If you’re wondering why Google recently declared war on Facebook with Google Buzz, a look at sources of Web traffic for some of the large portal websites might hold the answer. According to a report by Compete Inc., Web portal sites such as Yahoo, MSN and AOL are getting more traffic from social media sites than search engines. In particular, Facebook has outstripped Google Search as the top source of traffic to web portals.
According to Compete’s data, 15% of Web traffic to Yahoo, MSN and AOL in Dec 2009 originated from Facebook and MySpace. That 15% was split 13% for Facebook and 2% for MySpace. Surprisingly, Google only provided 7% of traffic, and were even beat out by eBay with 7.61%. [source: SF Gate] For Google, who have enjoyed widespread domination online for several years (and still do in certain search categories), this must have been a wake up call. Web browsing is now affected by the recommendations of “friends” in various social networks such as Facebook. Similar findings by comSCOR suggest that 25% of U.S. Web traffic originates the top social networking sites collectively [source: Blogging Stocks].
Could social media do away with search engines? This is unlikely as there’ll always be a need for them, but for people who are happy with web content recommendations, using a search engine could become irrelevant. Recent findings show that people actually prefer recommendations from friends for advice. It seems that they also enjoy suggestions of Web content to browse, if Compete’s findings are any indicator. So with the growth of Facebook to past 325 million users (and over 100 million Facebook mobile users), this trend of content recommendations from friends will likely continue to outstrip traffic from other sources. Other tools such as search or content discovery engines may a need a larger social element to compete, and Google Buzz might have been Google’s volley back at Facebook.
Traffic image via Olszak