Google Maps Edges Closer To MapQuest

A few weeks ago I thought I was onto something very hot. I was getting ready to announce that Google Maps had caught up to MapQuest in share of US Internet visits. I decided to wait a week to be sure things held. Since then, MapQuest has regained its lead and is widening the gap on Google Maps.

The following chart provides an update from my October post on this same subject. Notice that in late December, it looked like Google Maps was ready to overtake MapQuest. Last week, MapQuest had regained an 11% lead over Google Maps, up from 1.6% in the week to 3rd January 2009.

Google Maps Edges closer to Mapquest

In October, MapQuest rolled out some new features. At the time, it looked as though MapQuest had already lost the momentum to hold the #1 spot but now that those features have been available for a few months, perhaps they are helping MapQuest regain a foothold.

The ascent of Google Maps is a result of the shortcut in the search results on Google. 61% of visits to Google Maps came directly from Google last week. Yahoo! Search was the site’s #2 referrer of traffic and accounted for only 1.07% of US visits. Google Maps received visits from 72,074 unique search terms in the past four weeks, compared to 11,466 for MapQuest.

MapQuest receives most of its search traffic from searches for its brand name – in other words from people actively searching for MapQuest. In the past four weeks 8 of the top 10 search terms sending visits to MapQuest were queries for the brand name, such as “mapquest”, “map quest” and “mapquest driving directions”. These 8 terms accounted for 62% of visits from search to the MapQuest website. Contrast that to Google Maps for which only 2 of the top 10 terms were branded and these only accounted for 4.2% of the site’s search traffic.

As long as Google dominates search, MapQuest will face a tough battle for visits. However, if the past few weeks are any harbinger, there may be life in the old dog yet!