knows how to use the browser correctly (I know this is weird to say, but still, true nonetheless). brand based keywords as a result are usually included in the “direct” metrics.Secondly, if you are coming into a content site, on some level it doesn’t matter if new visitors are direct, it matters if they convert to direct/repeat. Measuring that conversion is important.Finally, the business model of selling ads doesn’t want to see direct – they want to see uniques and pageviews. Sucks, but that is life. (I wish that would change)

      1. andyswan

        1. I agree those should count as direct2. We agree…. I just cut to chase and say in the end direct is THE metric 3. I don’t care what ad people want to see….they suck and relying on them creates horrible business models that squeeze partners and users in the end.

    2. William Mougayar

      Yes and No.If you’re a destination site like AVC, drive-bys that stay long enough to read and/or leave comments are a good thing.But if you’re a service site or one looking for signup conversions, then the metric that counts more might be that conversion whether it comes from social, direct or ad network referral, right?

      1. andyswan

        Agree…thought we were just talking blogs

        1. William Mougayar

          Got it. thx.

      2. Carl Rahn Griffith

        Good point/s. Curious as to what the average number of ‘destination sites’ people here have? Based on my Bookmarks Bar, and iPhone home screens, I only have ~7 regular destination sites.

  12. nilb

    So people coming from Disqus are the most engaged? (Guess because they also read more of the comments? Which bring to a question is when does Disqus caching your blog, after how many hits?) Is the engagement time because other (not coming from Disqus) just waiting for your next post (and leave much more quickly if nothing new was uploaded, while from Disqus they have a new post)?

    1. fredwilson

      good question. i don’t have a good answer.

  13. William Mougayar

    Very telling sources segmentation. I’m willing to bet it will be 50/50 in about 3-4 months. I wonder how that ratio compares to the Average traffic referral mix out there.  Our top sources were, by order: Twitter, G+, Disqus, Facebook, YouTube, Tumblr, LinkedIn, StackExchange, Quora, SlideShare, Meetup, Instapaper..HootSuite is #15 & Pintetest is #20 

    1. awaldstein

      G+ as #2.Quite shocked.

      1. ShanaC

        i’m not – g+ is within search traffic. it has this wierd hybrid quality about it as the people who can build out networks on it do. Really interesting from a search + social standpoint, I just wonder if it is sustainable.

        1. William Mougayar

          That might explain it. I’m sure G+ searches are showing in Google searches and being counted as G+ Social Sources. G+ is Google’s side door into social.

    2. Techman

      Nice to see Disqus in the top 3! Disqus is really working its way up the charts isn’t it?

  14. ShanaC

    if you are building out custom reporting you probably should be able to build out custom dashboards with social data tied to pageviews and uniques – really important if you run content driven sites (like this one)The reason is you have to make decisions how to market on social networks – the more deep you go in your particulars, the better off you are.Though it still kills me about disqus as a referral – I’m still not quite sure how to treat that fact.

  15. falicon

    Now if you only had a service that would let you know when one of your posts got picked up by Hacker News…that could really be useful! 🙂

    1. JimHirshfield

      Google Alerts? (kinda sorta)

      1. falicon

        yeah…or maybe ‘deep conversation alerts’ 😉

      2. Techman

        I use that to see if anyone has linked to my site or even mentioned it.

    2. fredwilson

      i am loving the emails Kevin. they are fantastic.

      1. falicon

        Thanks. I am too!Though they often kill my productivity because I’m always like “oh that’s interesting, let me go see what they are saying about that…” and then next thing I know, I’m involved in yet another deep conversation somewhere around the internet (instead of getting ‘real’ work done)I’ve had to train myself not to read them until a little later in the day, when I’ve gotten at least a little production out of the way first… 😉

        1. Techman

          It is good to stray away from work for about 15 minutes, until 15 minutes turns into about an hour. Disqus and its discovery, combined with Google Alerts, keeps me up to news on what is happening all around Disqus, and what sites are springing up with what content.

  16. Shyam Subramanyan

    Good reminder. For it is Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn at #1-#3 followed by Hootsuite, Blogger, and Tumblr. Tumblr traffic has the highest engagement (2.5x more pages/visit and 2.5x time spent compared to Facebook) followed by Twitter/Hootsuite. I need to explore the reason behind high Tumblr engagement numbers.

  17. falicon

    I’ve been watching google analytics for non-stop all summer…from that I can say that their referral stuff is a bit wonky…it seems to use whatever site you last came from as your referrer even when you go direct…so if someone clicks over from a Disqus link to avc, and then from that point on goes direct…I believe they continue tracking it as a Disqus referral…Anyway – in just checking out the ‘social stats’ for the past month (keep in mind that the service is primarily installed/distributed across blogs and most traffic comes in from those sources [not social shares or links]), the tiny top list is:sources — visits — pageviews — duration — pages/visit1. Blogger — 41 — 212 — 00:08:09 — 5.172. Disqus — 28 — 52 — 00:02:04 — 1.863. Facebook — 2 — 2 — 00:00:00 — 1.004. Meetup — 1 — 1 — 00:00:00 — 1.005. Twitter — 1 — 4 — 00:19:39 — 4.00

    1. falicon

      and yes, I do believe those durations are insane…even at this tiny volume…but I believe that’s the nature of search mixed with high quality content…

      1. Techman

        As for Blogger, does GA mean blogger the service? Those might be me and some other people at my site, as has seemed to increase search use.

        1. falicon

          I don’t know if they mean the service or not, but either way, super cool that search use is up! 😉

          1. Techman

            Yes, is a very interesting search tool, and I’ll be shooting another round of emails with you with more feedback and any more bugs I run into. I’m glad that I have you a transparent avatar for my site’s mini logo, because now it fits good with that pink and other background colors you use it for.

  18. johndefi

    How much traffic is driven to the site by email?

    1. fredwilson

      Not much because I put the full post in the emsils

      1. johndefi

        That’s interesting because comments aren’t available in the email.

        1. fredwilson

          The email readers are a different breed. They are “old school”

          1. Techman

            Though I do know that Disqus integrates with FeedBurner somehow. It tells me how many comments I have on my site.

  19. Eeryn Falk- Lubicich


  20. Eric Friedman

    I love all of the continued innovation coming out of GA – it continues to be one of the best free tools available for these types of insights.

    1. fredwilson


  21. Carl Rahn Griffith

    Social tools and their demographic – and associated behavioural patterns – is an interesting topic, for sure…

    1. Wavelengths

      Without doubt!

  22. Abdallah Al-Hakim

    knowing where your traffic is coming from is essential as it could decide for a small business where their efforts are best spent. Twitter and Facebook will continue to be major sources for many but the traffic source from disqus is very interesting because of the higher potential for engagement. Someone who is redirected from a disqus from conversation is willing to be engaged and has probably received some level of intro the product already. This is key as these types of intro do increase the rate of conversion

  23. Abdallah Al-Hakim

    besides Google Analytics – what other analytics tools do people recommend and is it worth it for a small company to build their own analytic tools?

    1. Mat Mullen

      At Disqus, we use a mix of Google Analytics for pageview insights, Mixpanel for event based tracking and a few other custom in-house tools. I use Mixpanel to understand how users are reacting to specific areas of the Disqus website and then I create funnels to track a specific “conversion” I’m interested in. For example, last week we launched a simpler version of our publisher signup flow that we’re now tracking in Mixpanel to see if the re-design actually made a difference in new signups.There are so many great free (at least to start) tools, that I’d recommend trying a few out before investing a lot of time in building your own.

      1. ShanaC

        I don’t suppose you have some hacks for event tracking commenting behavior on a page, as well as a way to import/link as referall email driven behavior back to page, and just straight up how much of commenting is by email or other external providers. I’m still very curious as to percentages for each type and how they link to pageview/unique growth.

        1. Mat Mullen

          That’s a good question. We lift some of that info in our analytics dashboard, but there’s a whole lot more that we’re working on including in the next version.It’s becoming a lot clearer that Facebook and Twitter are great sources for generating lots of low quality, “drive by” traffic, but they don’t seem to refer a lot of engaged users based off the avg. duration metric.

          1. ShanaC

            Do you care if I shoot you more questions off site?

      2. Abdallah Al-Hakim

        thanks a lot for this informative response. I am developing more interest into the analytics field and have started to play with them more seriously. I am currently using Woopra which has been very good but will start using Google Analytics as well.

      3. Techman

        Can you explain what kind of in house tools you create?

  24. Saroj Nayak

    Thanks for sharing.

  25. jason wright

    I wonder what influence traditional word of mouth (actual social) has on sending people to AVC?

    1. fredwilson

      can’t measure that

      1. jason wright

        which I rather like.

  26. andyidsinga

    “… I suggest you take a look at your social sources. I think you’ll find it interesting.”yes – interesting – the visitor to my blog came from twitter 🙂 🙂 (lol)

  27. Techman

    Don’t torch me for this, but sometimes I read the comments on the thread first before reading the article, so it gives me a glimpse on how the article is going to be. It can be a interesting method of reading posts if used correctly. Most of the time I just read the post first though.

  28. Anuj Agarwal

    Fred, are you able to track traffic from feed readers? eg Google reader.

    1. fredwilson

      yes, that represents about 14% of my visitsi use feedburner so it captures all of itbut google reader is the vast majority of it

      1. Anuj Agarwal

        Do you think a feed reader could be made open and social. eg – imagine all google reader profiles are public. Everyone can see each other’s feed subscriptions and folders. Asymmetric follow model like twitter and tumblr. If i’m following you, i will get notification when you share something or when you follow a new feed. And users can also create content eg share a link. Disqus integrated as a commenting tool. I’m working on a similar project. What do you think. Do you see potential in this.