Facebook Overtakes Google As Most Popular US Site

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Facebook has surpassed Google to become the most visited site in the US, while search queries continue to grow at a phenomenal rate

Facebook has overtaken Google as the most visited website in the US. This is the first time Google has not topped the weekly ranking since September 2007, when it overtook News Corp’s MySpace.com.

Together Facebook.com and Google.com accounted for 15 percent of all US Internet visits during the week ending 13 March, according to industry tracker Hitwise. Facebook’s home page took 7.07 percent of traffic and Google’s took 7.03 percent.

An ‘important milestone’

The market share of visits to Facebook.com has increased by 185 percent since the same week in 2009, while visits to Google.com have increased by only nine percent during the same time frame.

Facebook.com has reached number one in the ranking before, on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day as well as the weekend of 6 and 7 March. However, this is the first time Facebook has enjoyed a weekly lead over Google. Heather Dougherty, director of research at Hitwise described it as an “important milestone”.

Facebook continues to grow

Facebook has experienced phenomenal growth during the last year. Back in November 2009, comScore found that the social network – which has more than 350 million users worldwide – had topped the 100-million-mark for monthly US visitors. At the time Facebook also accounted for 5.5 percent of all time spent online in the United States, up from 2.5 percent in 2008. More recently, comScore has said search queries on Facebook grew from 395 million in January 2010 to 436 million in February 2010 – a growth of 10 percent in a month.

Then in January comScore revealed that Facebook had more than doubled its US audience from 54.5 million visitors in December 2008 to 111.9 million visitors in December 2009.

“Once the network is in place and people are active and engaged, the dynamics of the social interaction taking place incentivize participants to share information about themselves more regularly, which in turn solicits more engagement from others, creating a virtuous cycle of interaction,” explained comScore director of industry analysis Andrew Lipsman.

The future of Facebook

The increasing use of smartphones for online browsing while on the go has also had an important part to play in Facebook’s growth. According to Morgan Stanley’s “The Mobile Internet Report,” published in December, social networking is one of the five IP-based products and services underpinning the growth of mobile Internet usage.

“The true value of Facebook and social networks is just becoming clear to marketers,” said Augie Ray, analyst at Forrester Research. “The challenge Facebook presents to Google is less related to consumers’ search activities and more related to discovery and traffic generation.”

“Based on this trend, it’s certainly possible that brand sites (which drive a great deal of Google revenue through PPC ads) may shift budgets and decrease emphasis on paying for traffic via search engines rather than earning traffic through social media marketing means,” Ray added.

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