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May 23, 2007

Some Enquisitive Thoughts on Why Google’s Going Universal

When most Internet users think search they think Google. By far the most popular search engine in the world, Google is actually much bigger than most of its users might think.

According to data compiled by Enquisite, 92.19% of all Google search referrals conducted during Q1 in the United States were conducted using Google’s general search engine (google.com) as opposed to images.google.com, local.google.com, news.google.com, or maps.google.com/. That means that out of every 100 search referrals from the Google domain fewer than 8 visitors come from one of the dozen vertical search tools Google operates. (source: Search Engine Market Shares – Google in the U.S. & Canada – Jan-Mar07 – Enquiste)

Though most Google users know that Google has a remarkable sub-set of vertical search tools the numbers provided by Enquisite show that for search marketing purposes those verticals rarely become referrers.

Running approximately 100 million search queries it recorded between January and March 2007, Enquisite noted that in the US, Google Images referred only 4.19% of aggregate site traffic. Google Local referred 1.8% and Google News only sent .39% of site visitors, slightly ahead of Google’s Canadian portal, Google.ca which sent .32%.

The numbers for the Canadian market are somewhat similar with one major difference. Canadians tend to search from the Google.CA domain, with 76.62% of Google search referrals to Canadian websites coming from the .CA version. This tendency isn’t simple patriotism. It happens because Google directs Canadian IP’s to the .ca domain, giving the users a link to set Google.com as a default. Google.com serves 18.86% of Google search referrals in Canada. Added together, Google Web Search is responsible for 95.48% of referrals driven through Google’s system in Canada.

Getting back to the growing list of vertical search tools Google offers. Google’s largest vertical channels are collectively delivering less than 8% of the firm’s organic search referral traffic. The search results from those verticals are excellent and well ordered but are only used fractionally as frequently as the Web Search feature is.

In many cases, Google users have found other tools or methods of finding information found on those verticals. For some, Flickr replaces Google Images. For others, RSS replaces the Google News page. Perhaps there is a better way to lay out the most widely used page in the Google domain to present information from their vertical properties. Hence, Google Universal. (For a great overview, see: Google2.0: Google Universal at Search Engine Land)

At the same time, regional versions of Google are capable of delivering more than half of search referrals to their respective regions. Though the traffic might be forced through a regional redirect, having users search from their regional portals is a pre-requisite for localization and personalization.

Google Universal will have a major impact on SEO and SEM moving into the early summer, early autumn rush periods. There are more spaces in the SERPs for placements. SEOs and SEMs specializing in optimizing for Google News, Blogs, Local, Shopping, Video, and other Google verticals will likely find plenty of clients, especially towards the September – November hyper-busy period.

Over the next week or two, I will be taking a much closer look at the changes happening at Google from an SEO perspective at the Metamend Blog and from an overall-industry perspective at SiteProNews.com. Monday’s feature, Google Goes Crtl-Alt-Delete is the first this series.

Author:  Jim Hedger is the Executive Editor of SiteProNews.com and host of The Alternative on WebmasterRadio.fm. Jim is also a SEO analyst and blogger for Metamend Search Engine Marketing in Victoria BC.

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