Yahoo seems to be a little confused about its prospects these days. Now that their search deal with Microsoft is approved, they’re suddenly not that interested in search, because people aren’t interested in search. (Odd how that one’s not generating the same interest as a couple years ago when Ask.com did/didn’t say they were getting out of search.) And yet at the same time, they’re releasing research that shows just how important search really is.
SEO by the Sea reports on a study, to be presented today, that shows search is responsible for more than 1 in 5 pageviews online. Search itself saw 10% of online pageviews, and indirectly lead to 21% of the pageviews and about the same proportion of purchases online.
They tell us that main web search accounted for 6.2 percent of all pageviews, multimedia searches take up 1.4 percent, and item searches another 1.4 percent. They followed browsing trails from these searches to the pages that searchers followed from the searches, and tell us that those pages browsed as a result of searches result in another 12.4 percent of pages visited on the Web. . . .
The study also looked at “checkout” pageviews to see how often people arrived at ecommerce checkout pages, and tell us that approximately 20 percent of people making a purchase online eventually arrived at that page directly or indirectly from a search pageview.
Based on >50M pageviews collected over 8 days in March 2009, the study reaffirms the importance of search. Over the last year, social networks have continued to grow—but the two categories play very different roles. Meanwhile, if Yahoo really thought that search was on the way out, wouldn’t they have their employees sit on this research?
Naturally, Yahoo is right that people are using social networks and recommendations from friends to find new websites and places to hang out—and possibly even answers to questions. But if they really think people aren’t searching, 1.) they need better internal communication, 2.) the search deal is a waste of time and money and 3.) they don’t understand how people find information in the first place—a cardinal sin in the IR industry.
Even in the reports this morning, Yahoo acknowledged that people spend about a sixth of their online time searching. While they also cited stats that said they spent another third of their time communicating and half their time browsing, I think that showing that people spend a significant amount of time—but not a majority of it—searching shows how successful search engines are. Would anyone want an Internet where we spent half our time searching for something, and a minority of our time actually reading what we’d found?
With these stats, it sounds like Yahoo’s trying to have its cake and eat it to: search is important, but it isn’t. It drives pageviews, but social is the wave of the future. Buy search ads, but buy display ads. What do you think? Is Yahoo trying to attack this from both sides?
This looks like a case of