Search Guiding More Web Activity

  |  March 12, 2003   |  Comments

Search engines' share of site referrals surged in the past year, according to WebSideStory.

WebSideStory on Tuesday released data that showed search engines and direct navigation make up the lion's share of referrals to Web sites.

According to the data culled from WebSideStory's StatMarket Web site optimization service, search engines generated 13.4 percent of site referrals on the day measured, up from 7.1 percent measured a year earlier. Direct navigation also rose in the StatMarket sample, growing to 65.5 percent versus 50.1 percent a year earlier. Web links, on the other hand, fell from 42.6 percent to 21 percent.

"One of the things we also discovered is that along with going directly to Web sites, people are more likely to go to a search engine," said Geoff Johnston, vice president of product marketing for StatMarket. "There's less meandering around the Web. The Web's becoming an efficient utility."

The StatMarket data was collected from visitors to the 125,000 sites using WebSideStory's HitBox analytics platform. It represents the surfing habits of about 12 million Internet users. It was collected during a single day, March 6, 2003, and compared to the figures from a year earlier. Johnston said StatMarket checked the data with that collected from other days, concluding it was consistent with overall trends.

"The search engines apparently are becoming the card catalog to the Web," Johnston said.

In a December report, StatMarket trumpeted the growing importance search played in e-commerce. The company estimated that between 8 and 10 percent of all e-commerce referrals come from search engines, with Google, AOL, MSN and AOL dominating.

Domestically, StatMarket found search engines have experienced remarkable growth in a year's time. Last year, search engines accounted for 8 percent of all referrals, while this year they accounted for 15 percent. Likewise, figures from the United Kingdom were up sharply, from 11.5 percent to 17.8 percent.

The international figures were more striking. In Spain, search engine referrals were reported to grow from 10.8 percent to 21.5 percent; in Australia, from 10.9 percent to 17 percent; in Brazil, from 8.2 percent to 19 percent; and in South Africa, from 12.5 percent to 20.5 percent.

While pay-for-performance search listings have taken off in the U.S., and to a lesser extent in the UK, international markets remain in the very early stages of development. Both Google and Overture have tagged international expansion as a key front in their battle for supremacy in the paid listings market.

Global Internet Usage

Referral Type As of 3/06/03 As of 3/07/02
Direct Navigation 65.48% 50.12%
Web Links 21.04% 42.60%
Search Engines 13.46% 7.18%
Source: StatMarket

Search Engine Referral Percentages by Country As of 3/06/03 As of 3/07/02
Spain 21.53% 10.83%
South Africa 20.47% 12.49%
Brazil 19.04% 8.20%
United Kingdom 17.84% 11.51%
Australia 17.07% 10.88%
United States 15.07% 8.00%
Source: StatMarket

Total Search Hours (in Millions)
Google 18.7
AOL 15.5
Yahoo 7.1
MSN 5.4
Ask Jeeves 2.3
InfoSpace 1.1
AltaVista 0.8
Overture (GoTo) 0.8
Netscape 0.7
EarthLink.com 0.4
LookSmart 0.2
Lycos 0.2
Source: Nielsen//NetRatings for SearchEngineWatch.com

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