Happy 2nd Anniversary, Google Docs & Spreadsheets

Two weeks ago, Google Labs announced new gadgets integrating Google Docs & Spreadsheets with GMail, just in time for the 2nd anniversary of the web-based productivity tools. The move may leverage GMail’s growing user base and facilitate growth at Docs & Spreadsheets as it inches closer to meaningful competition with MS Office, which dominates the productivity software market.

Microsoft came out defending its turf the next day with a slick demo of the new web-enabled Office 14, which offers live collaboration and online version control, but leaves day-to-day heavy lifting for the desktop. The counter-move may leverage Office’s widespread adoption and catapult Microsoft into leadership of the web productivity category too.

So, two years after launch, how is Google Docs & Spreadsheets doing?

Before we jump into the numbers it is important to note one key fact. A large number of visitors to Google Docs & Spreadsheets never make it past the marketing pages. For example, in September, 2008, only 58% of unique visitors to Google Docs & Spreadsheets actually used one of the available apps, templates or changed a setting. For this analysis to keep things simple we’re looking at the total set of users. If you’re interested in taking this deeper to the actual user group let us know.

Also, to provide a very rough comparison we compared Google Docs & Spreadsheet visitation to visitation levels on http://office.microsoft.com. Clearly this is only a very directional comparison as the sites really aren’t comparable. At the very least we do know that visitors to the office.microsoft.com sub-domain are probably MS Office users.

As the graph above shows, Google Docs & Spreadsheets is still going strong. Some key takeaways from above"¦

  • The combined properties reached nearly 4.4M Unique Visitors in the recent month of September, 2008
  • The combined properties grew 156% in the past 12 months and 32x, off of a significantly smaller base, in the past 24 months
  • Docs and Spreadsheets have grown consistently together, with Docs attracting twice as many Unique Users as Spreadsheets on average
  • To put things in perspective, 4.5M Unique Visitors represents 2.4% of the US adult online population

Given that nearly everyone uses MS Office, we can reasonably say that Google’s 2.4% toe-hold isn’t exactly challenging MS Office yet. However, that could change with the new GMail integration and as more casual users seek simple, lightweight tools. Engagement metrics provide a glimpse into this casual segment.

The chart above shows how the average visitor to Google Docs & Spreadsheet isn’t spending that many days a month on the apps. Some key takeaways"¦

  • Unique Visitors to Docs visited an average of 3.01 days in September, 2008, while UVs to Spreadsheets visited an average 3.11 days
  • Since September, 2007, visits by unique visitors to both Docs and Spreadsheets has leveled off at 3 days per month
  • To add some additional context we see that on average visitors to Google Docs & Spreadsheets spend about 5 minutes per month on the site

Now that Microsoft has announced an Office version designed to meet the needs of this casual segment, it will be interesting to see who takes the lead in web productivity category.

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