But Google’s elevation had more to do with Yahoo’s traffic falling about 5% month-over-month than any spike on its part. Google’s traffic actually slipped last month as well -- from 189.2 million in January -- but Yahoo’s traffic had a steeper decline from 192.1 million. Of course, it’s unwise to read too much into monthly traffic changes.
And with February only comprising 28 days this year, other top sites also saw a monthly drop in audience size. No. 3 Microsoft, for example, saw traffic fall from 175.6 million to 162.8 million, while Facebook’s total slid from 141.7 million to 133.6 million.
So Google essentially managed not to hold more of its audience in February than its rivals. Andrew Lipsman, VP, marketing and insights at comScore, noted that because Google has a much higher daily usage rate than Yahoo and other large sites, it’s less likely to see a pronounced traffic dip during the shorter month.
Still, much was made of the fact that Yahoo had broken Google’s grip on the top spot last July for the first time in two years, signaling a revival of sorts for the struggling Web portal under ex-Google executive and CEO Marissa Mayer. She has since regularly trumpeted audience gains under her watch, with global users growing 20% to 800 million by the end of 2013, and mobile users up to 400 million.
Now that the run at No. 1 has ended, it may lead to speculation of another Yahoo swoon starting in 2014. But since February is a bit of an anomaly, Lipsman pointed out that the March data should provide a truer measure of audience size. He also noted that if mobile traffic is counted in, Google has consistently topped Yahoo in the rankings in the last year.
And with more and more traffic shifting to smartphones and tablets, the main battleground for eyeballs and ad dollars is moving from the desktop to mobile.
"Google building" photo from Shutterstock.