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Stats Show Google Dominates the International Search Landscape

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A special report from the Search Engine Strategies conference, February 13-15, 2007, London, UK.

What is the most popular search engine in the UK? In Europe? In the world?

According to representatives from major ratings and traffic analysis services who shared their latest stats during "The Search Landscape" session at SES London, the answers to these questions are: Google, Google, and Google.

The Search Landscape session was one of the first on the opening day of the conference. It was moderated by Julian Smith, insight and research director at MEC Interaction, EMEA, part of Mediaedge:cia. Speakers included Alex Burmaster, European Internet analyst at Nielsen//NetRatings; Heather Hopkins, VP of research at Hitwise; Richard Zwicky, CEO of Enquisite; and Bill Hunt, CEO of Global Strategies International.

According to Nielsen//NetRatings' Burmaster:

  • 256 million people visited a search engine in December 2006 – 81% of the global Internet population.
  • The search audience has grown by 10% over the last year, while the total Internet audience grew 8%.
  • The search audience has grown most dramatically in France (27%) and Spain (21%), ahead of the US (8%) – however, the US is still biggest market by far.
  • Search is most popular in the UK (85%), France (83%) and Spain (83%) -- ahead of the US (77% reach).
  • Google's audience has grown almost 2.5 times the rate of search's – continuing to eat into the share held by its competitors. It now has almost 3 times the audience of nearest rival, Yahoo Search.
  • The US engines dominate local markets, but the market is "just" big enough for local players.
  • The average searcher views 93 search pages a month across 27 minutes, which represents 3.4% of total time spent on the Internet.
  • France and Spain have the heaviest users of search; US searchers are the lightest users.
  • Despite Google's dominance, it is important to understand searcher behaviour doesn't take place in isolation – around two-thirds of searchers visit at least two search brands.

According to Hitwise's Hopkins:

  • In the UK, search engines are the largest category, traffic-wise, overtaking adult Web sites in October 2006.
  • Market share of visits to UK search engines was up 22% year over year in December; but other categories grew faster, including Net Communities & Chat, up 34%, News and Media, up 24%, and Food and Beverage, up 29%.
  • Google (www.google.co.uk and www.google.com) powered 77% of UK internet searches in the four weeks leading up to February 10, 2007; Yahoo Search (uk.search.yahoo.com and search.yahoo.com) powered 8%; Ask.com (uk.ask.com and www.ask.com) 5%; and MSN Search (search.msn.co.uk and msn.search.com) 5%.
  • Yahoo Search is growing rapidly – up 12% in the past year; Google is up 6% year on year, while MSN Search and Live Search are down 15% year on year; Ask.com UK is down 30% year on year, but up 12% in past 6 months.
  • Search is the point of entry to the Internet; she illustrated this with a Music Category Clickstream Map that showed the central position of Google UK.
  • Searchers behave differently on different search engines.
  • On Google UK and Yahoo UK & Ireland Search, searches for Web 2.0 properties MySpace and Bebo were more prominent.
  • On Ask.com UK, searches were more commercial, such as searches for "car insurance" and "share prices".

According to Enquisite's Zwicky:

  • Based on click through activity from August 1, 2006, to January 20, 2007, Google had a 71.6% share of the global search engine market, an 80.2% share of the UK search engine market, and a 78.4% share of the French search engine market.
  • Yahoo had an 11.1% share of the global search engine market, a 5.5% share of the UK search engine market, and a 3.8% share of the French search engine market.
  • However, from January 20 to February 12, 2007, Google's share of the global search engine market dipped to 67.1%, it slipped to 76.1% in the UK, and slid to 76.9% in France.
  • The primary beneficiary appeared to be Yahoo, which saw its share of the global search engine market increase to 14.9%, rise to 8.3% in the UK, and improve to 5.3% in France.
  • Why the changes? Did Google's new algorithm, which was designed to minimize the impact of Googlebombs, have an unintended blowback? Did sales of HP desktop and laptop computers, which had the Yahoo Toolbar pre-installed, soar over Christmas? Zwicky said each industry is searched differently, so "you need to know what it looks like for your own site."

Hunt, the final speaker, presented the preliminary results of the SEMPO European User Study. (I should disclose that SEMPO is a client of my firm.) The study was conducted by Jupiter Research in January 2007. It surveyed advertisers and agencies in France, Italy and Spain.

The top level findings included:

  • 31% of advertisers spent at least 50,000 Euros on search marketing, compared to 37% of agencies who spent that much on behalf of their clients.
  • 62% of advertisers plan to increase search marketing spend over the next 12 months.
  • French, Spanish, and Italian advertisers focus more on SEO, compared to paid search.
  • Advertisers plan on utilizing mobile search, video search and pay per call more in 2007.
  • Advertisers' top search marketing objectives are generating immediate online sales and building brand awareness.
  • Increasing competition for top rankings has been advertisers' and agencies' greatest problem with their search marketing efforts.
  • Both advertisers and agencies, especially agencies in Spain, are satisfied with the ROI from their search marketing activities.
  • The main reasons advertisers hire agencies is to improve results, and due to a lack on internal knowledge/expertise.
  • 26% of advertisers not currently using an agency would consider using one to improve results. However, 61% are satisfied with keeping search marketing in-house.

Following their presentations, the panelists were peppered with questions about Google, Yahoo, social networking sites, YouTube, and MySpace. While Google still dominates the search landscape, it was clear that the attendees were interested in seeing the bigger picture.

Greg Jarboe is the president and co-founder of SEO-PR, a search engine optimization and public relations firm. He is also the news search, blog search and PR correspondent for the Search Engine Watch Blog.

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