The old cliche about a rising tide lifts all boats is often true on the web. But Facebook's traffic growth has been disproportionately good to Google, according to a recent analyst, as the social network's success appears to be boosting the search engine's traffic.
RBC Capital Markets analyst Ross Sandler suggests that the "growing phenomenon of Facebook is actually positive and complementary for Google thus far," and that the site's status as the "starting point" for more and more users on the internet could actually be great for Google. That's because even though the social network's search is powered by Microsoft, Google is receiving far larger percentage of Facebook's traffic.
According to RBC analysis of ComScore data, over the past year the number of unique visitors going to Google.com from Facebook is up three times, from 52 million to 150 million, making Facebook the fourth-largest driver of traffic to Google.
Those 100 million incremental unique visitors over the past year are 50% greater than the incremental unique visitors it sent to Microsoft and 250% greater than the number it sent to Yahoo.
"Facebook's growth is actually helping boost Google's search share vs. other engines," concluded Mr. Sandler. "This staggering statistic alone is likely central to all future negotiations for Facebook monetization deals, whether it is with Google, Microsoft or Yahoo."
Likewise, Google drives many people to Facebook -- the unique visitors the search engine has driven to Facebook is up 198% year over year. Like countless other sites, Sandler characterized Facebook as "somewhat dependent on Google for the vast majority of its traffic, at least as a navigation tool."
The report was inspired, Mr. Sandler noted, by a recent Ad Age article that suggested some sites were getting more of their traffic from Facebook than from Google. He wondered whether Facebook represented a threat to Google's dominant position as the "starting point" and web referrer for many web users.
His conclusion? It's not -- for now. Facebook could, however, surpass Google in worldwide traffic by late 2011 or early 2012, assuming that growth rates for both decelerate modestly.