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Facebook More Popular Than Google? Let the Ad Wars Begin

facebook and google visits

According to the latest Hitwise analysis, Google's lost its crown as the most-visited Web site in the U.S. last week. The new king of Web site traffic is, of course, Facebook. In the future, technohistorians may marvel at this event.

During the Winter holidays there were a few momentary spikes in traffic which placed Facebook on the top, but if you check out the graph of the long term trend shown above, you can see Facebook's meteoric rise is now on target to meet or beat Google. And if that curve continues on its trajectory, which it may well do for a while (its market share is 185% up over the same week in 2009, for example,) Facebook will become number one by a huge margin, versus the tiddly little 0.04% separation it currently has above Google's 7.03% share of average weekly market share.

Over at Inside Facebook they're pondering if the early-February revamp of Facebook's user landing page is partly responsible, since it emphasizes Top Stories over a real-time stream—which is something users may prefer. But if you peep at Facebook's market share curve, it's not a smooth linear climb, and the gentle oscillations in increasing market share are more probably representative of slight changes in Facebook's popularity or appearance in broadcast media. Besides, it seems that Facebook continues to attract more members, and sees those members interacting more with the site, pretty much no matter what it does to redesign its services.

What can we learn from the fact that people are visiting facebook more than Google? Is Google's core business as a search engine at risk? No. Google search is a tool, and one that's getting smarter day by day—its future business is guaranteed. Facebook does have a search ability inside the site, but what's really driving users to Facebook in droves is that it's a genuine phenomenon. Social networking is still riding that "oh you should try this, it's new and cool" wave and the site itself has reached a critical mass of user numbers whereby if you want to contact almost anyone, odds are that they have a Facebook account.

This doesn't mean that there aren't serious implications though. Facebook is now in a position to leverage those user visits to seize control of the online ad-placement business from Google—advertisers will begin to do the math and work out which site will get their ads in front of more eyeballs. And while Web 2.0 has been with us for a while, the fact that more people are visiting Facebook than Google indicates that this interactive revolution has really changed U.S. Netizen's online habits.

To learn more news like this follow me, Kit Eaton, on the other big social network, Twitter. You can use the QR code on the left, if you've got a smartphone.

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  • James Moore

    What the previous comments don't note is that Google does not want to be just a search engine. What this graphic shows is the failure of Google's social networking and business application services to generate time-on-site, compared to Facebook. What it suggests is that Google is pretty much stuck with being a search engine--not a bad thing--but that its expenditure on lots of other things like Wave is not paying off.

  • Handoko Said

    if the purpose of the ads is to make direct sales, then i think facebook won't be a good place to place your ads, but if your goal is to promote your brand or create a social marketing campaign then yes, facebook is the right place to do so.

    while google is probably better suited for ads of products or services that have a direct tie with what the user needs. Effective ads in google is more like a matchmaking situation, rather than promoting it to sway customers' purchasing decision.

  • Ted Mooney

    Facebook is a huge timesink, whereas google isn't. I signed up for Facebook a couple of years ago, and now I cringe when I get an email friend request because I really don't want to go there. Based on my own experience, I think most of the time spent on Facebook is by very new users, so it's a Ponzi situation that will fade soon.

  • W. Finley

    I think these findings are clearly in line with how much time is spent on the site. When people go to Google it's like a fast food restaurant, they know what they want, they're there to search for it and get out. They're not always looking to browse around or looking to buy something.

    While it can be said people aren't going on Facebook to buy something they're spending more time there. More time spent means more chance an ad is going to catch their eye and they will visit the advertiser. It's definitely about conversions like Shannon said but you can't run away from time spent or pages loaded and Facebook has that in spades over Google and I think these numbers are backing that up.

  • Shannon Sofield

    It’s all about the conversions- some products/services will convert better at one vs. the other. Discretionary income goods (music, movies, etc) have a better shot at converting well at Facebook, while use-driven products/services will stay with Google. Some of my placements at Facebook do not convert well at all (usually for financial related services), while others do (travel services/info). Google converts both types well since search-engine use is typically driven by a need for info or products/services. Who has the bigger ad dollars- the products/services who have an inherent need (“Google” type), or those who need to convince people to use them (“Facebook” type)?