Yes, it’s that time of the month again – search popularity stats time. Several ratings services are out with figures for August 2007, and I’m starting off with a look at those from Hitwise. They keep Google on top, Yahoo showing some gains and Microsoft continued drops.
You’ll find the press release here, giving us this breakdown:
- Google: 63.98%
- Yahoo: 22.87%
- MSN: 7.98%
- Ask: 3.49%
The figures above are the percentage of all US searches handled by leading search engines. Let’s see them as a pretty pie chart, rounded a bit more:
As usual, Google is far in the lead. But up or down compared to past months? Let’s see the trend over the past year:
Google’s down a bit from the high point over the past year of 65.3 percent in April 2007. Doom and gloom for Google? Doubtful — it’s well within its regular healthy "band" of between 60 to 65 percent.
Yahoo’s interesting, moving from a low point in April 2007 of 20.7 percent to 22.9 percent last month.
Yahoo’s gain seems to come at the expense of Microsoft, shown as MSN on the chart. After hitting a high of 9.9 percent in June 2007 due to the Live Search Club promotion, Microsoft’s share has dropped to the lowest point in the past 12 months, 8.0 percent.
MSN Versus Live.com
The figure that Hitwise calls "MSN" is actually the combination of searches that happened on MSN.com plus Live.com. Live.com is supposed to be Microsoft’s flagship search brand (Live.com Gets New Home Page Ahead Of "Searchification" Next Week covers next week’s fall relaunch of this), but actually few people search at MSN. To understand the technicalities behind this, see my Hitwise: Search Popularity Static; Live.com Only Tiny Slice Of Microsoft’s Share article from last April.
The chart below shows the share of searches at both properties:
OK, the top blue line called "Microsoft" is actually the same data used for the "MSN" line on the previous trend chart. It is the combination of traffic at MSN and Live.com. It starts at 11.86 percent in August 2006, before Hitwise started reported in the stats I receive any Live.com breakout. The next month, we see Live.com traffic shown separately from "MSN" traffic. That’s also the month Live.com came out of formal beta.
Slowly, the traffic has ramped up. Then in June, you can see a big spike. This was due to the Live Search Club promotion, an effort to get people use Live Search by playing games. The articles below look at that more:
- comScore Also Reports Microsoft Search Search Rise
- Microsoft On Search Gains & Live Search Club
- Compete: Microsoft Gaining Searches; Live Search Club Giveaway Working?
Since June, Live.com traffic has been slipping. Part of that is due to the fact that from July 9th onward, Hitwise says it is filtering out automatically generated searches that some have done to try and win games. In addition, searches at MSN itself (the red line) continue to drop.
So is Microsoft in trouble, with this continued drop? Perhaps, but it only fulfills one of my two key rules when reviewing search popularity stats. Here they are again:
- 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.
Hitwise’s figures aren’t positive for Microsoft, but perhaps we’ll see a different story as I work through those from other companies. FYI, Comparing Search Popularity Ratings: Google Climbs & Good News For Live.com is the last big comparative look I did across services, with lots of charts and discussion about staying in particular "bands" of traffic levels.
A few more caveats. You don’t see AOL on the chart above on its own because according to Hitwise, it has had less than one percent search share since August 2006. Currently, Hitwise puts it at 0.39 percent. AOL’s share is part of the "Other" figure.
Also, remember that 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. comScore Also Reports Microsoft Search Search Rise explains this more.