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Search Popularity Stats, Sliced & Diced

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Catch up time on search engine popularity stats. comScore and NetRatings put out October 2006 figures this week, plus Hitwise released those earlier this month. Google's still tops, Yahoo still strong, Microsoft is still dropping and Ask surpasses AOL's search share, according to comScore. Below, the trend from all of them over the past year, plus my long-promised compare-and-contrast charts.

First, let's do a compare-and-contrast table with the basic figures from each service. These show the estimated share of the number of searches that happened in the United States in October 2006.

Month

comScore

NetRatings

Hitwise

Google

45.4%

49.6%

60.9%

Yahoo

28.2%

23.9%

22.3%

Microsoft

11.7%

8.8%

10.6%

Ask

5.8%

2.8%

4.3%

AOL

5.4%

6.2%

0.5%

Others

3.5%

8.7%

1.2%

Across the board, all the services put Google in the lead, Yahoo second and Microsoft's Windows Live third (sorry, I still say MSN on the chart). Two of the services put Ask over AOL in the fourth place spot. More analysis on all this in the service trend charts, below.

Here's comScore figures over the past year:

comScore Search Popularity, Oct 2005-Oct 2006

Remember that Google drop back in July, when lots of people started freaking out about the demise of the Big G. I warned not to focus on month-to-month changes. Since then, Google's recovered according to comScore and keeps going.

Yahoo's seen declines since July, but not enough to send up the alarm bells. They are well within the usual ranges that I've discussed are the things to watch. That range is the 25 to 30 percent slice of the chart.

In contrast, Microsoft continues on its long, steady drop in popularity. It will especially be interesting to see the figures in the next few months, as IE7 rolls out and potentially gives Microsoft Live Search a bump. Or not. My Searching Via Internet Explorer 7 & The Battle To Be The Default Search Engine article talks more about the changes in IE7 that might help drive traffic.

Unnoticed, as far as I can tell, is the fact that in September, Ask overtook AOL for the fourth slot in the search engine share battle. That's a big deal. In fact, according to comScore, AOL is on track to plunge out of the 5 to 10 percent band it has occupied over the past year. Ask is hanging in there.

Of course, the traffic for Ask isn't just for Ask.com. It's for the combination of sites that Ask owns or controls, including places like Excite, iWon, MyWay.com and My Web Search. Still, as a network, Ask remains controlling a significant chunk of the search space.

That's what comScore says. Now let's see how it looks at NetRatings:

NetRatings Search Popularity, Oct 2005-Oct 2006

Basically, NetRatings shows status quo. Google and Yahoo keep ticking along at the same levels. So does Ask. AOL hangs in roughly the same general range. It's Microsoft Windows Live (MSN on the chart) that catches my eye most with consistent decline.

Also note that with NetRatings, AOL is well above Ask. That's because NetRatings is only reporting the share for Ask.com. If other Ask-owned properties were combined, then the Ask figure would be higher. Much of that traffic instead flows into the "Other" line.

Next to Hitwise:

Hitwise Search Popularity, Oct 2005-Oct 2006

Hitwise doesn't go back as far as NetRatings and comScore, so it's harder to feel confident about trends. But the trends are similar to comScore, a slight Google rise, Yahoo holding steady, Ask above AOL and that decline of MSN.

Now back to what I promised ages ago, the old-style comparison charts I used to do. Here are all three services together, showing share score for October 2006:

Search Popularity,Oct 2006

Now let me explain what I think is unique in charting the figures this way. Usually, you'd see a comparison using a bar chart. Shares for Google from all three services would be shown as three bars next to each other, then the same for Yahoo and so on.

I like doing these as line charts, because it makes the gaps more noticeable and gives you a trend as well.

For example, you can see how all the services rate Google tops, though the amount Google is above the others may vary. Conclusion? While Google's exact popularity is uncertain, it's clearly more popular than anyone else, the services agree.

Notice that with Yahoo, they all agree it is in second place and the general range of popularity is closer (roughly between 25 to 30 percent). For MSN (Windows Live), the all come together. When you hit AOL, Hitwise is the big player that's way off the mark from the other two. I've covered this before, that I don't think Hitwise is getting accurate information about AOL that causes this. But seeing the two big skews -- that Hitwise puts Google so high above the others and AOL so low -- makes me think that if AOL was counted correctly, then Hitwise would be reflecting the same general trend as the others.

Now let's trend each of the major search engines using figures from all three services. Here's Google:

Google Search Popularity, Oct 2005-Oct 2006

Fair to say, Google's pretty much continuing to grow, despite the hiccups you might see from time-to-time on various services.

Here's Yahoo:

Yahoo Search Popularity, Oct 2005-Oct 2006

Generally, I think it's fair to say that Yahoo had a spike in popularity earlier this year but has settled down more to its usual levels. That's not bad. It has healthy, long-term traffic. What remains to be seen is if it can grow that traffic more in the long term.

Here's Microsoft:

Live Search Popularity, Oct 2005-Oct 2006

Slice it how you want, no one is reporting a pretty picture for Microsoft. Unlike Yahoo, they haven't held share. It's drop, drop, drop.

Here's AOL, which similar to Microsoft, shows drops:

AOL Search Popularity, Oct 2005-Oct 2006

I'm sorry I don't have the similar chart for Ask. I'll try to add it later, but I shut my spreadsheet (argh) before saving my comparison numbers, so I have some more copy and pasting to do to get that chart back.


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