Google’s Search Influence Declines… Sorta


googlesucks_small.jpgADOTAS – Finally, after all my grousing regarding Google’s slacking search due to the prevalence of  content farms and SEO-gamed content, I have been vindicated with proof that Google’s search influence is on the decline!

Well, sorta.

AllThingsD’s Peter Kafka directed me to a report from Citigroup’s Mark Mahaney that shows that in January 2011, Google is the top traffic source for 74% of the hottest web properties — in particular, 100% of top travel sites, something I’m sure the U.S. Justice Department will note as it reviews Google’s acquisition of travel info software-maker ITA — and its referral share increased for 69% of web properties year over year.

Just not for media and health sites, where Google’s influence dropped for 80% and 40% of the sites Mahaney examined in those respective categories. As far as media sites, Mahaney doesn’t quite call it the Facebook effect (he notes that some data showed improved traffic share from Microsoft and Yahoo — with increased Facebook results integrated, look for Bing’s share to keep rising) but it’s obvious that the social network’s traffic driving prowess has improved between 2010 and 2011. Of course, comScore’s list of the top 50 visited properties is dominated by media sites.

Mahaney’s analysis plays into the trend that how Internet users find media is changing — earlier today, Facebook search led me to some great news stories about Rebecca Black so I could figure out what the fuss was all about. (Has it finally hit the masses that contemporary junk pop music can be made by 13-year-olds with a big-enough budget?) Because the web is gummed up with crappy content designed to reach the top of Google’s search results, users are looking to social recommendations for media, whether for time-wasting or actual information gathering.

However, the decline in health site referrals is quite fascinating — are more consumers getting frustrated with Google as a research tool? It will be interesting to see how those numbers change in a year… Or maybe just a few months.


  1. “…are more consumers getting frustrated with Google as a research tool?” If I extrapolate my own personal experiences, along with some anecdotal stuff I’ve read recently, I’d have to say the answer is a resounding “yes” when it pertains to any nuanced or technical topic where the publisher or content owner doesn’t stand to gain trust, clout or brand equity by being the no. 1 search result. For example, if I’m researching vacation packages, I’ll probably ascribe a high amount of brand equity to the top results…part of my mental calculus assumes that the biggest, most reliable travel sites are going to occupy the top few spots. Whether they got there by “black hat” or “white hat” means is irrelevant…the same way I don’t care why Tide is stocked at eye-level in the supermarket. When my vacation dollars/time are at stake, I’m not going to risk booking a trip through an obscure travel site on the 3rd page of search results. But…if I’m researching a question that is obscure to begin with, the most valuable answer is more likely to come from a relatively obscure (put another way: expert) source, so I ascribe no brand equity to eHow for being the no. 1 result. In fact, eHow’s desperate clamoring for the no. 1 spot just hurts the equity of the search engine for making me waste my time skipping past all the fluff in the vain hope of finding some little gem that wasn’t barfed out in 30 minutes by one of the serfs in the SEO Salt Mines. Perhaps part of the problem is that Google is treating all information the same, ignoring the dichotomy I’ve just illustrated, between queries where you WANT to find the big, established stuff and those queries where you need to be guided to random corners of the Internet that contain the answers to life’s little mysteries.


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