Efficient Frontier is out with new research looking at how the major search engines get search traffic outside their own search engines, including the remarkable stat that less than half of Yahoo’s paid search clicks happen on its own search sites.
"Search syndication" is when a major search engine provides search results beyond its own core services. For example, Google quite famously provides the search listings that AOL uses. Ask.com, while it generates its own editorial listings, also gets some of Google’s paid ads through a syndication deal. And many sites across the web use Google’s AdSense For Search program to get both paid and unpaid results.
Efficient looked at paid search clicks that it buys on behalf of a number of large advertisers to determine what percentage of those clicks were happening on the major search engines themselves as opposed to partners.
Yahoo was found to have the highest number of partners generating clicks – 1,196 of them beyond Yahoo Search itself. These partners generated 55% of all of Yahoo’s paid search clicks. Yahoo itself generated 45%.
Though Yahoo generated fewer clicks on its own, those clicks on its own site converted better. Of all Yahoo search clicks (on its own site or through partners), 58% of the converting clicks came from Yahoo itself.
How does this show Yahoo converts better than its partners? The idea from Efficient seems to be that if partner and "own site" clicks convert the same, then the percentage should be the same. In other words, if Yahoo’s own clicks make up 45% of total paid clicks, then you should also see 45% of total converting clicks coming from Yahoo itself. Instead, you get 58% of converting clicks from Yahoo. That suggests Yahoo ads convert better than those coming from its partners.
That’s probably right, but it would have been better if the exact conversion rate for partner sites and Yahoo’s own sites were given. Then the figures could be compared directly.
Google has many partners, too — but at 431, far less than Yahoo. Google also generates the majority of its own search traffic, 59% — partners make up 41%. Of all paid clicks, 75% of those generating conversions came from Google’s own site.
That’s good and bad for Google. Good that it’s less dependent on partners. Good that traffic on its own site seems to convert so well. But bad that partner sites seem to convert more poorly than Yahoo’s sites. But bear in mind, without exact conversion rates being provided, this might not be entirely accurate.
As for Microsoft, it has only 5 partners — and those are other sites within MSN. I wouldn’t consider these partners myself, and it suggests that at least a small number of those "partners" counted for Yahoo and Google are actually sites they own. But still, we’re mainly talking about what percentage of paid clicks come off the "main" search site. For Microsoft, that’s 99%. And not surprisingly, the percentage of paid search clicks that convert from Microsoft’s core search engine is 100%. Those partners just don’t matter.