Compete: Google Keeps Stomping The Others In Search Traffic

Compete Search Share: May 2008

The latest search engine share stats for May 2008 from Compete show Google hitting yet again another high. Let’s do the numbers, including the debate on whether Microsoft Live Search Club searches should be counted plus how everyone might start generating queries in new ways.

Here’s the rundown for May 2008, for the share of total searches each search engine handled for the United States:

  • Google: 71.5%
  • Yahoo: 13.3%
  • Microsoft Live + Live Search Club: 10.6%
  • (Microsoft Live: 7.9%)
  • (Microsoft Club Live: 2.6%)
  • Ask: 3.0%
  • AOL: 1.2%

In the pie chart above, I’ve shown slices for Microsoft Live and Live Search Club separately. Microsoft On Search Gains & Live Search Club covers the Live Search Club program that allows people to win prizes for searching and how it boosted Microsoft’s traffic after it was launched — plus the debate over whether these are "real" searches.

That debate caused Compete to initially exclude Live Search Club from its monthly figures. It added them back in last month. I’m slowly revisiting the issue of who counts these (comScore also said it does) and trying to get more granular about what exactly is counted when one of these services says "Google," "Yahoo," "Microsoft" and so on.

Let’s zero in more on Live Search Club. To start, let’s get some trend data. Here’s the past year’s worth of share:

Compete Search Share: May 2007-2008

To some degree, any debate is a moot point on a share basis. Google’s stomping all over the others, Live Search Club or no Live Search Club (that Live+ line, by the way, shows you a combined figure for Live Search + Live Search Club).

As my caveats at the end of these types of reports always stress, search share isn’t the entire story. It’s possible that a search engine will drop in share but GAIN in actual searches, if the overall number of searches happening increases. So let’s look at the volume of searches each is handling:

Compete Search Share: May 2007-2008

Ouch. Again, Google is stomping on everyone else in terms of number of searches it handles (the scale shows billions of searches handled per month). Let’s push Google aside to better see what’s happening with the rest:

Compete Search Share: May 2007-2008

No good news for Yahoo. After growing queries early last year, it has largely seen month after month of decline.

Better news for Microsoft. Club Live does seem to have helped it grow "regular" searches on Live until April and May of this year. Club Live searches were down then; so was Live Search. That suggests Microsoft can "buy" its way into the search game, but so far, only to a mild degree – and that it might have to keep on buying. More importantly, the gains have hardly been a game changer that threaten Google at all. Mosquito on elephant, you pick your metaphor.

Of course, Microsoft has more in mind. The Live Search Cashback program had just started at the end of May. That’s aimed at many more searchers than Live Search Club is positioned toward. I still haven’t felt it would be a game changer either, but we won’t get a real read on that until June 2008 figures come out.

Other things that will help Microsoft will be the new 404 error page program it launched, if many sites take it up on that offer. That’s because if the error pages generate a Live Search URL (as I believe they do), then Live Search will get that search traffic counted toward its totals.

Fair? Maybe, maybe not. Consider also when Google started showing search boxes for sites right below their listings in Google (such as for discovery channel). While that’s helpful for searchers, it also ensures that Google picks up traffic for a search that otherwise would not have been counted toward its domain. Could some of that be adding to the rise it saw since the feature came out in early March? March to April traffic didn’t grow much, but it might have been rolled out more since then.

Expect more of these issues to continue to be raised as the search wars heat up. Everyone’s going to look for a way to get more searchers to count toward their totals. For the record, this is what Compete told me they use when compiling what "counts" toward the overall figures:

Search Engine Domain Subdomain Page Level Regex Rule
Google google.com ALL ^/search\?(.*&)?(as_)?q=[^&]+
Yahoo yahoo.com search.yahoo.com ^/search\?(.*&)?p=[^&]+
MSN/Live msn.com search.msn.com ^/results\.aspx\?(.*&)?q=[^&]+
MSN/Live live.com search.live.com ^/results\.aspx\?(.*&)?q=[^&]+
Ask ask.com www.ask.com ^/web\?(.*&)?q=[^&]+
AOL aol.com search.aol.com ^/aol/search\?(.*&)?query=[^&]+
AOL aol.com aolsearch.aol.com ^/aol/search\?(.*&)?query=[^&]+

Caveat Time!

As a reminder, my general rules when 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.

Postscript: In comments below, you’ll see how posting the regex rules caused Compete to find they were undercounting Yahoo. They’re in the process of rerunning the figures. In the meantime, here’s a fast update:

May 2008

Before

After

Before

After

Google

6,669

6,568

71.5%

67.0%

Yahoo

1,240

1,823

13.3%

18.6%

Live

740

729

7.9%

7.4%

Club Live

247

243

2.6%

2.5%

Ask

282

278

3.0%

2.8%

AOL

114

124

1.2%

1.3%

Live+

987

973

10.6%

9.9%

Others

35

33

0.4%

0.3%

Total

9,327

9,798

100.0%

100.0%

Yahoo significantly jumps up in terms of share and volume of searches with the revised figures. Note that Live+ is the combination of Live and Club Live and that line doesn’t get counted in the bottom line total, or that would be double-counting.

Here’s the revised regex definitions:

Engine Domain Subdomain Page Level Regex Rule
Google google.com ALL ^/search\?(.*&)?(as_)?q=[^&]+
Yahoo! yahoo.com search.yahoo.com ^/search[^?]*\?(.*&)?p=[^&]
Yahoo! yahoo.com search.yahoo.com ^/bin/search[^?]*\?(.*&)?p=[^&]
AOL aol.com search.aol.com ^/aol/search\?(.*&)?query=[^&]+
AOL aol.com aolsearch.aol.com ^/aol/search\?(.*&)?query=[^&]+
Ask ask.com www.ask.com ^/web\?(.*&)?q=[^&]+
MSN/Live msn.com search.msn.com ^/results\.aspx\?(.*&)?q=[^&]+
MSN/Live live.com search.live.com ^/results\.aspx\?(.*&)?q=[^&]+

Related Topics: Channel: Strategy | Stats: Compete | 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.

Connect with the author via: Email | Twitter | Google+ | LinkedIn



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