Danny Wong

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The most compelling value proposition of SEO is access to free traffic. The beauty of an organic visit is also the credibility offered by search engines when one of your links is ranked towards the top of the first page for any given query.

Think about it from a searcher’s perspective.

A user’s preferred search engine suggested your site was one among what can seem like an infinite number of results that may actually help that user uncover quality answers to her query.

Of course, when it comes to search market share, we all know that Google takes the cake.

The following stats reinforce that notion. Below, we’ve analyzed data collected over the last six months (December 2013 – May 2014) that aggregate organic search traffic numbers from 300,000+ publishers reaching an audience of more than 400 million monthly unique visitors.

Search Engines’ Share of Visits

The figures here are represented as “share of visits,” a percentage of overall traffic — direct traffic, social referrals, organic search, paid search, etc. — sites received.

Organic Search Engine Traffic Data May 2014

In this report, we’ve specifically called out the top 5 US search engines (Google, Yahoo, Bing, Ask.com, and AOL) and observed trends in the traffic they sent to publishers. These numbers shouldn’t surprise anyone. Still, a few things worth pointing out are:

  • Search alone makes up about 1/3 of sites’ overall traffic.
  • Google is every successful search marketer’s best friend, claiming a 31.04% share of traffic.
  • Yahoo, Bing, Ask.com, and AOL each drove less than 1% of the overall visits sites received in May.
  • Google alone sends nearly 17 times the amount of visits Yahoo, Bing, Ask.com, and AOL send to publishers, combined!

Organic Search Traffic Trends May 2014

More interesting though, is the fact that, across the board, search engines contributed a smaller percentage of overall traffic last month (in May) compared to six months ago (in December). Above, you notice the steady decline in Google’s share of visits.

The following chart excludes Google’s data to offer a close up of the downward trend lines for the remaining search engines.

Organic Search Traffic Trends continued May 2014

None have fared well over the past six months as other sources of traffic, especially social media, have gained significant share. The top 5 US search engines saw their respective shares of traffic shrink by 17% to 32% since December.

As I’ve mentioned before: Search’s heyday is over; it’s a mature channel.

These days, marketers are executing more strategies that diversify their traffic sources so a manual penalty from Google or a sudden change in its algorithm won’t immediately sink their business. Channels such as social media also offer plenty of opportunity to be discovered and to grow your audience.

Search Engine Post-Click Engagement

Since SEO is still, without a doubt, a significant customer and traffic acquisition channel, it is worth asking: What is a visit from each search engine actually worth?

To answer this, we analyzed three key metrics — average visit duration, pages per visit, and bounce rate — to give us a sense of which search engine delivers the most engaged audience.

Search Engine Post-Click Engagement

The above findings are represented as average values over the last 6 months for their respective categories.

Two key takeaways include:

  1. Ask.com, Bing and Yahoo drive few visits, but offer the most engagement. Though sites receive hardly any traffic from these three search engines, users that favor these Google alternatives generally stay on-site longer, view more pages during each visit, and are less likely to exit after reading only one page.
  2. Google and AOL offer the lowest quality visits. Though Google directs the highest volume of search visits to sites, it offers some of the least engaged users. Google searchers are quick to abandon sites they deem unfit to help them solve current issues — on average, 61.26% bounce. Also, Google fans, on average, view the fewest number of pages per visit (2.34). But it still ranks above AOL which has no redeeming qualities. As the US search engine which sends the fewest organic visits to sites, with users who spend barely above two minutes during each session post-click (129.07 seconds), publishers could care less about AOL traffic.

For the full data set, here are three charts that show average visit duration (chart #1), pages per visit (chart #2), and bounce rate (chart #3) for each of the 5 search engines over the past six months.

How engaged are your visitors from your favorite search engines? 

Related story: YouTube, Google+ and LinkedIn Drive The Most Engaged Social Referrals

Enjoy our data reports? Subscribe to our blog. We publish reports twice a month to help marketers, publishers and website owners understand their audience and reader behavior better.

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  • Marcus

    Hey, so, are you saying that the search engines saw a drop in query volume OR that the referrals to the sites you have data for had a drop from search engines?

    • https://shareaholic.com/ Danny Wong

      The latter, sorta. “Share of visits” is a relative figure and is intentionally so because some of our sites grew in traffic while others shrunk. Using our methodology (opt-in analytics on user sites) makes it irresponsible to quantify it in more absolute terms since our users have grown and, naturally, we experience a bit of churn. Ultimately, we aren’t working with a “fixed” set of data which has its advantages and disadvantages.

  • letsdisqusit

    Nice article – but for the last section is it possible that the lower time/less pages/ and higher bounce rate at Google means that Google is actually bringing the searcher to exactly the right page more often, and providing the information they sought?

    • https://shareaholic.com/ Danny Wong

      That is an interesting hypothesis. Will need to mull over that a bit :)

  • Andrew Rodgers

    Exactly how many clients was this study based upon? And what was the overall volume of traffic? Seems to me there are too many variables that could be at play if the sample size is small.

    • Andrew Rodgers

      “that aggregate organic search traffic numbers from 300,000+ publishers reaching an audience of more than 400 million monthly unique visitors.” Ah yer, it says it in the article.

  • http://www.sbwebcenter.com/ Steve

    The research seems a bit narrow minded.

    You probably only measured publishers with an existing search/social presence. These sites probably have a lot of return visitors which would explain the decrease in search traffic and increase in other traffic sources, such as direct type-in, bookmarks, and social.

    How about ecommerce and service-oriented sites that don’t focus on information as the primary traffic driver? What about newer sites without a reader base?

    • https://shareaholic.com/ Danny Wong

      Given the size and breadth of our network, we feel fairly confident in our findings. Is it perfect? Certainly not. That would require having analytics enabled on every single site on the web.

      We haven’t yet segmented the data for publishing. When we do get around to breaking up the data into different categories and verticals, we will publish that on our blog.

  • Jesslh

    In the first paragraph under “Search Engines’ Share of Visits” you explain that the chart below is looking at share of visits as all sources of traffic, however the title on the chart says “Organic Search Engine Traffic”. Can you please clarify what traffic source is being shown in all the charts you provide in this post?

    • https://shareaholic.com/ Danny Wong

      Thanks for asking. The chart features only the respective “share of traffic” for each of the top 5 US search engines. You may notice that they do not total 100% and that is because those percentages also compete for “share” with other sources such as “direct traffic, social referrals, paid promotions, email marketing, etc.” We’ve simply left out the other sources to specifically focus on and highlight “share of traffic” for the 5 search engines.

      Please let me know if that’s unclear. Happy to discuss this further with you.

      • Jesslh

        Got it, makes sense, thank you!

  • http://interactive-arts.com interartsllc

    Love to see more info that compares these same sites in terms of direct traffic to search. We’ve been reading that many mobile-based browsers do not pass along traffic source info. In these cases, search traffic would show up under the “direct” (source not known) measurement.

    • https://shareaholic.com/ Danny Wong

      Actually, I plan to release a report with those full figures. Stay tuned!

  • http://www.baekdal.com/ Thomas Baekdal

    Danny, what I miss from this study is to know what the total numbers are. If, say, the volume of traffic (in total) is increasing, then Google might have a lower share in percentages, but not in terms of actual traffic. I’m not saying there is anything wrong with your study, but without the totals we can’t tell.

    • https://shareaholic.com/ Danny Wong

      Hi Thomas, given we track an ever-growing set of sites, it is not appropriate to disclose total numbers because while our network may grow, total search queries may not. Therefore, total numbers from our sample set likely won’t tell you much about how much more traffic Google is sending to sites these days. Thanks for asking though.

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