Google Calls Yahoo-Microsoft’s Explanation Of Search Scale “Bogus”

One thing Microsoft and Yahoo were touting as a major advantage to them teaming up, is that their search scale will grow tremendously. The benefit of the search scale, or search volume query, growing is that Microsoft and Yahoo will have more data to analyze and use in order to compete against Google. interviewed Google’s chief economist, Hal Varian on this topic. Varian called that logic “bogus,” saying that search scale does little, on a statistical base, to help improve search quality. Varian explained why in three points:

  1. Statistically, Varian said, that there is a “small statistical point that the accuracy with which you can measure things as they go up is the square root of the sample size.” Meaning, statistically, more data at this level, doesn’t really change how you measure things.
  2. Queries at all search engines are growing approximately 40 percent a year. So there is a huge increase in search scale, even without this deal.
  3. When Google tests quality and other factors, they do so on 1 percent or 0.5 percent, that is all they need to measure on. So Microsoft or Yahoo can increase that sample percentage size to 2 percent, if they like, and get similar data back.

These are extremely interesting points that I personally did not think about, but indeed make a lot of sense. If you think about it, Microsoft has about 5% share (approximating) and Yahoo has about 20% search share. Microsoft grew tremendously with this, but if Varian is right, then that growth is not as significant, in terms of quality, as Microsoft wants us all to believe.

Related Topics: Channel: Industry | Google: Business Issues | Microsoft: Business Issues | Top News | Yahoo: Business Issues


About The Author: is Search Engine Land's News Editor and owns RustyBrick, a NY based web consulting firm. He also runs Search Engine Roundtable, a popular search blog on very advanced SEM topics. Barry's personal blog is named Cartoon Barry and he can be followed on Twitter here. For more background information on Barry, see his full bio over here.

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  • Vanessa Fox

    Search data can be valuable in (at least) 3 ways:

    -historical data provides huge scale of information well beyond what you can get from the current data set. This is true for figuring out searcher intent, spam patterns, etc. It’s quite possible Bing won’t benefit from the scaled historical data because Yahoo search is on entirely different infrastructure and there may be no way to import it into their existing historical data storage mechanisms.

    -Current searcher data provides lots of things at scale — an indication of current trends and interests (a sudden spike in a topic can feed into what should trigger news results in web search, for instance), searcher intent, etc. It would absolutely benefit Microsoft to have 4-5 times the search volume for this.

    -Experimentation. Varian says Microsoft could do experiments just as easily as Google does, but a 1% experiment at Google is going to provide substantially more data than a 2% experiment at Microsoft’s current volume levels.

    You can see the difference in data value based on searcher volumes with the keyword research tools the engines provide Compare the data you get from Google’s adwords keyword tool and Microsoft’s adCenter Excel plugin. In many cases’s, Microsoft’s data is too small to be useful.

  • Tim Cohn

    Until the get their scale together, look for more Microsoft, Madison Avenue and Advertising Industry funded “Online Display Advertising is the way” “studies” to tout the virtues of online display advertising.

  • nickstamoulis

    One thing that comes to my mind is what if the Bing search growth (increases up from 5%) moves users from Yahoo! and not Google, which is a very good possibility…

  • Alistair Lattimore

    I think there is merit in the comment about Google being habitual. However, I’ve been using MSN, Yahoo! and now Bing for search to keep tabs on things and I continue to go back to Google because, for me – the quality of their results are better. If Bing lifts their game on that front, with the push from Microsoft in advertising and exposure from the Yahoo! deal – it’ll be another reason for people to consider breaking their existing search habit.

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