Social networks overtake search engines – but only if you count YouTube

New research from Hitwise suggests that search engines are suffering from a lull in traffic this month as social networking overtakes them in terms of visits. 

But the key question still is: are they making any money? Google has proved to be an extremely profitable business serving ads to people who are looking for the products of the advertiser.

Facebook has no such genius model and relies on the billions of impressions it can serve while users mull over pictures of ex-girl/boyfriends and keep up to date with inane status updates. Twitter seems to be the only one with a plan, looking to serve ads to users searching it’s tweet stream (as discussed before – not as relevant as Google’s model).

The only problem with this research is that it classifies YouTube as a social networking site. Whilst it is true that YouTube’s success was built on the fact that users signed up to creative profiles to share their own videos, the purpose of the site now has shifted to be more of a music video jukebox and signing up for an account is only a means to an end.

In fact YouTube is the second most popular search engine after according to a Comscore survey published last December. And Google, of course, owns YouTube.

“YouTube not only had 50% more searches than Yahoo web search (3.918bn vs 2.629bn) and 180% more searches than Bing (3.918bn vs 1.399bn), but the number of searches at the online video giant made up almost 28% (27.95) of the total searches on Google sites for Dec. 2009.”

28% of Google’s search volume is a big deal. 

Social networking has no doubt made a huge impact on our time and interest but there is no doubt either that the crown of the internet still rests comfortably on Google rather than Facebook/Twitter’s head.

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About Stephen Foster

Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.