Comparing Search Popularity Ratings Services: June To Nov. 2007

I’ve now compiled the latest search popularity stats from Nielsen, comScore, Hitwise, and Compete. That means it’s time to put them all together, to see what a "panel" of ratings services agree on — and don’t agree on — in terms of search engine popularity.

Ordinarily, I’d love to cover an entire year’s worth of data from each service. Unfortunately, I’ve previously written how changes in rating methodology mean I can only go back six months for comScore and two months for Nielsen, at the moment. I can go back a full year for Compete and Hitwise, but when doing comparisons, I like to have at least three services represented for any data point. That means I’ve limited the comparison looks below to the past six months.

My last big comparison like this was done in March, and I’m going to lead off with the general explanations I gave back then. First, my usual caveats for evaluating popularity stats:

  • 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.
     
  • Consider Actual Number Of Searches: While share for a particular search engine might drop, the raw number of searches might still be going up (and thus they might be earning more money, despite a share drop). This is because the "pie" of searches keeps growing, so even a smaller slice of the pie might be more than a bigger slice in the past. See Nielsen NetRatings: August 2007 Search Share Puts Google On Top, Microsoft Holding Gains for a further explanation of this.

The charts below address my three issues above. They show ratings for each month over the past six months from multiple services, both share figures and number of searches (except for Hitwise, which doesn’t report number of searches. For Nielsen, only the past two months are available). Services shown in the charts:

The charts show the share of searches in the United States that each ratings service estimates each search engine to have. In other countries, shares will be different — often 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. This can make ups-and-downs seem more dramatic, but it also means you can better see specific changes with each service.

Google

Google Popularity Stats

Everyone agrees — Google’s share has generally risen over the past six months, though Hitwise recorded a midway slump.

Google Popularity Stats

In terms of number of searches, two say Google’s up by about a half-a-billion searches, while Nielsen disagrees. (Figures above are in billions).

Yahoo

Yahoo Popularity Stats

Again, agreement — Yahoo’s been in general decline over the past six months.

Yahoo Popularity Stats

It’s a different picture when considering number of searches at Yahoo. Here, Yahoo is roughly unchanged over the period, except according to NetRatings, which also has limited data for the period. (Figures above are in billions).

Microsoft

Microsoft Popularity Stats

Compete is the exception on Microsoft, finding it has stayed steady while the other services see a decline, though comScore too reflects a potential leveling-off. (Figures above are in billions).

Microsoft Popularity Stats

In terms of number of searches, comScore says Microsoft is generally down, while Compete puts it up.

More Reading?

Looking for some additional reading related to search stats, in terms of end-of-the-year stuff? While I don’t like month-to-month comparisons for reasons already stated, TechCrunch had some nice month-to-month looks that you’ll find listed below:

Also, So who’s doing all this searching anyway? from Compete in November has been on my catch-up list for a good read. Plus, don’t forget our Stats: Popularity category here on Search Engine Land, if you need even more material!

Related Topics: Channel: Strategy | Stats: Compete | Stats: comScore | Stats: Hitwise | Stats: NetRatings | Stats: Popularity

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About The Author: is a Founding Editor of Search Engine Land. He’s a widely cited authority on search engines and search marketing issues who has covered the space since 1996. Danny also serves as Chief Content Officer for Third Door Media, which publishes Search Engine Land and produces the SMX: Search Marketing Expo conference series. He has a personal blog called Daggle (and keeps his disclosures page there). He can be found on Facebook, Google + and microblogs on Twitter as @dannysullivan.

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