recent post in a discussion list suggested that
Google is becoming the Microsoft of search (dominating
web search as Microsoft dominates PC operating
systems). So I decided to research a theory
- one I'd developed about search engine traffic.
I dug into the traffic stats on three of my
own sites and those of several clients that
I monitor traffic for.
While this case study is tiny and certainly
NOT conclusive, I'll wager it has strong parallels
across small business web sites. The conclusions
drawn are admittedly opinion, based on very
limited statistics, but those are all that matter
to those of us seeing tiny search engine traffic
from supposedly monstrous portals.
The participating clients from this case study
ALL submit their sites to paid inclusion programs
from AltaVista, Inktomi and AskJeeves/Teoma.
Two use LookSmart LookListings and all but one
are listed in the YAHOO! Directory. All are
listed in the Open Directory Project and all
submit to smaller industry specific directories
and smaller search engines. One uses Overture
PPC on a limited basis, while none use Google
Adwords. All were optimized by yours truly and
each represent varied industries in retail,
professional services and one is an information
site only, is non-commercial and sells nothing.
Each of them ranks well at most search engines,
but see little traffic from those good rankings.
The research I did confirmed what I'd only assumed
before by backing it up with solid numbers.
On my own sites and those of clients that I
reviewed, Google sends over 70% of all search
traffic to every one of those domains in every
case. This includes Google foreign variants,
Google Directory and Google image search (image
search numbers are tiny). The foreign Google's
send tiny numbers of visitors from non-English
speaking countries, but English speaking Google
traffic from the UK, Canada and Australia drives
more traffic than either Yahoo or MSN according
to traffic statistics of those sites reviewed
for this case study.
With the highest difference between compared
search engine traffic of 8 percent variation
between studied domains, I've compiled a list
of average traffic delivered by search engines
for those sites to which I have access to traffic
logs. The Google percentages are inclusive of
those portals that use Google results such as
iWon.com and Yahoo web results. Direct Yahoo
results are for sites listed in their directory.
All other SE's... 1%
I'm concerned, not that Google is too big, but
that the other search engines just don't get
it, don't deliver it and don't want to give
it up. What is IT? Traffic!
I attribute this to one thing. Those search
engines don't want to give up visitors to FREE
search results. They are happy to send visitors
off if they gain income from that traffic in
either PPC ads or advertisements of ANY sort.
Knowing that those free results will lose the
"eyeballs" of searchers, they struggle
to deliver both PPC ads and sponsor ads that
most closely approximate the search phrase entered
by the searcher. Thankfully, all have dropped
banner ads from the SERP's (Search Engine Result
They cannot stand the idea they will lose the
visitor and seek to entice them to click on
something, anything that'll earn them income.
Even if it means delivering NON-relevant results
to entice the searcher to use a different search
phrase seeking to gain more relevant results,
thereby viewing more ads and additional PPC
ads the visitor may click on to deliver income
to the portal.
I believe these search engine traffic percentages
are a direct reflection of relevance delivered
by those search engines. The more relevant the
results, the more likely they'll send a higher
percentage of traffic to your site.
74% of search traffic
Google offers their own PPC results, offers
no outside banners, Amazon links or effluvia
related to the search. They deliver relevant
results and visitors love that, then leave freely
to return next time they want relevant results.
14% of search traffic
Yahoo offers Overture PPC results (which they'll
soon own), Amazon links and sponsorship links,
along with that "Also search in: Yahoo!
Shopping" link at the bottom of every result
page, hoping you'd rather shop than to actually
find what you were
9% of search traffic referred:
MSN offers Overture PPC results, "Broaden
your Search" (LookSmart) links, "Shopping
Results on MSN" links and a sponsor text
link at the bottom of every page as though you
didn't really want to find anything but their
2% of search traffic referred:
Ask offers more paid results than any other
search property with 5 sponsor links at the
top of every search result page and TEN links
to further paid sponsor results in a "Related
Searches" footer to every result page.
Ask sponsors provide search ads. Doesn't Ask
understand that most searchers see right through
Relevance at each of these search engines declines
further with progress down the list of traffic
referred. Is it any wonder Google is the leader?
They lead in relevance, therefore in search
engine referred traffic. All any engine need
do is provide relevant results with limited
sponsors and no excessive "shopping"
or multiple source PPC links and book links.
If they do that, they'll compete effectively
with Google. More relevant search engines deliver
the traffic to web sites, NOT to their advertisers.
I have a bold suggestion to make to MSN as they
develop their new in-house search engine. Drop
the ads, sponsors, book links, shopping links
and resist the temptation to bring back banner
ads. Searchers want to find what they are looking
for and easily see through transparent attempts
to sell stuff to them and keep them from leaving.
Let go of searchers by delivering highly relevant
search results while clearly labeling limited
numbers of sponsor or PPC ads! The result will
be devastating to Google by giving searchers
a real alternative that they may prefer using!
YAHOO! has a huge task ahead of them - to integrate
the recently acquired Inktomi, Overture (and
Overture's recent acquisitions AltaVista and
Fast/Alltheweb) search technology into their
search mix. Clearly they've plenty of technology
now and won't need Google when they add all
these ingredients to the search soup they are
cooking up. Yahoo will possess all the best
technology and must only decide to provide relevant
search results WITHOUT shopping links, excessive
sponsor links, book links and other clutter
to the SERP's. I suggest that if they show only
limited Overture PPC ads and clearly labeled
sponsor ads along with the relevant results
- that they can also threaten Google's lead.
If the re-born, re-cooked and massively complex
YAHOO! or the "new" MSN resist the
temptation to send searchers to advertisers
rather than sending them to relevant results,
then we will have three very strong competitors
in the search market. The numbers of search
referrals will level off at about 30% per competitor
and Google will have to fight to gain back their
current dominance. If YAHOO! or MSN seek to
favor advertisers over searchers, Google will
maintain dominance - clear and simple.
I encourage all webmasters to do their own comparisons
of traffic referrals now and then again when
YAHOO! and MSN weigh in over the next year with
their "new" offerings. It could get
very interesting if there were some true competition
in search, so referred traffic from YAHOO! and
MSN starts to deliver to webmasters rather than
is a Search Engine Optimization specialist practicing
ethical small business SEO Search Engine Placement,
Optimization, and Marketing. ( http://SEOptimism.com/).