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Comparing Search Popularity Ratings: Google Climbs & Good News For Live.com
Previously, I’ve covered individually the latest
popularity figures for February 2007 in the United States that have been
issued by the major ratings services of comScore, Nielsen//NetRatings, Hitwise
and Compete. Now it’s time to compare the figures from each of these services
against each other plus look back over the past year, to see if there’s any
agreement on which search engines are winning and losing the search wars. The
short story is that Google continues to rise and Microsoft’s Live.com, after
months of drops, gets some good news in a flattening off or actual gain in
share, depending on which service you look at.
Before we dive in, my usual caveats about search popularity figures:
- Avoid drawing conclusions based on month-to-month comparisons. Lots
of things can cause one month’s figures to be incomparable to another month.
It’s better to see the trend across multiple months in a row.
- Avoid drawing conclusions based on one ratings service’s figures.
Each service has a unique methodology used to create popularity estimates.
This means that ratings will rarely be the same between services. However, a
trend that you see reflected across two or more services may give you faith in
trusting that trend.
The charts below address both these issues. They show ratings for each month
over the past year from multiple services. Services shown the charts:
- CS stands for comScore, and
Google Rise, Status Quo With Rest In February 2007 explains more about the
comScore figures used.
- NR stands for
Spike, Live.com Rise In February 2007 explains more about the NetRatings
- HW stands for Hitwise, and
Hitwise: Slight Google
Rise In February 2007 explains more about the Hitwise figures used.
- CP stands for Compete, and
Hitwise: Slight Google
Rise In February 2007 also explains Compete figures in addition to
Hitwise. I only have Compete data for February 2006, then for December 2006
through February 2007. That’s why you see an initial CP data point, then a
gap, then a short trend line.
The charts shows the share of searches in the United States that each ratings
service estimates Google to have. In other countries, shares will be different
— oftentimes dramatically so.
Finally, the charts use different scales. Rather than running them all from
zero to 100 percent, I’ve tightened them between low and high marks unique to
each service. For Google, this means a 25 percent "spread" between the high and
low points. For Live.com, that’s a 7 percent spread. This will make the
ups-and-downs for Live.com seem more dramatic. However, it also means you can
better see specific changes with each service.
Overall, everyone agrees. Google has been growing share and continues to do
so. Growth is more of continued incremental gains rather than giant spikes.
NetRatings is the exception, showing a real jump as of January 2007. This
seems due to how NetRatings is reestimating the universe of searches rather than
some new change with Google and its users, based on some initial follow-ups I’ve
had with the company. As I learn more, I’ll update the
Spike, Live.com Rise In February 2007 article where I explain the figures in
Until recently, Yahoo was showing a victory in the search wars by either
holding share or growing it, depending on the service you looked at.
However, three of them show a decline that started in December 2006. Both
NetRatings and Compete show this as a dramatic one. That’s interesting, because
they use different sources to assess popularity (NetRatings uses a metered
panel, while Compete uses ISP data). Despite the different sources, the plunge is
nearly the same.
So is Yahoo in trouble? I’ll wait a month or two before deciding. NetRatings,
as I noted above, seems to have had some dramatic shifts caused by how it estimates
the universe of searches out there. Compete is also the newest of the ratings
services, so with respect to it, I still trust it the least. Indeed, for Yahoo
to get to its current level from the 26 percent Compete gave it back in February
2006, the company would have had to lost share more dramatically than any of the
other ratings services are reporting. Unfortunately, as explained, I don’t have
those missing data points to better illustrate this.
comScore is reporting no corresponding drop, and Hitwise also shows things
are holding more steady after an initial one-month drop in December 2006.
Overall, Yahoo may have lost some noticeable share, but it remains fairly healthy
(and see NetRatings:
Google Spike, Live.com Rise In February 2007 for more about how on a number
of searches level, Yahoo stays especially strong).
Microsoft’s Live.com has been a bad news story that’s finally turning good.
After months of consistent plunges, regardless of the ratings service you looked
at, now they report a leveling off or even some growth.
All of them show some uptick in January. Many have expected Microsoft to do
better based on its tighter integration with IE7 and as the new Vista operating
system rolls out. I’ve had
my doubts about that
growing share much. Perhaps I’ll be proven wrong.
Both Compete and NetRatings show Live being up in February 2007. Compete’s
rise might be more dramatic due to rounding (see
Hitwise: Slight Google
Rise In February 2007 for more about this). The NetRatings rise might be
related to the internal reworking of how NetRatings is estimating the overall
searches out there rather than perhaps a serious gain.
In fact, while the
overall share of searches went up for Live, the number of searches according to
NetRatings dropped (from 643 million in January to 618 million in February). In
other words, the rise in share had more to do with other players seeing bigger
loses than Live gaining new searchers.
Overall, I come down on the good news side. Only Hitwise among the four is
reporting any serious drop. The rises from Compete and NetRatings might be
overstated. If so, they might reduce to a leveling off — and a leveling off of
Live’s year long plunge would be good news indeed.
Is Microsoft Search? article out today is a freshly-minted look at
Microsoft’s search efforts, especially in the wake of the recent executive
shake-up leading to
new search chief Satya Nadella being
appointed this week.
Ask.com feels mostly like a status-quo story. It has had rises and falls and
currently seems to be in a fall cycle according to three of the services. But it
has also come up out of these before.
AOL also tends to feel like a status-quo story. The drop from NetRatings
again may be more due to the internal changes in calculating estimates rather than a sudden
drop. Two others show a leveling, and the Compete
rise could be down to rounding.