Facebook More Popular Than Google: So?

According to Hitwise, Facebook just became more popular than Google Search.

become the most visited website for the week. Facebook.com recently reached the #1 ranking on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day as well as the weekend of March 6th and 7th. The market share of visits to Facebook.com increased 185% last week as compared to the same week in 2009, while visits to Google.com increased 9% during the same time frame. Together Facebook.com and Google.com accounted for 14% of all US Internet visits last week

Not sure of HitWises methodology - why aren't they comparing all Google's web functions, including Maps and Mail? - but good on Facebook! For a site that didn't exist in 2003, that is quite some achievement.

What does this mean for the future of search marketing?

Not much.

Given the lock-in for return visits, it's unsurprising that Facebook might receive more visits than a search engine. However, the most important aspect of different channels, as far as a web marketer is concerned, is: does the traffic convert to cash at some point?

Measure Success

Social Media Marketing, like SEO, is a tatic. However, if the tactic don't translate into more business, then it's a waste of time. Whatever channel you use, it is important to establish KPIs - key performance indicators - that measure the effectiveness of your tactics, and directly relate to the success of you business.

For example, one of the KPIs often mentioned in SMM is volume metrics, such as number of followers, subscribers etc. If we were to relate this metric back to our business objectives, we'd ask how does having a higher number of followers, or people claiming to be followers, result in more business? How many of those followers are really engaging with you? Or are they, literally, just making up the numbers?

I've seen social media companies fudge this aspect. Some play around with the term ROI, changing the "I" from "investment" to "influence", or to "interest", and use the number of followers as evidence of the level of interest in a clients services or brand.

The bottom line is the golden KPI. It can become blurred in bigger organizations, but for the little guy, it is crucial.

Volume Metrics Can Be Deceiving

Search marketers know that the volume game can be an illusion when it comes to making money.

"Jokes" may be a very popular keyword term, but it's not making people any money because there is no commercial intent. "Second mortgages" is not a particularly popular term in terms of volume, but is lucrative as it has clear commercial intent. A high position for second mortgages in search rankings will make you money.

Conversely, how difficult would it be to get buzz around the term "second mortgages" via social media? Sure, with some inventive twisting and disguising of the true message it could be done, but really, it's pushing water uphill. The social environment isn't really suited to such a message.

Choose The Right Environment

The two channels are like apples and oranges.

Different environments work for different messages. Social media is great for generating awareness, getting people talking, and when integrated with an SEO strategy can be a great way of getting links. Primarily, it's a brand strategy. However, because it is a social environment, there is less tolerance of overt commercial activity that in direct channels.

Typical social media measurements include:

  • Business outcomes - can you link the campaign to specific interactions, such as sales?
  • Influencer Reach - how many influencers picked up on your message and spread it?
  • Audience Reach - how many visitors saw your message? Link this metric to...
  • Engagement - how many of those people who saw you message contacted you, or took a desired action?

Conversely, SEO isn't much use for building brand awareness or encouraging people to talk about your message. The environment is similar to direct marketing. It is well suited to direct response and commercial activity, as the intent of the user can be determined, and if that intent is commercial, then people welcome commercial messages.

What Is Your Business

Hanging out and being cool on Facebook isn't a business :)

Business on the web typically falls into one of nine groups. Which is yours?

  • Brokerage - bringing buyers and sellers together
  • Advertising - displaying/selling advertising
  • Infomediary - run programs such as ad networks
  • Merchant - sell stuff
  • Manufacturer (Direct) - make and sell stuff
  • Affiliate - sell other peoples stuff and take a commission
  • Community - leverage your community to sell something else
  • Subscription - sell content/training on an on-going basis
  • Utility - pay as you go usage

Decide which business you are in. When deciding on marketing and advertising tactics, ask yourself which environment is best suited to developing your business, then develop KPIs that support that business. You key KPI should be the bottom line - either this activity returns more money than you spend, or it doesn't.

Published: March 22, 2010 by A Reader in marketing


March 22, 2010 - 7:29am

Very good article.

I think I'd stick to only socially marketing things that have some inherent social quality to them, which will better help you match the environment.

I mean Dr. Pepper has 1.4 million fans on facebook, which seems to make sense because Dr. Pepper has a social quality to it. You take it to parties when you socialize.

Amazon.com has only 23,000 fans, but does that mean Amazon has inferior marketing? I'd wouldn't say so.

March 22, 2010 - 2:13pm

Like this one...very solid points made. Looking for clarity on one thing:
"SEO isn't much use for building brand awareness or encouraging people to talk about your message. The environment is similar to direct marketing."
Not sure this is an all on one side or the other kind of thing, as I have used SEO to build brand, or to talk about stuff around my client's products. Case in point, a few years back, I was doing lots of work for Leica Geosystems, and their products were multi-million dollar cameras and data systems. But I used SEO to capture strength and direct it to my information about the use of the products, building brand trust, and supporting the value chain. I was not aiming for direct conversions as much as building brand awareness and establishing trust in market. The sales process was understandably really slow, so there were many opportunities along the way to put in another two cents worth - and SEO tactics were the key to getting this information exposed. I wasn't using social channels as much as traditional on-page and linkbuilding, but to be fair, social media was a baby a couple years ago.
Am I missing something in what you meant here?

March 22, 2010 - 5:17pm

Excellent article Peter. Somehow people don´t want to grasp those concepts. Sometimes I think companies would rather choose popularity over profitability.

As you mention on your article I think having good KPI implemetation is vital to succeed. Avinash has some great advice over this topic.

Nice post.

Gwave Mastery
March 22, 2010 - 5:46pm

Let's step back for a moment and address the truth here.

My PA loves an app on Facebook. She leaves it open all day long. So do a million or so other Facebookers, give a take a few hundred thousand. Only FB knows the truth.

So number one, time spent on Facebook is skewed by apps.

Secondly, pageviews are skewed by sharing on Facebook. We are top social media marketers. We have a 60K following and we manage accounts for other marketers. We know what really goes on. We share on Facebook all day.

The popup window may just well account for pageviews when visitors to a site use the "Share on Facebook" button.

Third just like I use Gmail for my social marketing hub, many do the same on Facebook, leaving the page they like to use open in a tab all day.

So no, we don't have exact proof. We can punch a lot of holes in the Facebook time on site /page views theory.

Next up, let's talk what is really going on. Facebook and Microsoft are locked in a battle with Google for supremacy for your advertising dollar.

So you can't trust most of what is said by Bloggers about Google or Facebook. I believe most of it is marketing coming down from above. You tell me where, you can guess.

Meanwhile Google has released one social networking feature after another. As top marketers in the social specturm we love Buzz, and are finding that most followers get lost in the noise on Twitter and Facebook. I personally have reconnected with many, many clients, buyers, supporters and social contacts thru Buzz in the last month. We are loving it and moving our social efforts there.

Lastly, you can't measure social conversion by sales, numbers of followers or traffic. Social sites are about creating relationships and branding, not making sales and definitely not about how many friends you have.

Conversion comes from your email list, that is where commercial stuff belongs. Your social friends will be more apt to open your emails, bottom line.

Reese and Kern just deleted their Twitter profiles and proceeded to launch a million dollar product about email marketing. You tell me what that was about.

So in the end, get your advice from real marketers in the social world like Jack Humphrey, Mari Smith and Scoble who happens to love Google Buzz.

Social marketing is about your friends, it's not about your latest blog post.

March 22, 2010 - 8:29pm

Hey Marty

You're correct in that there is brand building potential in SEO, using the method you describe. I'm using a rather narrow definition of branding.

For example, I don't think SEO is much use for generating brand awareness for something new, because search is reactive. The searcher must already be aware of the concept or product in order to search for it. Compare this with social media where you have an assembled demographic whom you can put something in front of, and who may spread the message about "new stuff".

Other channels lend themselves better to the "raising awareness" aspect, but you're right, brand building is really about *everything* we do.

March 23, 2010 - 3:28am

Slight confusion:

Social sites are about creating relationships and branding, not making sales and definitely not about how many friends you have.


Social marketing is about your friends, it's not about your latest blog post.

March 23, 2010 - 4:05pm

I make sites that are supported by advertising. For me, social media is an important leg of my SEO strategy, but it's definitely secondary to SEO.

One trouble is that social media users click on ads less than other users. Reddit and Digg can send huge stampedes of traffic, but the eCPM I get from those users can be less than 10% of what I get from search traffic. Other social networks vary, but it's unusual to get a "good" eCPM from social traffic of any kind.

Now, one problem with SEO is that it takes a while to build a critical mass: it might take six months to a year for real traffic to come. My approach to SEO depends heavily on the development of organic links: I do other sorts of link building and promotion too, but I expect to stay on top because my sites develop a natural network of organic links.

For me, social media traffic plays a critical role in filling in the "traffic hole" before my SEO efforts bear fruit. I get some organic links because of the social exposure, and I think it's a good way to prime the pump.

Right now I'm doing a social media blitz for a site that's two weeks old. Compared to the drizzle of search traffic it gets, the bursts of traffic I'm getting from social traffic look impressive. Since I had all my systems up and running, I thought I'd do a blitz for a similar site that's almost a year old... That site gets so much search traffic now that the social bursts don't look so impressive.

April 5, 2010 - 8:11pm

Great article Peter.

I agree, KPI's are critical for SEO success. However we have found that a lot of our customers never consider planning their SEO campaigns let alone what are their end goals.

We start by sitting down and agreeing an SEO starategy with our clients and documenting the agreed KPI's: sometimes we find it harder for the client to accept the targets that we will meet for them maybe.

John Caldwell

September 4, 2010 - 1:27pm


DO NOT GIVE FACEBOOK, GOOGLE, OR YAHOO YOUR MOBILE PHONE NUMBERS. THEY WILL SPAM YOU WITH ADS AND YOU WILL HAVE TO PAY FOR THEM!!! I had built up my account on Facebook for my business and they just told me they now need my cell phone # with texting to log in now. They said it was for my own security!! LOL!

Don't do it and do not believe a word they say. This is a massive, money making scheme and I have already been taken. They are selling your phone numbers to advertisers! You WILL have to pay for the messages that are sent to you.

Watch your cell phone bill!!!!


September 5, 2010 - 7:43am

Funny trend that, I just got the same sorta "don't wait until its too late to get your password restored" screen with Google...asking for a cell phone number!

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