Google Driving Billions of Hits to Facebook, Other Social Networks

One of the primary purposes of Google's Chrome browser is to push what Google does best: search. The address bar has been integrated with the search box--all queries, suggestions, and misspelled URLs go through Google first.

But Chrome is only the latest service to use Google as a middleman. The company has become so synonymous with web browsing that most users see its search box as a replacement for the address bar. Topping the charts for the most searched terms of 2010, according to a new report from Experian Hitwise, are searches that could have been found simply by adding ".com."

YouTube, Craigslist, and MySpace are some of the top ten most searched items; in the top 50 are Netflix, ESPN, and Hulu. Instead of heading directly to YouTube.com or Netflix.com, millions of users every month prefer to search for the sites on Google and click the top result, rather than typing a measly four extra characters.

Nothing demonstrates this (laziness? addiction?) more than searches for Facebook. The term "Facebook" was the top-searched term for 2010 (not to mention 2009), and accounted for 2.11% of all US searches. What's more, four variations on the term "Facebook" were among the top 10 searches--including "Facebook.com" and "www.Facebook.com".

Together the Facebook queries make up nearly 3.5% of overall Google searches, a 207% increase since last year. A recent report pegged monthly Google search queries at 10.6 billion, meaning Facebook-related searches--those users specifically looking to go to Facebook.com--make up around 370 million monthly searches in the US, and close to 4.5 billion searches annually. 

For a company trying to make headway into social networking, Google drives a significant amount of traffic to other social networks. A whopping 4.18% of all Google searches are social network-related terms--billions of hits that, we can safely assume, are not heading to Google Buzz. And it's not likely the search giant is earning revenue from this traffic either; Google charges for advertising, not actual results. They are, however, paying for the servers that crunch these searches.

This represent a huge chunk of traffic that could easily disappear when more people figure out how to use their browser's address bar--or start using the increasingly popular mobile apps that take them directly to a site or service.

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7 Comments

  • Steve Rio

    In my experience watching my clients or friends browse is that it's not laziness or addiction to Google (how dramatic! ha) .. It's much simpler.. It's all they know. It's how they've learned to get to the site they want to go. Especially if Google is their home screen (Firefox default) .. They see the Google search bar, the cursor is in there flashing away, and so that's the technique they've self-learned for browsing to their favorite websites.

  • Henry Elliss

    To be fair to Chrome, whilst the address bar does act as a search tool most of the time, if I type "Facebook" in to my Chrome browser (as a frequently do, despite working in the search industry) it will automatically take me to Facebook - not a Google search results page. How can you fault that??

  • Geo Chast

    Nice conclusions you're jumping to, but perhaps at least for some users there's a valid reason for this. On my netbook at least, screen space is valuable, and -especially- vertical space, so I got rid of the address bar. I can pull it up if I really need to, but for most things there's really no reason to. My home page is set to Google, and when I open a new tab, the cursor is automatically blinking in the search bar. So it's easier for me to just type and "Feel Lucky", instead of first using the the touchpad(which I still hate) to click on the url bar. That being said, it's only on my netbook that I do this, as on desktops there's plenty of space for a regular url bar, and I have a regular mouse to use.

    Not only that, but for some people, it might prevent them from accidentally ending up as targets of a phishing scam. Entering a typo into the url bar could direct you to a site specifically designed for that purpose. Searching for a typo'd term in Google will most likely either direct you to the correct site, or at least give you a "Did you mean ...?" to inform you. This isn't a very good excuse for Facebook, or some other easily typed, obvious sites, but for some I can understand it.

    I'm not trying to defend the practice completely, because I do see blatant abuses of it all the time, but I hardly feel the need to call it pure "laziness" when there -are- at least a couple valid reason to do this sometimes. Do I mind if Google makes a few bucks off my habits? Not at all, because they do provide many valuable services at no cost to the end-user.

  • Amanda Iseri

    I have to agree with Dayne here in with the element of trust. If you have not been to a site before, you'll use a site you trust (Google) to take you there.

    Call it "laziness", but I like to think of it as improved efficiency and decreased time spent online searching. I do know the difference between a search bar and url bar, but I'm actually a fan of the search box replacing the URL/address box...if you know the address it can be inputted , and if not, then it takes a step out as it will immediately search for what you're looking for.

  • Robert Garcia

    It's always amazed me how people can't tell the different between the search bar and the url bar. This made millions to domainers who bought every weirdo combination of domains they can get their hands on, just to get that browser bar traffic.

    Google's browser design is going to bite them on the you know what sooner or later. Not because it was a bad idea. If people don't know the differences between a search bar and a url bar, why have them both. But Google's method of returning a search result or the actual page input might start to change once they get really jealous of the wampum.

  • Dayne Shuda

    I'm not surprised by this research.

    People are comfortable with search. I think there is still an element of trust especially for folks visiting a site for the first few times. Typing the wrong extension or typing a slight misspelling could lead to an embarrassing result so people search for exact domains for safety.

    People still have a preference to search - good information for companies and designers. Make searching easy for people. It's what they want.

  • Chris Reich

    The people I've watched do that, i.e., use Google to find a site that is commonly known, do not really understand how their browser works. It's neither laziness nor addiction---it's stupidity.

    People still think they must input www some will type an entire http://etcetcetcetcetc

    This would be an interesting item to survey. Because many have Google as a homepage, they assume that's how to navigate. Nice if you're Google!

    But this speaks volumes for our internet savvy society. Doh!

    Chris Reich
    Happy New Year
    www.TeachU.com Do I need the www to make it link?!