Why is the UK’s web traffic dropping?

I was doing a check of Google Trends today, which I do every once in a while. It’s a great free tool as you can plot search terms or web traffic and compare different terms and sites (see my past Kate Nash v Amy Winehouse blog for how to use it).

Yet when I looked at the web traffic for MSE – selecting UK only users – I was a little surprised…

Daily Unique Users Oct 07-Oct 09 - Google Trends

Daily Unique Users Oct '07-Oct '09 - Google Trends

As you can see this shows it dropping, but as described in my recent blog our traffics been at record levels with over 1,000,000 visits in a day last week according to our internal Google Analytics tool – which is much more accurate as it’s based on actual visitors not sample data.

So I thought I would try and investigate the cause… one of the problems is google trends has no scale, so unless you plot it against something else it’s meaningless

MSE v Other Big Money Sites

First I plotted MSE’s traffic against the other big money sites…

Below you’ve got MSE in blue, Moneysupermarket in red, the Fool in green, Thisismoney in yellow and iii.co.uk in purple..

MSE vs. MoneySupermarket vs. The Fool vs. This Is Money vs. III

MSE vs. MoneySupermarket vs. The Fool vs. This Is Money vs. III

The position of the traffic is all pretty similar, MSE and Moneysupermarket are still substantially bigger – but all roughly look to reflect a similar traffic falling trend.

Mapping the big UK sites against each other

So next I decided to see if this same pattern was reflected in some of the really big UK websites.

Here’s the BBC is blue, eBay in red and Amazon in yellow.

BBC vs. eBay vs. Amazon UK - Google Trends

BBC vs. eBay vs. Amazon UK - Google Trends

This is even more bizarre; it seems the whole of the UK webspace is dropping in traffic, that can’t be true.

Facebook vs. MSN vs. BBC

So I tried to think of what may have caused it and I thought “Facebook” (twitter while it gets much attention is only marginally bigger than MSE and neither really register on the scale when you look at Facebook)

So here’s another graph with Facebook in blue, bbc in red, and msn.com in yellow

Facebook vs. BBC vs. MSN

Facebook vs. BBC vs. MSN

Certainly Facebook has stemmed the decline, and at this enormous level of traffic that could have the impact of skewing figures (it wouldn’t surprise me if it was more than 10% of all web visits, so that’d certainly make a difference).

Yet if it was the cause, surely its upward curve would be much steeper – leaving me at a loss to what’s causing this.

My only other thought is that even though for all of these graphs I was selecting only UK users, the scale is not of actual traffic but of the proportion of worldwide users (or more specifically worldwide users who have the google toolbar installed). That is likely to be growing much faster than UK traffic as web use is more mature in this country than elsewhere.

Any thoughts?

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