The Viability of Search Engine Traffic: Proof in Numbers

In a past article, regarding the viability of search engine traffic I stated that “the majority of Web site visitors come from search engines.” Now there are those of you who doubt whether this is true. And, recently, a reader expressed his doubts. So to make believers out of you, I figured I’d show that the proof is definitely in the pudding (or, in this case, the stats) by compiling results from more than a year’s worth of studies.

The stats in the studies I selected support the idea that most Web site visitors do indeed come from search engines. And the strongest evidence seems to come from the number of unique visitors shown for search engines in the latest Media Metrix U.S. Top 50 Web and Digital Media Properties for December 2000.

My personal summary of Media Metrix’s Top 50 report identifies a few search engines measured in the report and shows their traffic numbers, in millions of unique visitors, from December 1, 2000, to December 31, 2000.

Media property
Unique visitors in millions
AOL Network
60.562
Yahoo
54.626
Microsoft sites
53.809
Excite Network
30.819
Lycos
29.965
AltaVista
18.718
NBC sites
15.921
LookSmart
13.647
Ask Jeeves
11.853
iWon
8.915
Google
7.386

This amounts to nearly 300 million unique visitors during December 2000. Granted, many of these unique visitors could have been checking stock quotes or clicking into weather reports, etc.; not all unique visitors go to the search portals to search for Web sites.

However, logic tells us that those visitors who did perform a search would likely have searched by a number of keywords and key phrases. Unfortunately, the precise traffic numbers that are necessary to determine this are probably available only on the server logs at each search engine. To my knowledge, the engines are not publishing this data openly. But if you know where we can obtain figures, please contact me so I can share it with ClickZ readers.

Here are a few additional studies from the year 2000 that support the view that a substantial amount of traffic does come from search engines:

More search engine statistics like the above can be found on the Search Engine Index page at Search Engine Watch.

For more information on why marketers should be listed in search engines, see “The Four Search Engines to be Listed in and Why.” Even though my article dates back to November, I don’t believe that the variance is going to change drastically from month to month, unlike Web site stats, which change constantly.

Now you’re still entitled to your own opinion whether it is worth considering SEO for driving traffic to your online business. But I trust the above data is persuasive enough to make a believer out of you yet.

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