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The Shocking Truth: Who REALLY Controls Your Online Journey? (SparkToro & Datos Study)

Unmasking the Web's Puppet Masters! Google & YouTube Lead, But Wait... There's a Twist (SparkToro Study)
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Rand Fishkin, in partnership with clickstream data provider Datos, recently presented extensive research into how traffic is directed across the web. This study looks at which platforms send the most traffic and examines whether large platforms continue to direct significant traffic to the open web.

who really controle web traffic

Top Web Traffic Providers

The study reveals that Google largely dominates as the top traffic referrer in the United States, with approximately 63.41% of traffic coming from the 170 most visited sites.

YouTube comes in second place, although Google services like Google Docs, Gmail, and Google Meet are hosted under the same domain, which is not the case for Microsoft, which disperses its services across several domains.

According to Rand Fishkin, this dominance of Google in traffic distribution is not surprising to those in the digital marketing business, as Google has often been responsible for more than 70% of many sites' traffic.

Understanding the term “traffic referral”

It is important to note that in this study, a “referral” does not just mean a click on a link or an ad.

For example, if someone hears about SparkToro during an Apple podcast and then types “” into their browser, that also counts as a referral.

Traffic directed to the “long tail” of the web

The study makes a distinction between references to the 170 most visited sites and those to all other sites, referred to under the English term "long tail" (which could be translated into French as "long tail,"  but please note that this concept differs from the term SEO, which designates the use of specific and less competitive keywords to capture more traffic).

Among these references, only 22 sites send more than 0.1% of their traffic to these less frequented “long tail” sites.

Among the notable findings, we note that Reddit, despite its efforts to limit outgoing traffic, remains one of the main players directing traffic to this “long tail.”.

Surprisingly, YouTube falls behind Facebook and Reddit in terms of the volume of traffic sent to these less popular sites.

SEO variations and implications for small players

The study shows that traffic to the “long tail” decreased by around 3.2% to the benefit of the top 170 sites over a period of 13 months.

This trend could indicate that traffic is increasingly concentrated towards the web's big winners, which could pose problems for smaller sites that rely on these referrals for their traffic.

Forecasts and future implications

Rand Fishkin expresses concern that, in the long term, traffic will continue to concentrate on larger sites, thereby reducing opportunities for smaller web players.

The study also shows how different sites (media, gaming platforms, and educational sites) manage their referrals, with some retaining more traffic while others share more freely.

If you wish to go into more detail, we invite you to read the SparkToro study available on their site in English.

Who Controls the Internet? A Startling Look at Web Traffic Sources

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