Is Search Dead?

Did you hear? Facebook traffic Beat Google!  Yes, I am a day late and a dollar short, but as much as this is all the rage in geek news, and a great piece of link juice; I didn’t really feel like getting up on the band wagon.

I have rolling it over in my head and wondering.. ok, ok, Facebook has beaten out Google..well, what does it all mean?

So we’ll start with reporting some facts that, if you had read anything in the past week, you already knew:

  • HitWise reports that Facebook recently trumped Google as the top US visited website racking up a whopping total of 7.07% of all US visits on the entire internet for the week ending March 13, 2010.
  • Facebook currently boasts 400 million users on its social network, which is more people than the entire US.
  • The two sites accounted for 14 per cent of all US internet visits last week with Facebook’s home page recording 7.07 per cent of traffic and Google’s home page 7.03 per cent.
  • In another recent report conducted by the research firm Nielsen, the results indicated internet users worldwide spent over five and a half hours per month on social networking websites during December 2009, an 82 per cent increase from December 2008.

I think it’s fair to say that Social Networking is more than a flash in the pan.

Now I don’t think we are seeing the results show up in search traffic yet.  I thought that maybe there was an inkling, but I keep poking around the Google analytics of different sites and even comparing year to year, search has not really decreased. However, it should be said that all the sites that I know well enough to even look at active SEO campaigns in place and are well optimized, so they are designed for their traffic to increase and they have.

The other issue is that Social Networking ROI based on analytics is still developing at best. Finding ways to build good solid metrics to measure the success of a social media campaign is still a challenge at times. I mean, no matter how great is, it still won’t convert to GA unless you add a tracking code and that’s often annoying. All this concern about measuring the ROI of social efforts really takes away from the spontaneity of pure sharing.

How Facebook Changed Traffic

Still, even looking at my own blog, I have clearly seen that while my organic search has increases YOY over 170%, my traffic numbers form Facebook have increased almost 900%. I have to know why.

For one, as more and more people have migrated to Facebook, my network of people interested in the same topics have grown. Hence, I have been able to expose my blog to more people who are inherently interested in it. I used to have to make a point of hunting  people down and find them on other blogs and such, now Facebook made that a heck of a lot easier to find friends of friends who had interest in what I was writing.

Also, as my worlds have collided, in the act of pure social and internet integration, people who had no idea that I  had been blogging now had constant exposure to it, so even if just out of curiosity, they journeyed over to read.

Facebook has also made it easier for people to connect in many ways in the name of relaxing. See, for me the computer and the internet have long been about “work” even before it was my job. I took my writing seriously, but people were just not online at all. Now, they go to Facebook to catch up on life and friends and family.. and see things that they might never bother to search for on their own… all while they are “being social”.

What is the Internet For?

My answer to almost any question that anyone gives to me is:

 “Why Don’t you just Google it?

It’s hard for me, and I might think  anyone who is seriously an internet junkie, to imagine NOT being plugged in a good majority of the day.  But, I think we need to remember that not everyone is like us at all.  

I mean, my own husband uses the internet for vastly different reasons and has for years; Internet gaming, watching stupid videos of people hurting themselves, and dare I say it, Porn. And this is the man who got me online! He’s logged in hours and hours, but not on search!

We have battled for years as he played Raven Shield and World of Warcraft which I called “killing his fake little people” while I spent countless hours on Adoption forums with what he called “worrying about strangers problems”. It has been only since Facebook that he talks to other people that are REAL (and aren’t also shooting fake little people) about real life and real problems and what happens? He became an community activist!

I don’t think that he is too “untypical” (except for the activist part). I took the internet very seriously as a tool, but for him it was always fun.

And, let us not forget that for many people the only reason that they even came to Facebook was because they felt “safe” with all the privacy controls, so for many it was their first venture to real online interactions. Oh maybe they shopped online before, or researched some stuff, but I can tell you.. a lot of “regular” folks still have no idea how it all works and could never dream that before the Facebook Addiction, they had a reason, besides checking emails, to check their computers first thing in the AM and last thing before they went to bed at night. Something, I have to admit I have done for years.

Which is why I still say all the time, “Just Google it” People don’t always turn to search even though it has been there for us for years.

So now we are seeing people use the computer for something new.. in a new way.. new people and it’s NOT about Google  it’s about fun.

Limited Computer Time

I see social networks as the way that it all comes together. People, like my husband, don’t have to search now for interesting things on their own because his goofy friends now share stupid videos of people hurting themselves on Facebook. I don’t have to Google “adoption” because my social network allows me to keep up on what is happening all the time.  I don’t think I can manage to fit any more computer time into my day because there are times that I really just need to sleep, so it works out really nicely for me.  In the same sense, I can imagine search numbers going down as more and more people find that their networks are sufficient and vast enough to ask the really important questions right on Facebook. Why ask Google where a good pediatricians might be , no matter how personal it might try to be, when you can ask you mother, neighbor, cousin, co-worker and four best friends all at once. Who are you going to trust? Who knows best not only what answer you are searching for but also tells you what you really need to hear.

Maybe Google needs to send hugs along with some of their more personal search questions?  But, I don’t think that will really take the place of kind words from someone whose face you can see.

I have always felt that the power of the internet is from the ability of connecting people. It was not as easy to do that before social networks. I’m thinking that a lot of other people just figured it out as well. They never searched before, and I doubt they are going to start now. They don’t need to. Us older addicts are carefully spoon feeding it to them! No one needs to leave their closed garden.

Unless of course, I am totally wrong and they are looking for porn. After all, according to the fake little people , the internet is about porn.

This entry was posted on Monday, March 22, 2010 and is filed under Integrated Marketing, Social Media in Marketing.

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