Ratings Service Faceoff: Search Share Compared, June 2007 To March 2008

I’ve now compiled the latest search popularity stats from Hitwise, Compete, comScore, and Nielsen Online. That means it’s time to put them all together once again, to see what a "panel" of ratings services agree on — and don’t agree on — in terms of search engine popularity.

Why not show a full year’s worth of data? Ratings methodology changes mean I can only go back to June 2007 for comScore and October 2007 for Nielsen. Also, in terms of raw number of searches, Hitwise doesn’t report these, so they aren’t on the number of searches charts below.

Services shown in the charts blow:

The charts show the share of searches in the United States that each ratings service estimates each search engine to have. In other countries, shares will be different — often dramatically so.

Finally, the charts use different scales. Rather than running them all from zero to 100 percent, I’ve tightened them between low and high marks unique to each service. This can make ups-and-downs seem more dramatic, but it also means you can better see specific changes with each service.


6/07-3/08 Google Search Ratings

Everyone but Compete agrees — Google’s share shown in the chart above had either hit an all-time high or tied it from the previous month

6/07-3/08 Google Search Ratings

In terms of number of searches, everyone agrees that Google is at an all time high. But NetRatings reports significantly fewer searches than the other two services. (Figures above are in billions.)


6/07-3/08 Yahoo Search Ratings

NetRatings and Hitwise say that Yahoo has had worst months than March, while comScore and Compete put it at an all-time low.

6/07-3/08 Yahoo Search Ratings

In terms of number of searches, Yahoo comes off better, relatively stable over the period according to comScore and NetRatings. (Figures above are in billions.)


6/07-3/08 Microsoft Search Ratings

Both NetRatings and Compete show a spike upward for Microsoft — Compete dramatically so. For the others, a slight decline, less dramatic than in some past months. (Postscript: See below about Compete results now being adjusted downward).

6/07-3/08 Microsoft Search Ratings

In terms of number of searches, everyone shows a better picture for Microsoft, with gains. Note the large leap by Compete, bringing its measurements nearly in line with the other two. Did Microsoft gain that much, or did how Compete measures Microsoft change?

POSTSCRIPT:Compete counted searches in March from Club Live that it thought it was filtering out, which inflated the Microsoft figures. I’m not going to redo all the charts due to the time involved. Future charts will reflect the new figures. Microsoft had a 8.5% share for March, rather than 10.2%. See Microsoft Dips In Compete’s Revised March 08 Search Figures for more.

Caveat Time!

As a reminder, my general rules when evaluating popularity stats:

  • 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.
  • Consider Actual Number Of Searches: 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.

Related Topics: Channel: Strategy | Stats: Compete | Stats: comScore | Stats: Hitwise | Stats: NetRatings | 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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