There’s a startling assumption buried as a throwaway comment on this post from TechCrunch on Google Buzz’s recent arrival. Apparently, links shared on social networks have been growing to the extent that the mighty Goog is concerned that this phenomenon could start taking eyeballs away from all those juicy paid search ads that keep the lights on at the Googleplex. Is there any validity to this claim? It appears so, if these data points are to be believed:
The Big Money: According to Compete.com, Google lags behind Facebook in driving traffic to major portals like Yahoo, AOL and MSN.
Silicon Alley Insider: This report last year claimed 19% of Google traffic came from Facebook (and that number is growing).
Compete.com: As you can see below, Facebook is rapidly gaining ground on Google. Golden question is what proportion of this audience are clicking on links taking them out of the blue-walled garden and into the wider web?
Anecdotally, I’ve heard on the web manager grapevine that a larger proportion of traffic appears to be coming from social media – eating into the portion of the pie previously reserved for traditional search engines. Another indication of this is the number and attendance of social search sessions at major SEO events like SES.
What does this mean? Whoever owns the largest share of our life streams (the current killer app of social media) enjoys the strongest visibility and all the financial frills that follow. Also, given that we show strong signs of adopting a crowd mentality when being ‘social’ online, the chances of the market fragmenting look slim. We will all congeal our content around a handful of platforms (if that) at the top of this lucrative pile.
And then there’s all those paychecks tied to Google’s golden egg – here I’m thinking more of the huge search marketing industry that has risen up over the last 10 years. Skill sets will shift away from the technical aspects of SEO (goodbye masters of canonical URLs and 301 redirects) to more touchy-feely PR (hello reputation managers and online community builders). Key concepts in SEO are still relevant, like creating modular topic-based content, but there will be some shifts. Rather than looking for links from authoritative sites, we’ll need to understand more about who are the authoritative figures in a network.
Where will Google be in all of this? It looks like the search giant is hedging its bets with the launch of Gmail Buzz: a lifestreaming service that sits atop the versatile Gmail email client. The future is looking distinctly social.