Facebook: Beating Google at its Own Game

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No wonder Google wants to get into social networking in a big way. Facebook is beating Google at its own search game.

The San Francisco Chronicle reported this week that Facebook has passed Google to become the top source for traffic to major portals like Yahoo and MSN, and is among the leaders for other types of sites.

Web measurement firm Compete Inc. found that during December, 15 percent of traffic to major Web portals like Yahoo, MSN & AOL came from Facebook and MySpace. Of that traffic total, 13 percent came from Facebook.  Google came in third with 7 percent, just behind E-Bay.

Facebook’s stratospheric growth is incredible. The social networking site recently said it now has 400 million active members (including about 225 million added in the past 12 months). Compete said its size now rivals that of the major Web portals, and its demographics mirror those of the Internet in general.

Google isn’t giving up without a fight. Last week, it purchased Aardvark, a social-media search engine for questions and answers, and unveiled Google Buzz, which allows Gmail users to post updates, videos, photos and links in the “Facebook” style.

“Although methods such as paid search, Web display ads and TV commercials still reach a larger audience, the “influence” tapped in social media “is a heck of a lot stronger than it is with traditional advertising,” said David Berkowitz, director of emerging media and client strategy for the digital marketing firm 360i.  He added that, “…social media’s just finding its feet and the business models are just starting to emerge. And they’re evolving quickly.”