Earlier this week, Experian Hitwise decreed that according their metrics, the most-visited website in 2011 was Facebook, with Google coming in second. It wasn't a crushing defeat, since Google still owns a healthy chunk of the top ten, but coming so soon after news that Facebook was the top Android app in November, it gives the impression that Google's web domination might have a shakier foundation than was once thought. Au contraire, says Nielsen Research. Waiting until nearly the last possible minute - December 28 - to release their own data on yearly web user habits, they've announced that it is in fact Google, not Facebook, that led the year in number of unique visitors.
The data is culled from a study of work and home computer browsing habits covering the period of January 1 to October 31, 2011. It found that an average of 153,441,000 people visited Google every month, or more than a billion and a half during the 10-months studied. This makes sense, as Google remains the preferred search engine with 61.71% of the market. Facebook still performed strongly, coming in second with 137,644,000 per month (or just over a billion for the same 10 months). Rounding out the top 5, Yahoo took third with 130,121,000 unique views a month, Microsoft-owned sites MSN, Bing and Windows Live charted a combined 4th place with 115,890,000, and youtube in 5th with 106,692,000.
The complete top ten most visited sites, according to Nielsen Research, are:
1) Google (153,441,000)
2) Facebook (137,644,000)
3) Yahoo (130,121,000)
4) MSN/Bing/Windows Live (115,890,000)
5) Youtube (106,692,000)
6) Microsoft (83,691,000)
7) AOL Media Network (74,633,000)
8) Wikipedia (62,097,000)
9) Apple (61,608,000)
10) Ask Search Engine (60,552,000)
This is great news for Google, and for websites who base their entire SEO strategy on Google results. But it's not a total victory - Nielsen also studied social network visitation, and as you've probably guessed, Facebook topped the list. They enjoyed an average of 137,644,000 monthly unique visits. Google+ was in 8th with 8,207,000. The monthly average was 8,207,000. However, considering the service was only launched in June, it's still a strong showing. Not "David Fincher directs the biopic" strong, but excellent considering it could only be studied for 4 months.
The complete announcement, including data on Video site visitations and smartphone use, can be viewed on Nielsen's blog.