Could Social Media Be Slowly Eroding Search Engine Traffic?

Every marketer would like to see their brand land in the top spot on a search engine, but is top worth what it used to be?

Experian Hitwise UK just released some interesting numbers concerning search in the land of Lords. What it shows is a slow decline in the number of people using search engines across the board. They say overall visits are down by 40 million since August of 2011. That means this past August was the first time this year that search didn’t show a year-over-year gain.

Here are the US numbers from this past Spring.

Bing and Yahoo increased their year-over-year percentage but Google lost 5%. Unfortunately, the two charts are a little apples and oranges since the UK data comes from a pool of all search inquiries in that country, while the US chart appears to be can extrapolation from a pool of average users. (I’m not math girl, so feel free to correct me if I got that wrong.)

Still, we’re looking at declines in Google across the board, and a decline for Yahoo in the UK. Ask had the best increase in the UK which surprises me because, honestly, I didn’t even know they were still an option.

So why did people perform fewer searches this August over last August? Was it because they were busy watching the Olympics? You laugh, but smaller events have been known to trigger bigger actions. Or could it be that we’re finding other outlets for our informational needs, such as Twitter and Facebook. I routinely use Twitter to find fast information about breaking news, particularly for things like, was that an earthquake I just felt. Twitterites are faster than actual news crews, so why bother Googling when I can Tweet?

I’m not much of a Facebook user, but this week I found out two interesting bits of information with the links I needed to learn the rest. No need to hit a search engine when it’s already at my fingertips.

Of course, these decreases could simply be the result of improving search engines. A couple of years ago, I might have to try three different search terms before landing on the results I was looking for. Now, search engines are so intuitive, they get you there on the first try. No need to search again.

Forget social media, I think search engines themselves, are making multiple searches obsolete.

What do you think caused the recent decline, social media, improved engines or the Olympics? Or could it be a fluke that they’ll recover from in no time?