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Facebook-Google Search: Clash of the Digital Titans


November 28th, 2010

facebookgoogle searchMatt McGee writes at Search Engine Land that Facebook, not Google, drove more online traffic to Apple’s iTunes store — at least in the United Kingdom — when the company released a Beatles catalog for the first time:

Billboard magazine reports that The Beatles sold more than two million individual songs worldwide and in excess of 450,000 albums in its first week on Apple’s iTunes Music Store. (The Beatles’ catalog was added to iTunes on November 16th.)

According to Experian Hitwise, it was social media — not search — that drove a lot of the online interest and, more importantly, the online traffic surrounding The Beatles addition to iTunes. Consider this stat: On November 16, the first day Beatles songs were available on iTunes, 26% of UK traffic to Apple.com came from social media, about double the amount that came from search.

However, as the data in the article shows, the same result did not occur in the United States — although social-website searches still grew while search-engine searches decline, the growth of the former was not enough to overtake the latter in America. Interpret that as you will — perhaps Apple specifically targeted the U.K. more in its pre-release marketing, or maybe Brits are still more enamored of the Beatles than Americans today. The English may also be more-avid social-media users for various reasons. Who knows. It will take more future data to understand this aspect of the trend.

Still, the overall data is either encouraging or discouraging — depending on how one views social-media networks. For example, Facebook’s weekly market-share of website visitors in the social-media club surpassed Google for the first time in March 2010. It may just come down to usability.

Who Will Win the Facebook-Google Search Competition?

With numerous search engines, websites, and social-media platforms vying for attention (and market-share), the ones that will ultimately be successful will be those that can integrate as much online functionality as possible. If one single website can serve as a portal for any online search-engine, multiple social-media platforms, and related activities, then millions of people will likely flock to it. Personally, I hate having to visit and log into multiple websites every day for individual parts of my SEO-consultant work. In a world in which people have ever-decreasing attention-spans, every second wasted raises a question mark in their minds.

Facebook understands this. A search for “beatles itunes” shows various Facebook groups, but the bottom lists search results from Bing. Although the competitor to Google who has yet to make significant inroads into the market, the first website link on Facebook goes to Apple’s iTunes store. Say what you will about Bing, but Facebook users who do not want to waste precious seconds surfing to another site, entering a keyword, and clicking to another site will use those listings.

Google does not understand this — at least not yet. Google Buzz seems to have failed, and the most social-media functionality contained in Google seems to be the fact that the search-engine only lists relevant tweets by those Twitter users whom a searcher is following. Here is the crux: People can use a search-engine in Facebook, but they cannot use social media in Google.

If I were Google, I would be worried.

Samuel J. Scott, a former journalist in Boston turned Internet marketer in Israel, is the founder and publisher of My SEO Software and Director of Digital Marketing and Communications and SEO Team Leader at The Cline Group. You can follow him at Google+, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter. His views here and elsewhere do not necessarily reflect those of his company and clients.