November ComScore Data Suggest PC Search Volume May Have Peaked

Yesterday comScore released its November search market share data. The distribution and trends are consistent with what has been happening over the past several months: Google is stable, Bing has gained incrementally, Yahoo lost some share (mostly to partner Bing) and the others have gained or lost a fraction of a point.

Stepping back, comScore said that across the web in November “69.4 percent of searches carried organic search results from Google, while 25.4 percent of searches were powered by Bing (up 0.4 percentage points).” Thus there’s clearly a “duopoly” in search: Google and Bing.

The discussion of search market share won’t get interesting again unless (or perhaps until) Facebook enters search in some more formal way. What’s more interesting to explore and consider now is whether PC search query volumes have peaked. It appears they have.

ComScore’s data about total search query volume shows a decline from October to November, which happened last year as well.

In October 2011 “explicit core search queries” were 18.07 billion. In November 2012 there were more than a billion fewer queries.

Without carefully going through historical data it’s hard to definitively say that search volumes have stopped growing. But that’s how it appears. Tablets may add incrementally to “PC” search queries but we don’t yet know if that’s the case.

Smartphone-based queries and lookups are cannibalizing PC search to some degree. For example, map-based queries on mobile now exceed those on the PC for Google, according to data not publicly released by comScore. However comScore has said that PC-based map search is “eroding” and shifting to mobile:

In the past six months alone, according to comScore Mobile Metrix, the number of smartphone visitors to Maps websites and apps has jumped 24% to 92 million unique visitors – a monthly penetration of 83% among smartphone users . . .

Searches with a Mapping/Navigation intent on the Big 5 Engines are down 34% over the past 15 months, going from 74.8 million to 49.5 million in August. comScore Search Planner shows that search clicks to Map/Navigation sites show an even steeper decline, down 41% to just 55.2 million in August.

All this is partly why it’s critical for Google to have a strong presence on the iPhone, in addition to Android. But if PC search has in fact reached some sort of ceiling the implications are fairly profound for Google and perhaps online ad revenues as a whole.

Related Topics: Channel: Strategy | Stats: comScore | Top News

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About The Author: is a Contributing Editor at Search Engine Land. He writes a personal blog Screenwerk, about SoLoMo issues and connecting the dots between online and offline. He also posts at Internet2Go, which is focused on the mobile Internet. Follow him @gsterling.

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  • Jake Taylor

    Interesting data. If it has indeed really reached some kind of ceiling then I imagine they will turn to other products such as Google+ to create more revenue. One interesting thing that I read was a suggestion by a user to be able to sell products directly through a G+ profile or community.

    Or perhaps they could monetize the community model to have some sort of ‘premium’ communities for specific interests/industries/etc. My initials thoughts there are that there would have to be a user subscription fee for communities they wanted to join that could go to the community creator (they’re providing the value in the community, so there’s no incentive unless they get moolah), with a cost-per-subscriber model of some sort that goes to Google.

    Or they could do all of that regardless of their ad revenue. Who knows!

  • Dave Abbott

    If the decline also occurred last year (a comment above states, “which happened last year as well”), couldn’t this just be a seasonality issue? Agreed that it’s inevitable that PC Searches will someday decline, just unclear if it is happening now.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001743765531 Drive Headquarters

    Google might be digging a hole for itself. The success of Android may as well damage Google. First of all, Google does not make money on Android, it is Samsung and Microsoft that make a lot of money from Android. (Microsoft collects $5-$10 royalty for each Android device); secondly, any search revenue from mobile phones cannibalize search revenue from PC. Advertisers pay much less for each click from a mobile device than from a PC. If people all search from mobile devices, then Google will sink.

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