Facebook and YouTube Rise To The Top Most Search Keywords for 2010

Facebook and YouTube Rise To The Top Most Search Keywords for 2010

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Experian Hitwise has released a year-end report detailing the most-searched keyword phrases and most-visited websites of 2010.  Among the most interesting reveals is the declaration that Facebook overtook Google as the most-visited website.  Of course, they wouldn’t be number one if Google wasn’t feeding them tons of traffic–the most-searched keyword phrases of the year were “facebook,” followed immediately by “facebook login,” and then – “YouTube”

I’m not sure what kind of an omen it is for a web statistics company to include an embarrassing typo in their first paragraph, but it can’t be a good sign… these are the people who are supposed to be good with numbers after all, right?  And yet, right there in their report, they say they’ve analyzed “the top 1000 search terms for 20101.”  Wow!  Outstanding!  They’ve somehow managed to determine the top search keyword phrases for a year that is 18,000 years in the future.  Man, I had no idea that statistical prediction had gotten that good.  Check out the screenshot (it’s in the second line of the opening paragraph):

I know, I know… I’m giving them a hard time for what amounts to a typo.  But seriously… these are the people carrying the ones and zeros.  These are the people who are supposed to be detail-oriented, or else the rest of us will be operating with bad numbers, right?  You’d think they could get the year right in the report’s opening paragraph.

Okay, now on with the findings.  It seems that Facebook’s meteoric rise has no end in sight.  In addition to overtaking Google as the most-visited site this year, they’re also the most searched phrase.  Here’s the top 10 search keyword phrases, according to Hitwise, for both this year and last:

And now here’s the top 10 sites in terms of visits for both this year and last:

So then… what are we to make of all this?  What nugget of useful knowledge is there in this report for the video marketer?  Well, assuming you believe Hitwise’s numbers to be completely accurate (which I don’t, because I tend to take all these extrapolated reports with a few grains of salt since their data comes from a fraction of the total web audience), I think there are a few conclusions you can draw.

1. People can’t differentiate a search box from their address bar.

Sometimes I think it’s a wonder that any videos get uploaded to YouTube at all.  Look at that list of most-searched keyword phrases; every single one of them is a website. I mean, if people can’t figure out that you can type “facebook.com” into the actual browser address bar (and thereby go straight to the destination), and instead they are typing it into the Google box… then I’m not sure how they can follow the steps to upload a video… or create a Facebook account.  Or feed themselves.

2. Video is still huge and growing in importance.

YouTube jumped up one spot in the keyword phrases list to become the third most-searched phrase.  And the first two are Facebook-related, which means that after people are done finding their Facebook page they turn and start hunting down videos.  Youtube.com also jumped from 7th to 5th in the most-visited sites list, which is another sign that video’s popularity isn’t slowing… it’s growing.  The sexy headline from this report is “Facebook Overtakes Google As Most Popular Website,” but there’s more than one trend going on in this data, and online video’s rise is glaringly obvious.  Supporting that fact, Hitwise says that among those terms entering the top 50 searches this year were “Netflix” and “Hulu.”

3. Viral video is only going to grow.

The definition of “viral” content is that which grows in popularity through the contact of human beings with one another… you know… just like a virus.  There is simply zero viral success if viewers don’t ever share the video with their friends via email, Twitter, blogs, or Facebook.  If Facebook is overtaking Yahoo and Google as the most visited site… then it’s a clear sign that social behavior is on the rise. We’re interacting more with our friends on Facebook, which means we’re sharing more links to our favorite web and video content.

Notice also that if you combine all the variations of queries, Facebook has four of the top 10 slots in most-searched phrases.  So… 40% of the top 10 searches are related to Facebook.  Those of you waiting or hoping for a dive in the social network’s popularity are just going to have to wait another year or so, because it ain’t happening anytime soon.

4. Mapquest… really?!?!

Somehow Mapquest has escaped from it’s 2004 prison and lept forward in time to the year 2010, squeaking into the top-ten most-searched phrases list at #10.  Really, America?  Really?  Mapquest?  Who are the people driving this query into the top-ten, that’s what I’d like to know… and how many of them would be able to tell me with a straight face that Mapquest’s maps are the best?


It’s dangerous to put much stock in reports like these.  I mean, if you only took it at face value, you’d think Yahoo was a thriving and profitable website (oh how wrong you’d be).  These are just numbers, extrapolated out from the behavior of a few million Americans.  Don’t lose sight of the big picture.  Searches and visits don’t equal dollars and conversions.  They’re just searches and visits.

But this report probably confirms a lot of what most of us already thought:  Video is huge, social media is still on the rise, and people are idiots (searching for full domain names and also searching for “mapquest”). Take out that third item, and I’m guessing that confirmation of video and social media’s importance comes as good news to most of you.  Reports like this are a great way to take stock of our methods and priorities and make certain we’ve still understand our audience.


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