Google Drives 70% of all Web Traffic! Wake Up MSN, YAHOO!
by Mike Banks Valentine

A 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 

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 
Googles 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 and Yahoo web results. Direct 
Yahoo results are for sites listed in their directory.

Google...        74%
Yahoo...         14%
MSN...            9%
Ask...            2%
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 Pages).

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 referred:
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 referred:
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 
searching for!

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 ads.

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 

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 

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 advertisers.

Mike Banks Valentine is a Search Engine Optimization specialist 
practicing ethical small business SEO Search Engine Placement, 
Optimization, and Marketing. ( ) 
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