UK internet users made 2.7bn visits to search engines in December 2012, an increase of 400m visits compared to December 2011.

This represents a 17% increase year-on-year, and confirms that it was a particularly strong Christmas period for search.

Interestingly, the data from Experian Hitwise also shows that Google’s market share dropped below 90% for the second month in a row to 88%; its lowest point for five years.

Clearly Google still has a near monopoly on the UK search market, but Microsoft and Yahoo will still be pleased that they are finally clawing back market share, no matter how small the increments. 

The data from Experian Hitwise also shows that there was a record 2.8bn visits to UK retail sites in December, with 656m of these occurring in the week ending December 29.

This equates to a 30% increase year-on-year, which was in no small part driven by a number of major retailers beginning their sales early.

For example, John Lewis started its sale at 5pm on Christmas Eve and as a result achieved its busiest ever online shopping day.

We previously reported separate data from Experian which showed that Christmas 2012 was the busiest ever for online retailers in the UK, with consumers making 84m visits to retail websites on Christmas Eve and 107m visits on Christmas Day. This is an increase of 86% and 71% respectively compared to 2011.

Amazon came out on top in the battle of the retailers, leapfrogging eBay to become the most visited ecommerce site on Christmas Day with more than 12% of all visits.

However Boxing Day eclipsed the previous two days to become the busiest day ever for online retail. UK consumers spent 14m hours online and made 113m visits to online retail sites, an increase of 17% from 2011.

And a separate report from Kenshoo shows that Christmas proved to be expensive for UK retail paid search marketers, as average CPCs increased by a third (30%) peaking at around £0.35.

There were predictable spikes in search spend at the beginning of December as retailers tried to cash in on the consumer rush to buy gifts in time for Christmas.

The report also reveals that paid search impressions increased by 18% during the Christmas period, likely indicating that consumers are using search engines more frequently, however shoppers clicked on 2% fewer ads.

But despite the drop in clicks, retailers did a better job of turning visits into sales with conversion rates up 10% compared to 2011.

David Moth

Published 22 January, 2013 by David Moth

David Moth is Editor and Head of Social at Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or connect via LinkedIn

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Comments (5)


Jonny Bassett

In my opinion I think Google will always maintain its strong hold on being the preferred search engine.

over 5 years ago

Philippa Gamse

Philippa Gamse, Adjunct Professor at Hult International Business School

Hi David, Does the report break down by organic / paid search - it would be interesting to know the proportions.

over 5 years ago

David Moth

David Moth, Managing Editor at Barclaycard

@Philippa, it would certainly be interesting to see those figures, but I'm afraid it didn't break down paid vs. organic. All the information I have is included in the blog post.

over 5 years ago


Alan Robertson

I'm not really surprised. Google used to return relevant results. These days the amount of rubbish in the results is getting worse. What happened to you Google - you used to be so good?

over 5 years ago


Jason Stanley, Owner at Developer

Google is most definitely the way forward, I remember when I used to get most of my traffic from Yahoo however the have been blown away by Google's consistent development, our store relys solely on organic traffic.

about 5 years ago

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