Searchscape: Latest Stats About the Search Engines

Moderator Chris Sherman, Search Engine Land brings us back from another excellent lunch for this panel. Speakers Eli Goodman, comScore, Inc., Jon Stewart, Nielsen Online and Bill Tancer, Hitwise and author of “Click: What Millions of People Are Doing Online and Why It Matters”, are all ready to go so let’s not waste any time. We’re going to focus on the so called “Google Gap” — that is, why the heck do we see higher numbers coming to our sites than Google has market share?

Bill Tancer loves data. He’s going to plug his book throughout the presentation. I am not going to follow suit unless I get a copy. Ahem.


25 million Internet users worldwide
10 million Internet users in the US
1 million Web sites
More than 4 million searches each period
172 industry categories
Monthy, weekly, daily traffic numbers

Google traffic numbers:

Jan 2008 – 62.60 percent of all executed searches in the US
Jan 2009 – 72.13 percent of all executed searches in the US

The growth comes at the expense of Microsoft and Yahoo, not so much the smaller engines.

It’s unfair to compare Google search with Yahoo search. He combined market share of visits on properties instead. Yahoo has 12 percent market share in that case. Google has 9.48 percent of all Internet visits. MSN only has 1.81 percent.

Success rate: An “executed search” is a search that leads to another page that isn’t just another search.

Successful searches:

Google: 67.8 percent from 72.6 percent in 2007
Yahoo and Microsoft show similar decline.

Why did it decline? Is search becoming less effective? It’s kind of like higher mortality rates in teaching hospitals. They get harder cases so they have a higher mortality rates. Similarly, search queries are getting harder. Search queries are getting longer and one- and two- word searches are becoming less prevalent.

The financial meltdown last year affected online businesses but not until after September. Before that it continued to grow. The only peak before the end of the year was on Christmas Day. Search term behavior changed as a result.

However, that doesn’t mean that traffic from the search engines to monetizable Web sites — shopping, travel and lifestyle — went down. In fact, it went up slightly. Despite the downturn, search referrals are up.

“Layaway” as a search term increased dramatically recently.


  • Words/queries will continue to increase.
  • Search success rates will continue to fall.
  • The amount of information on the Internet will grow exponentially.
  • There will be a growing need for algorithms that factor user perspective in the search mission.
  • There will be a paradigm shift in search that will shift to include user perspective.

Jon Stewart, but not that Jon Stewart, is up next. 85 percent of people worldwide are online (not including China, apparently).

Three key takeaways:

  • As big as search is, there are areas where it’s growing rapidly.
  • The story isn’t just about Google.
  • This time of slashed ad budgets represents a great opportunity for search.

The U.S. is still the biggest market. Since October, there’s been growth globally across the board. France is growing the fastest globally by query volume, followed by Brazil, the UK, Spain and Germany.

Penetration for search is plateauing year over year. Google’s growth is outpacing search growth which is outpacing Internet growth.

Their numbers show Google at 63 percent, Yahoo at 16 percent and Microsoft at 11 percent. The smaller search engines are still holding on at about 4 percent (AOL also has 4 percent and Ask has 2 percent).

They’ve discovered that searchers aren’t very loyal. Google’s share overlaps with Yahoo’s and with Microsoft’s. It’s not all about Google, particularly in certain key verticals. Searchers are willing to go elsewhere for information. Heavy searchers are even less faithful.

Mobile is still an emerging space but the usual suspects are still dominant there. They suspect the audience is going to experience extreme growth with the growth of smart phones.

Advertisers are in a bad place right now [gee, really?] and he thinks it’s going to continue to decline. Search ads look similar as well, with declines pretty much across the board. Advertiser built and then lost momentum year over year. Some areas did manage to make gains however.

Final takeaway: Marketers should look at organic search as a prime branding opportunity.

Eli Goodman is our final speaker, here to give us his company’s numbers focusing on search and social media.

Trends that matter

How do we view social media? Social media includes social networking sites, blogs and sites enabled by social networking infrastructure.

The most commonly used Internet categories include search, entertainment and retail. There’s a decrease in community and personal sites are seeing negative growth, probably because of the growth of social networking sites.

There’s been a 20 percent growth in social networking. Asia Pacific has seen a 29 percent growth and North America has seen only 10 percent growth.

Consumer search activity is on the rise at 38 percent year over year. There are 93.7 searches per searcher per month.

Search is everywhere, not just on the engines themselves. (Again we point out that YouTube is the second largest search property.)

The intersection of search

Advertising the way “Mad Men” does it is over. Now eyeballs come in and there are a lot of other factors that come in and get taken into account, and search overlays all of that.

The themes of each social network are different:

  • Facebook: personal names, applications, relationships
  • MySpace: musicians, albums, personal names
  • Flickr: movies, TV, technology brands (XBox 360, Nikon)
  • Digg: video games, movies

However Twilight the movie showed up in every single top 10 for every network. [Oh brother.]

Creating search then capturing its value

Don’t overlook social media answers sites. Yahoo! Answers, and have all seen tremendous growth this last year. Searchers are doing a lot of research and they’re very specific about their questions. This is how you get to people before they get even start looking to go shopping.

Link your brands to things that your audience likes.

Brand advocates, social media and search

It’s human nature to advocate. Advocates represent 40 percent of the online category buyers. They tell twice as many people about their purchases, whether good or bad. They also search way more on average than regular searchers. They have a deeper penetration into social networks as well.

Key takeaways:

  • Believe the hype: Social media searching is on the rise.
  • Focus: Be where they are.
  • Synergy: Create display campaigns that support your search campaigns.
  • Brand advocates: They are heavy searchers and heavy social networkers.

[My hands are going to fall off. He talks so very very fast.]


Can you explain the Google Gap?

Bill: One of the things that explains that gap is that when you’re looking at the referrer logs, you only get your internal view versus the external global view.

Jon: He’d like to see those numbers by vertical and small business versus large. He thinks they play better in some areas.

How are the analytics packages?

Eli: He thinks it comes down to the way that site-centric packages do their tracking. He thinks it’s more of an action oriented thing.

Bill: They’re accurate for what they are. Organic traffic is a little messier to track. It also varies by industry and region. Women in the Midwest skew more MSN and he’s not sure why.

How many people are doing directory assistance calls versus mobile search?

Eli: It doesn’t look like it’s digging in too much.

Jon: He agrees and doesn’t think there’s any large scale cannibalization. There aren’t enough people who have smart phones right now and not enough people using search as a function right now. It’s something to keep an eye on over the next few years.

Any shifts from paid to natural search ratio?

Bill: There tend to be more paid clicks on retail searches with a purchase intent but not really. It wouldn’t surprise him if there were a shift.

Susan Esparza is former managing editor at Bruce Clay Inc., and has written extensively for clients and internal publications. Along with Bruce Clay, she is co-author of the first edition of Search Engine Optimization All-in-One Desk Reference For Dummies.

See Susan's author page for links to connect on social media.

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