Google Is Best Global Web Site (Again)

All Web sites are, by default, global. But which Web sites do the best job of truly speaking to the world? That is, which Web sites support the most languages, make navigation effortless for non-English speakers, and provide Web users around the world with fast-loading Web pages?

These are the questions I began asking a few years ago when my firm produced the first report on this topic, The Web Globalization Report Card. We studied 121 Web sites, ranging from Amazon to GE to Sony.

Google emerged as the best site overall.

Yesterday we published the 2005 Web Globalization Report Card and, sure enough, Google is tops once again. Frankly, I wasn’t surprised to see Google at the top of the list. It’s not a perfect Web site, but it does a great many things right — from providing users around the world with a fast-loading Web page (much faster than Yahoo!) to using a consistent, global interface to supporting 97 different languages. As I’ve said before, Google is arguably the most global commercial Web site yet developed.

But it is not the only successful global Web site out there. Here are the top 10 Web sites:

1. Google
2. HP
3. American Express
4. Philips
5. Skype
6. Ericsson
7. Procter & Gamble
8. Cisco Systems
9. IBM
10. E*TRADE

Companies like Wal-Mart, Coca-Cola, Qualcomm and Disney did not fair so well. All finished near the bottom of our rankings. Being a global company or having a global brand does not ensure a successful global Web site.

If your company is planning to dive into the Web globalization waters, I encourage you to take the time to review these 10 Web sites.

A Closer Look at Google’s Global Trajectory

Google says that half of its Internet traffic emanates from outside the US. While this is significant, what really matters to Google is where the revenues emanate from.

Now that Google is on the verge of going public, it has finally coughed up some numbers. In 2003, roughly 25% of Google’s revenues came from outside the US, shown here:

google_revenues_net.jpg

Judging by 2004 numbers thus far, I would predict that international revenues will surpass US revenues by Q1 of 2006. This trend becomes more apparent when you view geographic revenues as percentages of the whole, shown below:

google_revenues_geo.jpg

It’s not hard to see the international column surpassing the US column fairly quickly. As I’ve written before, Google is probably the most global commercial Web site ever created; it offers more than 90 localized Web sites. Every one of these sites is a potential source of advertising revenue. So it is not a question of if international revenues will surpass US revenues, but when.

Googling China

The search engine war in China has long been heated, but Yahoo! recently upped the stakes with the launch of a new search portal: www.yisou.com.

yahoo_china_yisou.jpg

It sure looks a lot like Google’s search portal, underscoring the dramatic success Google has enjoyed in this market over the past few years.

Consider these impressive stats from The Miami Herald:

China is currently second to the United States in Internet users (at 80 million in 2003 compared to our 185 million) but will surpass the United States within five years, according to Forbes Global. On any given day, nine of the world’s 25 busiest websites are situated in China. Yahoo! and eBay are coming on strong in competition with locally entrenched portals. Even without China-based offices, Google attracts 40 percent of China’s search users.

Clearly, the search portal that wins in China will have the lead in users globally. While Google has the lead today, I suspect that an entirely new search engine, likely based in China itself, may be that leader five years from now.

The Globalization of Google

Amy Campbell alerted me to a very interesting graphic on the Google Zeitgeist page. It tracks the languages used to access Google over the past two years:

google_lang.gif

Google handles more than 200 million queries a day from around the world. Increasingly, these queries are not in English. Over the past few years, Google has aggressively localized its search engine for more than 60 languages. These language-specific search engines are very important to Google’s continued growth, since the majority of new Internet users are not native-English speakers.

Keep a close eye on that tiny purple streak representing Chinese; it’s sure to expand. While there are only about 100 million German speakers in the world, there are well over a billion Chinese speakers. Also expect to see Arabic (200 million speakers) make an entrance in a few years.

Google began in 1998 as an English-language search engine. My, how times — and the Internet — have changed. And, if you’re interested, Google is looking for an International Webmaster.