The state of Search in Italy – 2013 Report
Search Engine Optimisation

The state of Search in Italy – 2013 Report

29th January 2014

Last month I had the pleasure to assist (and speak) at the 8th edition of the ConvegnoGT, organized by GTIdea and possibly the most important Italian congress about Search Marketing.

One of the most interesting speeches this year was the one given by Paolo Zanzottera about the State of Search in Italy. This research is a an update of the same one Paolo presented last year and that I reported in this post on Moz.

The study explored the evolution of Search in Italy in 2013, and even if it refers to how Italians have changed the way the search in Internet, we can reasonably assume that the trends are quite similar in other European countries.

The data sample

Paolo used as source of his research the very extended set of data offered by Shinystat, an Italian company that offers Web, Video and APPs Analytics tools and he followed this methodology

  • The research refers to the period between the 1st of January and the 30th of November 2013;
  • Analysis of the global visits to Italian sites, being 88,74% of them from Italy;
  • Sampling of 1 over 30 visits, randomly chosen in previously determined days and hours;
  • The dimension of the search data from search engines consisted in 468,134,578 visits;
  • The dimension of the search data social networks consisted in 88,034,022 visits;
  • The total dimensions (included direct traffic) consisted in 1,125,932,778 visits;
  • The sites included in the research, and  distributed over 47 categories, were 3,000.

Visits from Search Engines

Visits from Search Engine in Italy in 2013
Visits from Search Engine in Italy in 2013

The data sample is offering a unexpected result: organic search in 2013 slowed down significantly after year of unstoppable growth.

In fact, if in 2011 the organic traffic grew 41.72% compared to 2010, and in 2012 a 39.34% over the previous year, in 2013 the traffic from organic search increased only 9:18% compared to 2012.

Once more, then, data confirmed that search is substantially a mass media, meaning with that people relies on search as one of the main ways of stay informed about breaking news:

Search as Mass Media
Search as Mass Media

Search Engines Market share

In Italy, as in almost every European country with very exception, Google dominates the search landscape:

Search Engine Market Share 2013 in Italy
Search Engine Market Share 2013 in Italy

Be advised that with Google Brand Paolo meant all the different vertical search engines Google offers (Universal Search, News, Maps…).

The percentages speak for themselves:

  1. Google owns the 96.06% of organic traffic from search engines;
  2. All the other search engines (included Bing and Yahoo) own just a miserable 3.94% of the Italian Search market share.

Search in Italy is synonym of Google, also because part of that 3.94% of organic visits generated by other search engines are indeed from portals (Virgilio, Tiscali…), whose search is powered by Google itself, hence we have to dig into what is the distribution of the visits coming from the different search verticals of Google (Web, Images, News, Maps) in order to understand how Italian used organic search:

Search powered by Google
Search powered by Google

In 2013 Web Search decreased from the 83% registered in 2012 to 81%, while organic visits from News increased from 13% to 17%.

Visits from Images Search decreased due to the layout change Google did of this vertical (2% in 2013 respect 4% in 2012).

Finally, the organic visits from Google Maps are almost statistically useless.

Length of the queries and (not provided)

Of great interest are also the data the research offered about the length of the queries and the impact of (not provided).

For instance, the increase of one-word queries has grown consistently, a sign of the bigger use of mobile search, while 2, 3, 4 and 5 words long queries all decreased:

Evolution of query length in Italy
Evolution of query length in Italy

This data, though, is affected by the impact of (not provided), which – in October 2013 – represented the 82.68% of organic searches.

Social Search

Traffic from social networks in Italy is still growing exponentially:

Traffic from Social Networks in Italy 2013
Traffic from Social Networks in Italy 2013

In November 2013 Social traffic grew 149% over the prior year to November, and in November 2013, the Social generated the same volume of traffic the whole of 2010 and the first two months of 2011 added together.

Social Search Market Share

Even in the case of Social Networks we are faced with a de facto monopoly: Facebook owns all the traffic from social:

Social traffic growth per Social Networks in Italy
Social traffic growth per Social Networks in Italy

In percentages the Facebook’s domination is even clearer:

  • Facebook: 98.53%;
  • Twitter: 1.35%;
  • Google Plus: 0.05%
  • YouTube: 0.03%;
  • Pinterest: 0.03%;
  • LinkedIn: 0.01%

Search vs. Social in Italy

After analyzing Search Engines traffic and Social Media traffic singularly, the research confronts them offering its most interesting insights.

In fact, if we confront their growth from January 2010, we will easily see how Social is growing at a faster rate than Search:

Search vs Social in Italy
Search vs Social in Italy

If on January 2010 the organic traffic generated by search engines represented the 96,81% of  all the traffic to the analyzed websites, in 2013 it represents “only” the 65.86% of it.

This means that data shows us that the real competitor of Google is Facebook:

Google vs Facebook vs Others in Italy
Google vs Facebook vs Others in Italy

Translated in percentages, the graphic above should look like this:

Google vs Facebook vs Others October 2012
Google vs Facebook vs Others October 2012
Google vs Facebook vs Others November 2013
Google vs Facebook vs Others November 2013

The Mobile explosion

Also in Italy the traffic from the mobile is increasing exponentially over the last few years.

Mobile traffic growth in Italy
Mobile traffic growth in Italy

The data of mobile growth are impressive:

  • January 2010: 2.4% – January 2011: 5.8% (2.4x);
  • January 2011: 5.8% – January 2012: 12.1% (2.1x);
  • January 2012: 12.1% – October 2012: 19.2% (1.6x);
  • November 2012: 23.6% – November 2013: 37.3% (1.6x)

In almost four year traffic from mobile increased 16x.

The peaks you see in the chart above are referring to August, when Italians are on holidays and mobile become even more important for staying (always) connected.

Mobile operating systems and devices

If we look at what platform drives more traffic from mobile, we can see how iOS is now almost paired by Android (48.11% iOs and 47.07% Android):

Mobile Platforms Market Share in Italy in 2013
Mobile Platforms Market Share in Italy in 2013

The research done by Paolo, using iPhone and iPad as reference, also shown us that mobile traffic to sites is generated almost equally by smartphones and tablets, but that Italians more and more rely on tablets for visiting web sites:

iPhone vs iPad in Italy
iPhone vs iPad in Italy


In Italy, as in almost every other European countries, we deal with two monopolies:

  1. Google in Search;
  2. Facebook in Social.

That doesn’t mean that other traffic sources are useless, but data tell us that our clients will not look at them as essential.

In the case of Italy, possibly only Twitter – as it is targeting bigger audiences thanks to connections with news and, especially, TV shows, could be considered an interesting digital outlet for some businesses’ owners.

What data are telling us, though, is that if we consider traffic as a all, then Google is not anymore that powerful as it was just three years ago. Social Media, aka Facebook, is becoming year over year a stronger competitor for Google. Or, maybe, that means the people are not considering anymore just Google for discovering sites, but have a more liquid attitude when it comes to search.

Finally, mobile still doesn’t offer the same traffic volume as desktop, but it’s growth is such that in one year it will potentially as much traffic as desktop. The fact that the one-word queries are rising in use after years of decay is a strong signal in that direction.



Written By
Gianluca Fiorelli is an SEO and Web Marketing Strategist, who operates in the Italian, Spanish and English speaking countries market. He also works regularly as independent consultant with bigger international SEO agencies.
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