Google still rules the search market in the UK, but Facebook’s popularity is starting to impact on web traffic
Over 92 percent of all UK Internet searches in June were conducted using Google, but new figures from Experian Hitwise suggest that social networks such as Facebook and YouTube are playing an increasingly important role in driving traffic to sites.
Google maintained its dominant position in the search market in June, growing 1.5 percent over the previous month, while both Microsoft Bing and Yahoo lost market share. Microsoft dropped from 4.26 percent to 2.88 percent, and Yahoo fell from 3.08 percent to 2.96 percent. Ask, meanwhile, experienced minor growth in June.
“Google has certainly been dominant in search for the last ten years but even by Google’s high standards, to capture 92 percent of the UK search market is quite an achievement,” commented Robin Goad, Research Director of Experian Hitwise. “In other markets like the US the search distribution is much more even, but in the UK Google has woven itself into the core fabric of Internet usage so much that other players are struggling to keep up.”
Social networks drive traffic
Unsurprisingly, Facebook continues to lead the social networking market, growing 0.11 percent between May and June 2011 to reach 54 percent of visits. YouTube also continues to flourish, with a 21 percent share. What is more interesting, however, is that social networks are now the second biggest source of traffic to all websites online – forming a new channel for visitors, alongside search.
According to Experian Hitwise, 12.54 percent of all UK Internet visits came from a social network in June, and the vast majority of that traffic is coming from Facebook and YouTube.
“Although Google is increasing its dominance within search, search engines overall are becoming less significant as a source of traffic for websites,” said James Murray, marketing and research analyst at Experian Hitwise UK, in a blog post. “Social networks still have a long way to go before they reach parity with search engines as a source of traffic, but the gap between the two is definitely closing.”
While search has historically accounted for around 40 percent of visits to all websites, the most recent figures show that search only accounted for 34.29 percent of all traffic delivered to websites in June 2011.
The war over social search
Hitwise reported in March last year that Facebook had overtaken Google as the most visited website in the US. Around the same time, comScore said that 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.
Since then, Facebook’s deepening relationship with Microsoft Bing on social search has become a cause of concern for Google. The Bing search engine now shows users which sites and products their Facebook friends like.
“By being able to bring data from Facebook into relevance calculations to help make search results more meaningful, and adding interface elements that make the search experience apparently “intelligent” about a searcher’s social connections, the search engines can leverage the social info they lacked to keep people on their sites longer, with more exposure to ad inventory and the business it generates,” IDC analyst Hadley Reynolds told eWEEK back in October.
However, Google has continued to step up its game, translating its own Social Search software into 19 languages earlier this year. Google is also batlling Facebook on video chat, and recently launched Google+, indicating Google’s desire to beat Facebook at its own game.