Google: Consumers Rely on Search Engines Over Social for Product Searches

By: Chris Crum - September 17, 2010

Google pointed to some stats from PowerReviews and the e-tailing group this week, which show that search still largely dominates as the source used to begin a product search by consumers. 

According to these findings, 57% start with a search engine. 20% view a brand’s site. 18% research at a retailer. 3% use social network sites, and 2% pose a question on Twitter (it’s unclear whether Twitter is counted in the social network sites category).  

Where People Start the Product Search From

"Consumers rely on search to begin their product searches, while only 5% turn to social media," says Heidi Spector with the Google Retail Team. " Keep this in mind during the upcoming holiday season. Make sure to maximize your branding through social networks, and close on sales through your search campaigns."

I don’t think there was ever any question that people are still using search to find products and research buying decisions, but with all of the talk about social the last few years, it’s easy to get caught up in all the hype. 

That’s not to say that social is just a bunch of hype. We’ve seen time and time again where businesses benefit from their social efforts. While Google clearly has an interest in convincing people that search is still where it’s at (while still working to expand its social offerings), there is no question that search should remain a significant part of the online marketing mix. 

That said, you still have to consider HOW people are searching. It’s not just about the search engines anymore, and even within the search engines, it’s no longer just about the "ten blue links", to borrow from overused search industry lingo. 

Where do you start the buying process? Are you more apt to go to a search engine or a social network? Let us know.

Chris Crum

About the Author

Chris CrumChris Crum has been a part of the WebProNews team and the iEntry Network of B2B Publications since 2003. Follow Chris on Twitter, on StumbleUpon, on Pinterest and/or on Google: +Chris Crum.

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  • Cristian Gonzales

    Here’s the kick though—most top organic search results for brands are their social media pages. Social media will be the first thing they see after searching.

    So the first part may be Google, but the second part is Facebook, Twitter, social media campaigns on blogs, etc. which is where they go to find more information. Google might be the shell of the egg, but social media is the yolk.

    • Chris Crum

      Most of the brands I search for show the brand’s own site above their social media pages.

  • Cristian Gonzales


    I picked three random brands off the top of my head:

    1. Gap: SM links within first two pages of organic search results.

    2. Sears: same results as above.

    3. Target: SM links on first page of organic search results.

    I wrote a little something in response to this post actually on my blog.

    “Google is the Shell, Social Media is the Yolk”.

    • Chris Crum

      I wouldn’t have doubted that the social results appeared on the first page, but I haven’t seen many where they appear over the brand’s site itself. Granted, not everyone will see the same results. Thanks for the reference and the link.

      • Cristian Gonzales

        Ahhh…I see what you’re saying. Fair point. I was looking at it from another angle, so to speak.

        I’m kind of curious if any brands have their SM profiles appear first. I’m going to do a little experimentation and find out.

        Thanks for the clear up and the conversation!

  • Beth

    Google reminds me of Bagdad Bob. Just like Hussein, Iraq will never fall, we are winning, we are winning. I think Google needs to start to realize that they are not much anymore. Living with Google is too much drama. Barely a soul is happy with them. Facebook is here now and to stay. Facebook will be the world’s engine.

    Once I thought I could not live without ebay. Thank God I’m Ebay free. Once I thought I could not live without Google. Thank God I’m Google free. All I use is Facebook and Twitter.

  • steve fox foxsmallenginrepair

    i love google,co we have 2 good reviews on our small enginerepair work

  • Deke

    Please folks……give it a rest. The actual sales happen though Google, not Facebook, etc…

    It’s all in the mindset of the surfers when they are at either F or G.

  • Guest

    I agree with the comments posted.
    People are going to use SEO to find goods and services.

    Even for , hormone replacement in men the best place to go is renewman.

  • dlokeshseo


    social media and PPC may do brand promotion rather than organic results.