Google Inc.'s Maps application is making headway against the No. 1 map Web site, MapQuest, according to an analyst from Hitwise Pty., which examines Internet usage data.
A year ago, the number of U.S. visits to MapQuest, which is owned by AOL LLC, was 429% higher than the number of U.S. visits to Google Maps, said Hitwise analyst Heather Hopkins in a blog post. Now, however, the number of visits to MapQuest is just 126% higher than the number of visits to No. 2 Google Maps. Yahoo Maps ranked third, and MSN's Local Live was fourth.
Hopkins said traffic to MapQuest is flat year over year and is down 20% in the past six months. Traffic to Google Maps, meanwhile, is up 135% from the same time last year and it's up 7% in the past six months. Hopkins attributed the growth in visits to Google Maps to traffic from Google's search engine.
In addition, she said that despite the increase in the use of GPS tools, U.S. visits to maps Web sites are up 10% from last year.
Google sends more of its own traffic to Google Maps than to MapQuest, a change that occurred last March, Hopkins said. But that doesn't account for the increase in consumers seeking out Google Maps on their own.
"We can measure this through Internet searches," Hopkins said in her blog. "Searches for 'google maps' have increased, but the term 'mapquest' receives nearly 10 times the search volume."
Hopkins said that, compared to last year, Google is now sending more traffic to Google Maps for high-volume generic terms such as "map" and "driving directions" and for variations on the MapQuest brand name.
"I am sure many will jump to the conclusion that Google is favoring its own property. I can't say whether that's true, but I can say that Google Maps is receiving more of its traffic from paid search listings than MapQuest," Hopkins said in her blog. "In the past four weeks, Google Maps received 19% of its search traffic from paid listings, compared with 10% for MapQuest."
Google could not be reached for comment.
"With more than ten times the search volume than our nearest competitor (according to Hitwise), MapQuest.com continues to hold strong as the most sought after mapping and directions site on the Web," said Christian Dwyer, vice president and general manager of MapQuest, in an e-mail.
"Certainly, the competition and innovation in this space has increased over the last year, which is great news for consumers. We welcome the trend we've seen in the overall use and popularity of online mapping services, which continues to see healthy growth," Dwyer said.