On the most popular news websites, such as nytimes.com and msnbc.com, roughly 40% of the total audience lands on news stories by clicking a link on a referring website. By far, the biggest driver of traffic is Google Search and Google News, which on average are responsible for 30% of the traffic to these top news sites. Of the 21 leading news sites for which data are available, Google was the leading referring website for 17 of them, and second for the remaining four.For legacy news sites with established prominent brands in their own right, Google was a less significant but still important source of audience. At these sites Google represented an average of 28.4% of the traffic per site. And that percentage was fairly consistent. Chicagotribune.com came in at the low end (with 21.2%), and nydailynews.com was at the high end (37%). Read More

Russell Heimlich  is a former web developer at Pew Research Center.