Google Trends is a great tool to get an overview on terms people are searching for with the largest search engine in the world. It also shows interesting trends. And something is definitely going on with searches for a few large social networks using Google.
At some point in mid January, a group of sites including Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Flickr, and Foursquare saw a huge drop in number of searches for their domains. Now, to be clear, these are only searches for the .com names, for example, “facebook.com” and “youtube.com” and not just the terms “facebook” and “youtube” themselves. Still, across the board, traffic had been rising for these .com domains and then at the same time all dropped off a cliff.
One might think this has to do with the China situation (Google warned it might have to pull out of China after saying it would remove previous restraints on searches). But drilling down into the data shows that while the searches from China did take a big fall, they did as well from other countries around the world too.
Other sites saw drops as well, but by far these large social sites saw the most pronounced drops that all seem to be aligned. Weirdly, google.com did not see any drop (though I’m not sure who uses Google to google google.com).
We’ve reached out to Google for some clarification or insight into this and will update when we hear back. The logical answer would seem to be that they switched something in mid-January that led to these huge drops in social site searches on Google, but who knows. Maybe we have a wild honey bee extinction situation going on here within Google.