Last week, Experian Hitwise US issued a press release declaring “Facebook” as the top searched term in organic search across the three major search engines for March 2010. If you combined the relative terms, Facebook terms make up 4.45% of total search volume on Bing, 3.03% on Yahoo, and 1.75% on Google. There is no doubt that this is impressive. Getting your brand as the most searched across the major three search engines is something that most marketers would _insert your words here_ for.

Hitwise Top Organic Queries

While the data of this press release is spot on, its important for us to take a minute to read between the line.

As I reviewed this data, I began thinking about how I interact with Facebook. If it is not through Tweetdeck, I will commonly ask Google’s box to find Facebook for me by requesting “Facebook”. Except for a few of the pro cycling news sites I frequent (which I used way before twitter and shortened URLs came along), I started realizing that I rarely use a URL/direct type. All of the trips I’ve booked in recent history have originated from search, not a direct type. All of the online orders I’ve made in recent history originated from a search, not a direct type. Why this matters – it is navigational oriented information retrieval at its finest. (quick refresher on the taxonomy of web search and user informational retrieval needs here)

All of this brings to light a few simple facts:

  • Facebook has a lot of flipping users
  • The data really exposes more about search behavior than anything else

While huge, this does not mean that Facebook owns the internet. It does however expose that Facebook has some serious brand affinity. It also suggest that we as SEO’s should ensure that we are not missing the obvious because of our constant pursuit of the long tail. If our client’s brand is not driving the lion’s share of the visitor volume to their site, we might be doing them a disservice. Though conversion rates are the end game, what good does that KPI provide if we’re missing half of the intenders because they can not find the brand? Jump into your analytics suite and start benchmarking. You will likely be surprised by what happens when you move the needle a few basis points for branded search traffic.