Differences of Opinion of Search Share

Posted: September 18th, 2010   |   Category: Case Studies | Industry News | Planning | Search | Strategy

The ‘Official’ Numbers

A number of organizations, including Neilsen Net Ratings and ComScore continue to disagree about the market share for the Big-3 search engines (Google, Microsoft and Yahoo).

Most ComScore numbers typically come in with the PacMan model:  Google at about two-thirds of market share and Microsoft and Yahoo sharing the bulk of the last third.  Ask and AOL round out some of the figures, but risk statistical insignificance at the 2.3%-3.8% level as show below.

Explicit Core Share* of U.S. Searches Among Leading Providers, August 2010 vs July 2010
Share of Searches (%)
Domain July 2010 August 2010 Month-over-Month Point
Change (%)
Google Sites 65.8 65.4 -0.4
Yahoo Sites 17.1 17.4 0.3
Microsoft Sites 11.0 11.1 0.1
Ask Network 3.8 3.8 0.0
AOL Network 2.3 2.3 0.0
Note: Data is based on the five major search engines including partner searches and cross-channel searches. Searches for mapping, local directory, and user-generated video sites that are not on the core domain of the five search engines are not included in the core search numbers.

*Excludes contextually driven searches that do not reflect specific user intent to interact with search results.

Source: comScore 2010

Here are the Neilsen numbers:

Top U.S. Search Sites, August 2010
Brand Share of Searches (%) Month-over-Month
Change (%)
Change (%)
Google Search 65.1 1 1
MSN/Windows Live/Bing Search 13.9 2 30
Yahoo Search 13.1 -8 -18
Ask.com Search 2.1 0 24
AOL Search 2.0 0 -37
Source: The Nielsen Company

We Beg To Differ:  The Unofficial Numbers

We don’t think either number is relevant.

Why?  Take a look at any analytics package that tracks your site data and tell us what you see.

When you look at Traffic Sources and then look at Search Engines, check out the organic numbers.  They typically look something like this:

  • Google:  90,000 visits
  • Bing:  4,000 visits
  • Yahoo:  3,000 visits
  • Other Engines:  3,000 visits

The translation in percentages:

  • Google:  90%
  • Bing:  4%
  • Yahoo:  3%
  • Other Engines:  3%

But don’t trust us because we do suffer from ‘Googl-itis’ on the odd occasion.  Check out your own numbers and see where you’re getting organic traffic from.  You’ll likely see the same numbers and if you DO see something wildly different, we’d love it if you shared these results with us to put us in our place (add you data to the comments below).

The Implications for Search Strategy

Neither Yahoo nor Bing are ready for self-serve search, nor do they offer the same administrative offerings that Google does.  Once, I tried to launch a campaign for a client with Bing and by the time we were live, I had reached nearly 60 messages back and forth clarifying billing, setting up the account, getting passwords and finally uploading the campaign.

The total campaign spend, with all of the maximum bids at very generous levels and budgets set as high as I could while staying in a comfort zone:  $12.96.

Bing was a complete waste of time.

These are substantial problems and, coupled with the lack of market presence, do not justify the effort to get campaigns set up for clients.

Since we normally bill hourly for most activities, the inefficiencies that we experience from an admin standpoint cost the client a disproportionate amount compared to the benefit.

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