What if Google Search became the social network rather than a portal on the Web like Facebook or Twitter? I wrote and published that sentence in the August 2010 edition of Search Marketing Daily -- the post titled "Could Google Turn Its Search Engine Into 'Google Me'?"
To find the answer, I took a look backward to see the future because it seemed as if the movement had more to do with circumstance and less to do with Google CEO Eric Schmidt wanting to take full advantage of the company's existing technologies by tying them together.
Google accounted for more than three out of every five U.S. searches in 2010, according to comScore, which released The comScore 2010 U.S. Digital Year in Review report earlier this month. Searches on Google peaked at 66.6% (explicit core) in 2010, while Yahoo sites ranked second at 16%, followed by Microsoft sites at 12%. Ask Network and AOL ended the year with 3.5% and 1.9% of conducted searches, respectively.
An analysis using comScore Marketer reveals the top search terms overall in 2010, as well as the top search terms generating paid-search clicks across the five major search engines. "Facebook" took the No. 1 search phrase, accounting for 1.9 billion search queries during the year. "Youtube" ranked No. 2 with 790.7 million searches, followed by "Google" with 615.9 million searches and "yahoo mail" with 562.2 million searches.
"Craigslist" with 546.9 million searches also ranked among the top organic search phrases, followed by "facebook login" with 503.1 million, "MySpace" with 360.1 million searches, and "eBay" with 311.1 million searches. "eBay" with 99.2 million clicks took the top spot when it came to phrases generating the most paid searches, followed by "Netflix" with 43.1 million clicks, "yellow pages" with 36.2 million, and "Verizon wireless" with 29.8 million clicks, according to comScore.
Social networking grew as one of the top Web activities in 2010. I find it difficult to believe that Google would miss the opportunity to tie in social signals to search, both organic and paid. The comScore report suggests users made at least one visit to a social networking site monthly. In fact, social networking sites accounted for 12% of all time spent online in 2010, with the average Internet user spending time at more than 4 sites each month. Globally, social networking accounts for 15.6% of online time among those age 15 and older.
SVP of Client Services Frank Lee and the group at The Search Agency make some good points. They have a lot to say on the subject, but I plucked the most interesting from among the insights and will likely follow up in a monthly article published in OMMA. For SEM, any time Google increases the attractiveness of organic listings it creates the potential of a negative impact on click-through rates (CTRs) for paid-search ads. Of course, with Google limiting the appearance of these socially enhanced listings to logged-in Google Accounts, they have insulated the majority of SEM traffic from any effect.
In the short term, these socially enhanced listings will not be game-changing, but as more and more organic listings are "enhanced" and if Google figures out how to roll these out to non-logged-in users, the long-term effect could be significant, Lee says.
Feedback from folks at The Search Agency says too many people understand what it takes to win at SEO, and the only true democratic way for Google to provide the best results is to use what people vote as the best through "citations" and "likes." Google can combine both with other metrics to continue to provide quality results, Lee says.