If you run a website and it seems like traffic has been down lately, you’re not imagining things. Google and other search engines have been sending less organic search traffic than they have in the past. This trend is sending ripple effects through the digital media industries with more websites competing for fewer and fewer organic, non-paid clicks.
Merkle’s Digital Marketing Report for the second quarter (via Searchengineland) indicates that search ad spending in the U.S. increased with Microsoft as the big winner after picking up volumes from Yahoo and Verizon Media. Meanwhile, organic search traffic declined on a year-over-year basis as the number of visits declined 6% across all search engines. The only major search engine in the U.S. to record growth in organic search traffic was DuckDuckGo.
According to Merkle, organic search traffic accounted for 23% of all site visits and 21% of mobile site visits during the second quarter. DuckDuckGo saw its organic traffic increase dramatically with a 49% year-over-year increase in visits. The search engines share of organic search traffic in the U.S. increased from 0.4% last year to 0.6% in the second quarter of this year.
Organic search traffic from Google fell with an 8% decline in visits, while Yahoo’s organic visits were down 11% and Bing’s visits declined 26%. Site visits from Facebook increased 29%, while Instagram visits were up 56% and YouTube visits increased 22%.
Organic search traffic on mobile devices took an even bigger hit during the second quarter. Google did increase its share of organic visits across all devices, accounting for 93% of organic visits in the second quarter, compared to 92% in the year-ago quarter. On mobile devices though, the company’s share declined a tenth of a point year over year while DuckDuckGo’s mobile organic search share nearly doubled.
A major concern in Merkle’s study is the fact that organic search traffic as a share of all searches declined while paid searches and direct traffic increased. The average share of visits resulting from organic traffic fell by almost two points quarter over quarter to 23% in Q2. Meanwhile, paid search and direct site visits were the biggest share gainers. On a year-over-year basis, the share of direct site visits was flat, and paid visits were up.
This suggests that sites which can’t pay for traffic are seeing their organic search traffic decline. It also suggests that Google might be giving preference to sites which pay over sites that don’t. On the consumer side, we have to question whether they benefit from this preference for paying websites or whether Google and the other search engines are the only ones that benefit.