A wide range of European sectors, including retail, travel, finance, automotive, health, media and entertainment, have seen traffic decline by 0.3% over the last 42 months (CAGR), as the days of organic growth come to an end across the continent.
However, not all sites are failing to increase their traffic. Over the last three years, 54% of European sites exhibited growth, with visits among those sites increasing by an average of 52%. In stark comparison, some 46% of websites in Europe saw their traffic shrink by an average of 35%.
Advertising channels have been key in driving traffic to European sites, with an average of 68% of traffic to websites coming from non-direct channels. These same channels account for an average of 68% of visits to sites from smartphones, which have increased by 44% since 2013.
U.K. and Spanish sites have also benefited from their languages being widely spoken in Europe and in other parts of the world, attracting 28% and 23% of their traffic, respectively, from other countries.
What Are The Growth Drivers?
Personalised, of-the-moment tactics such as email or social media seem to be key to driving traffic to European sites that continue to grow. In comparison, those sites that are shrinking put far more emphasis on “pay-to-play” channels such as affiliates and referrals, and rely more on channels that are suited to brand strength, such as direct.
Those businesses that were first to optimise their sites for mobile have benefitted considerably in terms of traffic growth—they not only gained more traffic from smartphones, but the gap between growing and shrinking businesses in terms of the mobile traffic has widened from 41% to 51%.
Both growing and shrinking websites see three out of four visits come from brand-driven tactics such as natural search, direct traffic, and referrals. However, growing websites see 8% more traffic coming from paid advertising channels than shrinking sites.
However, successful European sites lag significantly behind U.S. contemporaries in the use of paid tactics—websites that grew in North America saw 36% more traffic come from advertising channels, compared to only 8% in Europe.
The success of ad channels in the U.S. may, in part, reflect consumers’ attitudes towards online advertising in Europe.
On average, less than half (48%) of Europeans say that marketers are effective at providing them with online ads that they are generally interested in. In comparison, 58% of American consumers believe that marketers are effective.
Europeans are also less accepting of personalised advertising. Less than two-thirds (63%) of consumers like personalised ads, compared to more than three-quarters of U.S. consumers. Over 50% of Europeans also expect to be rewarded with relevant content and offers in return for sharing their information.
The growth in the number of interruptive and intrusive ad formats is also having a negative impact on consumers’ perceptions of online advertising. The majority of European consumers are unwilling to watch an advert that automatically plays music or pops up after a new link is clicked. Meanwhile, 50% of U.K. consumers (and 48% of the French) will usually stop watching an advert entirely if it can’t be skipped.
This negativity towards some digital display formats may also explain why the share of traffic from display has decreased by 50% in the last three years in Europe, and why the level of growth in display ad revenues in the U.K. from digital display (25%) was considerably lower than from other formats such as mobile (60%), video advertising (57%), and native advertising (50%) in the same period.
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