Google, Facebook are dominant websites of 2011

Online giants Google and Facebook came out as the most-visited Web sites of 2011, according to a Nielsen report.

Meanwhile, Yahoo, which has struggled with corporate and financial problems, was the third-most visited website, trailing behind second-place Facebook.

The Nielsen study showed that Google was the most-visited website in 2011, with an average of more than 153 million unique visitors a month. Facebook was second with more than 137 million, and Yahoo was third with 130 million.

Microsoft sites, including MSN, Windows Live and Bing, came in fourth with nearly 116 million unique monthly visits. Google-owned YouTube rounded out the top five with more than 106 million visits.

“I’m surprised at how close the top four are,” said Ezra Gottheil, an analyst with Technology Business Research. “I think it reflects the fact that many people visit several [sites], or all of them.” The list also shows how valuable Yahoo still is despite the corporate problems the company experienced in 2011.

Yahoo, which has fallen from its once lofty position as an Internet pioneer, has been in a state of flux. This past September, with revenues falling and some top talent leaving, Yahoo’s board of directors fired then-CEO Carol Bartz.

Once Bartz was out, speculation bloomed that Microsoft, which made a failed bid for Yahoo back in 2008, is once again looking to scoop up Yahoo. And then talk began that Google, possibly just to keep Yahoo out of Microsoft’s clutches, was also interested in buying Yahoo.

Gottheil noted that even though Yahoo is in a state of flux, it’s still drawing in a large number of users. “Most people don’t stop using something that works for them,” he added. “They might add another service, but that doesn’t mean they eliminate an old one.”

For social networks, Facebook was the top dog in 2011 with more than 137 million unique visitors per month, according to Nielsen. came in a distant second with nearly 46 million and Twitter was in third place with more than 23 million. WordPress, with more than 20 million, and MySpace, with nearly 18 million, rounded out the top five.

Google’s new social network, Google+, was in the eighth spot, even though it didn’t launch until late June.

While some may have expected Google+ to grab a higher spot on the social networking list, Gottheil said the new network could just be slowly ramping up.

“Google+, for a lot of people, just has not been sticky enough,” he added. “That doesn’t mean it won’t eventually develop a larger loyal following, but one of the consequences of Google’s big intro was that many of its original users were just window-shopping. Facebook, for all its recent rapid growth, built up gradually … It’s the network effect. Each additional user increases the value of the service to every other user.”

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