Hitwise: Search Popularity Static; Live.com Only Tiny Slice Of Microsoft’s Share

The latest search popularity stats for March 2007 have come out from Hitwise. They show nothing different than last month. Google had a tiny 0.2 percent rise, while Yahoo dropped the same tiny amount. Live had a tiny 0.3 percent rise, though given Live’s already small amount of traffic, that’s more important to the service. A bigger issue, which I’ll get into more below, is how more people may finally be going to the Live.com site itself and searching rather than MSN.

Here are the latest numbers. They are different than the Hitwise press release, and I’ll explain why further below:

Search Engine

Feb. 2007

Mar. 2007






































The chart above shows the share each major search engine has of all searches conducted in the United States for the 4 weeks period ending on March 31, 2007. Specifically, it is for searches conducted on the following domains for each search engine: www.google.com; search.yahoo.com; search.msn.com; www.ask.com; www.live.com; www.aolsearch.com; search.lycos.com; www.dogpile.com; www.altavista.com; www.alltheweb.com.

Now the release is pretty upbeat for Google:

"Google’s growth shows no signs of slowing" said Bill Tancer, general manager of global research at Hitwise. "Despite capturing the majority of searches in the U.S., and in light of competitor’s improvements, Google’s market share of executed searches continues to grow, exceeding 10 percent growth year-over-year.”

So why am I saying nothing has changed? Because the release is talking about month-to-month changes (March 2006 versus March 2007), which prompt my regular caveat about this:

Look for long-term trends. You want to view stats for several months in a row, not two isolated months compared to each other. Stats can and will plunge from one month to the next for all types of reasons, not the least due to a ratings service itself having some counting glitch. Similarly, comparing back from one month to the same time the previous year might not reflect counting changes that may have happened or been refined over that time. I want a trend line — and a long one.

So the 2006 to 2007 figures are dramatic — but that’s old news. We’ve seen Google climb over the past year. But the direct month-to-month jump is hardly noticeable. And more important, it doesn’t register on a long-term trend look:

Hitwise March 2007 Search Popularity Figures

Now let’s talk about the MSN versus Live.com situation. When Hitwise released the latest figures, I was confused as to why they didn’t match was issued last month. Consider:

  • Feb. 2007 "Old" Figure: 8.81%
  • Feb. 2007 "New" Figure: 9.30%

So what happened to make the Feb. 2007 figures for Live.com rise? Well, they are for both Live.com and MSN.com. In the past, when Hitwise was reporting "search.msn.com" figures, I assumed this was traffic from both Live.com and MSN.com. Since Live.com is technically the flagship Microsoft brand, I’ve referred to the share as Live.com’s share.

It turns out that Hitwise has not combined the shares until this month, and for this specific press release. And that leads to an additional twist — that maybe people are starting to use Live.com more directly.

To understand more, you have to realized that until last September, MSN.com was the flagship Microsoft search brand. People were pointed there and to some degree the standalone search.msn.com site.

In September, Microsoft started redirecting people. Anyone trying to reach search.msn.com was sent to live.com. That’s one good reason to also assume that any traffic reports for search.msn.com really meant live.com.

As it turns out, it’s only the home page of search.msn.com that was redirected. If you search via the MSN.com home page, say for cars, you’ll see the URL looks like this:


See the bolded part? It says search.msn.com. No redirection happens, if you search from the MSN.com home page. The search.msn.com domain remains, despite the fact that the search page itself has Live.com’s branding.

FYI, if you search from Live.com itself, the URL looks like this:


Here you can see that the search.live.com domain is used.

Now back to that difference in figures. As you can see from the chart above, practically no one, at least according to Hitwise, was going to Live.com directly and searching in February compared to MSN. Moreover, it means practically no one is searching at Live.com via the special search box within Internet Explorer. That box taps into Live.com, not into MSN. If that box was driving a lot of searches, you should see much more traffic.

The news is better for March, with the figure doubling — but MSN still remains pulling by far the bulk of traffic.

Related Topics: Channel: Strategy | Stats: Hitwise | Stats: Popularity


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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  • http://www.seo-theory.com/ Michael Martinez

    One of the reasons for why live.com doesn’t show much traffic is that all the searching done through MSN stays on MSN. My referrals, for example, show far more traffic coming from search.msn.com than from live.com.

    Microsoft needs to address this issue if they want to take the rebranding of Live Search seriously.

  • http://www.linux-girl.com Asia

    I am literally lol on this, I can’t tell you just how happy I am to see Google’s increase. I was so sick (literally) of last weeks blog posts on raves about Yahoo’s new algo which is just horrible imo. I can’t stand the redundancies! Speaking of which Danny, can you look into that? Some coverage on the redundancy of SERPs on the new Yahoo Algo would be appreciated. Maybe I’ll drop a hint over in Matt’s direction, he usually enjoys this form of testing and reporting. Something without bias as well – several blogs lost my subscription due to bias reports on the new algo. I just feel, if you are reporting news on any topic, in this case, Search Engine Marketing and Optimization, less bias would be appreciated.

    As for Live.com and MSN.com I actually record them as equal on my reports for clients. It just seems less confusing for the average person. We’ve seen an increase in conversions on MSN/Live in the past 2 months, although the traffic has not increased significantly, the overall ROI has decreased and therefore MSN/Live has won the Yahoo ad budget which we canceled off last month due to Yahoo’s low conversions.

  • http://www.seo-theory.com/ Michael Martinez

    Since these various statistics reports are focusing only on queries delivered, it cannot be said often enough that if fewer people are running more queries on Google than on Yahoo!, that it most likely means THEY CANNOT FIND WHAT THEY ARE LOOKING FOR ON GOOGLE.

    Fortunately for Google, we are too lazy to shift search engines when we’re not getting anywhere.

  • grant

    The “data” from Hitwise is useless.

    Their own representatitives will tell you that the “service” and output they provide is not an apples-to-apples metric to comScore ( which has its issues ) or Neilsen.

    Yet, every publication ( Fortune / USA Today ) is content to use this crap to show how much Google is dominating.

    If 75% of this panel is fielded with ISPs…why is AOL’s usage so low? They are (still) the world’s largest ISP and had over 36 Million UVs in March ( comScore ).

    And how can we explain that MSN/Live is declining in Hitwise…when in the other substantitive indices ( comScore & Neilsen ) they are climbing?

    Or perhaps it is comScore and Neilsen are broken?

    Hitwise = useless.

  • http://www.jackhumphrey.com/fridaytrafficreport Jack

    Maybe this is why StumbleUpon is getting so popular. People now have an alternative to rigid search.

    SU is the exact opposite and, funny as it sounds, I have found more valuable stuff “stumbling” around lately than I have with any search engine in a long time.

    It’s a researcher’s dream tool really.

    Man – that’s gotta hurt if my results are typical!

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