Google, Yahoo! or MSN - Who sends you traffic?

Published in Search Engines on Thursday, August 25th, 2005

Having looked recently at the traffic from a handful of busy and not-so-busy websites, I got to wondering: there sure is a lot of talk around the web about search, and how important it is. But if that is really the case, why has GOOG been the only engine to send me traffic over the last 4 years?

Where is the beef? What does your data tell you?

I'll get right to the meat of the issue: having access to stats for about a dozen or more sites - some tech related and some small businesses - I can say with a high degree of certainty that from my point of view, Google crushes the other engines when it come to sending these sites traffic.

So I ask you, dear readers, how do you see this in your logs? Share with me in the comments, if you would be so kind. Consider this something akin to one of Scrivs' "Non-scientific Polls". No need for hard numbers, percentage will do.

So much hot air

While thinking about this topic, and all of the talk we hear about search, I can't help but think that there is a lot of hot air and vapourware out there.

If I were to go by what is written about Yahoo! in this weeks edition of the Economist (subscription required - it's a worthy read), they are looking towards entertainment while Google is looking toward results. MSN, I can only guess, is looking for something, anywhere, though to be honest, looking at my logs, they are #2 for search engine traffic, and when I follow those results, they aren't that bad (maybe the vapourware days are ending?).

Focusing on the now

This week Google launches it's chat service, the NYT declare them the Villain, and Kottke has an in depth look at where things may be heading.

This type of analysis is important, I suppose, to marketers and developers and startups: people who try to look forward and steer their ship into the path of success. As a website developer, and someone who runs a couple more, I also need to be interested in "the now", and I will say that I am a bit concerned.

The Economist article states:

Google seems to be the clear winner in the biggest category, search—its share of searches has been rising, to 52% in America as of June, whereas Yahoo!'s has fallen, to 25%.

The concern rises because it's not like Yahoo! and MSN have been sitting on their hands doing nothing. Yahoo! bought Alltheweb, MSN has been integrating search into Messenger and both companies have been trying to win the search crowd in other ways as well. So why is it that this monopoly still exists?

Googles' results aren't that much better than the other two, and I can find many cases where MSN outshines GOOG.

Is this the calm?

Perhaps what we are seeing in the media is a leading indicator of what is to come? There is a growing grey cloud forming around Google, the Economist says Yahoo has a personality crisis and even goes on to quote Paul Saffo of the Institute for the Future (how ambitious), writing:

The "world of the few and large" belongs to media in the 20th century, whereas this century will bring a "world of the many and small". Yahoo!, in short, has old-media plans for the new-media era.

Reading the NYT article quoted earlier, it seems Google could be considered to be doing the same (perhaps less so from a media standpoint). Does this mean that MSN search will rise from (it's) the ashes and surge to #1?

The future

Looking towards the future, and perhaps commenting a bit on Kotte's article and that from the New York Times, I don't think that Google can be compared with Microsoft. They, if they do go with some form of webOS, are filling a hole left by Microsoft, a hole that MS tried dearly but failed to not let open.

Think about it: Who was the first to go live and mainstream with a whole whack of Ajaxian products? (Effectively ajaxian before Ajax became AJAX) Who seems to purposefully be buying up (or amazingly already has in their pocket) companies and hiring up quality people at Silicon-Valley-Annoying rates? Google. To me they have a purpose, a vision. Perhaps something that was a seed that existed long ago, but whose chance to grow grew from a great search engine solution, and subsequent amazing market penetration.

Comments and Feedback

Statistics for this month for my blog:

  • MSN: 287
  • Yahoo: 121
  • Google: 66

It's been like that for a while now. Can't say why Google is so far behind...

Stats for my domain for the month of August to date:

  • Google: 657
  • Yahoo: 126
  • MSN: 91

Google has always been on top and for the year outweighs Yahoo by 2000 plus hits.

This is an accumulation of the past 6 months and is based on ~5000 search engine based referrers. I'm not surprised based on my audience that Google is so far ahead. I'm more surprised that MSN is ahead of Yahoo.

  • Google: 87%
  • MSN: 7.5%
  • Yahoo: 5.5%

Although I just got my established domain, yahoo and msn have yet to crawl my page, while google crawled it within the first week, although it didn't find much to search. Hopefully it will come back periodically...

Stats for 456 Berea Street, August 2005:

  • Google: 94%
  • Yahoo: 3.5%
  • MSN: 1%

The stats are pretty similar when I look at the whole of 2005. Google is way ahead.

Stats for this site:

  • Google: 96.6%
  • Yahoo: 2.6%
  • MSN: 0.8%

As for Roger, the stats are pretty similar when I look at the whole of 2005. Google is way ahead.

For August 2005:

  • MSN - 50 %
  • Yahoo - 37.5 %
  • Google - 12.5 %

It's obvious that google becomes the clear winner on traffic. But comparing Dmoz to the Y! Portal is laughable. Nevermind the matter, most traffic comes from a search, and that's what we care about.

Give it time, I think Y! and MSN will be beefing up the competition.

For a couple of commercial sites, with an overwhelming Japanese audience, it is Yahoo, followed by MSN. Google is way way down (5% is lots).

On personal sites, Google gets maybe 50% [1], the rest coming from Yahoo, MSN, A9, AOL.

But all those numbers don't matter to me. More important is: people can find the info through their search engine of choice.

[1] Mostly from Google US, although most traffic comes from outside of the US. And overall, Google is dropping.

Dustin, most traffic comes from a search, and that's what we care about, I agree, but what happens when there is a dominating search engine, and maybe for whatever reason it doesn't index your site?

As an example, a recently launched clients' site was indexed by Google. For the past few weeks, Google has been fluctuating its result pages (SERPS) between a series of sets where some days the site gets no traffic and other days it gets tonnes.

Now, if that site were to rely on SE's for traffic, and Google dominates the way that it does, it becomes difficult to not 'put all of your eggs in one basket', so to speak.

This is but one example.

Philippe, More important is: people can find the info through their search engine of choice.

Personally, I would rephrase that:
More important is: can people find the info through their search engine of choice?

Likely that they can. But I'd love them to find my info, rather than that on other sites ;-)


Well, LifeHut has only been "live" for about 1 month now, but I have yet to get any significant google traffic, even though I have plenty backlinks from my first week of launching (thanks Lifehacker).

Right now, I get mostly type ins (I think) and people from RSS Feeds.

Here are my stats so far

17% - Bloglines
16% - Unmatched Style
6% -
7% - MSN Search
2% - Yahoo

To be honest, I don't think my site is indexed on Google or something, because if I do a search on LifeHut, I get 2 pages that belong to my domain, and the rest are on other sites.

Am I in a sandbox or something?

I have gotten some Google UK traffic, VERY VERY little, but I have seen a link or two.

Stats just for this month...

  • Google (Images): 84.20% (11147 pages)
  • Google: 10.60% (1403 pages)
  • Yahoo: 2.90% (389 pages)
  • AltaVista: 0.60% (80 pages)
  • AOL: 0.40% 54 (pages)
  • MSN: 0.30% 48 (pages)
  • Virgilio: 0.20% (27 pages)
  • Netscape: 0.10% (15 pages)
  • 0% (13 pages)

Quite obvious to me it's my gallery and not my "main site" that gets the traffic as far as search engines goes.

I was surprised when I noticed a sudden impact of hits on my website, making me analyze the logfiles. Lo and behold, MSNBot hit my apache once every second. For days and weeks without any remorse. I was sort of DoS'ed by MSNBot and it made me pretty upset, since I've got the robots.txt file setup correctly in companionship with .htaccess to block out various bots and spiders.

Stats from last 1000 visits:

  • MSN 15%
  • Google 5.5%
  • All else less than 1%

Mike, as an employee of Y! - I can't (and won't) say what we're up to.
Just be aware that I'd never put us out of the loop (not that you were). We are -in fact- always doing something.

I run a commercial web site - subscription based and over 99% of my traffic would be from google.

It does concern me that if they change their 'secret forumula'/ algorhythms that I may not longer be at the number 1 spot on my best keyword.

Also of concern is that advertisers can effectively muscle you out by having their ads above your listing. Some may say then you should advertise too, but having done that previously, I've seen evidence that your opposition can drive your budget over by simply clicking your ads for simply the purpose of wasting your $$$$.

With all due respect to any Y and M employees, if you want to kick G, you'll have to come up with some damn good new innovation(s) and not just follow the leader.
Once people have converted to one product, it's very hard to swing them back over.

Very interesting statistics above, but I think *most* of them are tainted by the fact that Google is used more by the technologically inclined. And looking at the sites (linked to by the commenter's name), one would have to deduce that most of the sites are technologically related, and would therefore have a much higher referral percentage in Google's favor.

I have a non-technological site that I haven't been able to get ranked in the top 100 by google, but MSN ranks it at #1 for all 6 of my targeted keywords, and Altavista ranks it within the top 20 for 4 out of my top 6. Yahoo is another noshow, with no listings in the top 100. So obviously, I wouldn't/shouldn't get much/any traffic from google or yahoo, but MSN and AltaVista should give me plenty(all theoretical... because not many people search for Christmas-related topics when its not Christmas Season).

I'd like to see some stats from non-technological sites. Perhaps something from the legal/healthcare/news industry. My guess is that Google would still send the most traffic, but the stats wouldn't be skewed so much in Google's favor.

Statistics for 28.08.2004 for my blog:
Google: 191
Yahoo: 27 8
AOL: 4
MSN: 1 1

Statistics for 28.08.2004 for my blog:


Kyle, how much traffic does MSN send your non-techy site then?

Fwiw, the other sites that I alluded to in the post are all non-technical. Google still slaughters, though MSN puts in a decent showing (tho a fraction of GOOG).

MSN has been catching up recently on my blog:

  • Google: 662
  • MSN: 532
  • Yahoo: 235

Bryan, I would give it a bit of time, and be leery of what happened with James as well.

David, MSN Bot can be a real pig.

Statistics for august for my blog:

MSN: 354
Yahoo: 224
Google: 3898

Stats for my blog :

  • Google : 793 | 94.74%
  • MSN Search : 22 | 2.63%
  • Yahoo : 19 | 2.27%

Very interesting statistics above, but I think *most* of them are tainted by the fact that Google is used more by the technologically inclined. And looking at the sites (linked to by the commenter's name), one would have to deduce that most of the sites are technologically related, and would therefore have a much higher referral percentage in Google's favor.

I host a very non-technical personal blog for my Latvian friend, Inese and here are the stats for August '05:

  • Google (Images): 92% (9018 pages)
  • Yahoo: 4% (395 pages)
  • Google: 2.7% (269 pages)
  • AltaVista: 0.3% (31 pages)
  • AOL: 0.1% (15 pages)
  • Netscape: 0.1% (15 pages)
  • AllTheWeb: 0.1% (13 pages)
  • Virgilio: 0.1% (11 pages)

So once again it's Google (Images) that send a lot of the traffic, though the less technical audience seem to have a preference over Yahoo! to Google?

Home » Blog » Search Engines

Check out the blog categories for older content

The latest from my personal website,

SiteUptime Web Site Monitoring Service

Sitepoint's web devlopment books have helped me out on many occasions both for finding a quick solution to a problem but also to level out my knowlegde in weaker areas (JavaScript, I'm looking at you!). I am recommending the following titles from my bookshelf:

The Principles Of Successful Freelancing

I started freelancing by diving in head first and getting on with it. Many years and a lot of experience later I was still able to take away some gems from this book, and there are plenty I wish I had thought of beforehand. If you are new to freelancing and have a lot of questions (or maybe don't know what questions to ask!) do yourself a favor and at least check out the sample chapters.

The Art & Science Of JavaScript

The author line-up for this book says it all. 7 excellent developers show you how to get your JavaScript coding up to speed with 7 chapters of great theory, code and examples. Metaprogramming with JavaScript (chapter 5 from Dan Webb) really helped me iron out some things I was missing about JavaScript. That said each chapter really helped me to develop my JavaScript skills beyond simple Ajax calls and html insertion with libs like JQuery.

The PHP Anthology: 101 Essential Tips, Tricks & Hacks

Like the other books listed here, this provides a great reference for the PHP developer looking to have the right answers from the right people at their fingertips. I tend to pull this off the shelf when I need to delve into new territory and usually find a workable solution to keep development moving. This only needs to happen once and you recoup the price of the book in time saved from having to develop the solution or find the right pattern for getting the job done..