The Tarot of Search Engines: Demographic Data Divining

A look into the demographics and usage of search engines can provide some really interesting data on how they differ. Today, we are going to take a look at some of this type of data and speculate (wildly, perhaps) about what it means in terms of marketing orientation.

Gender Differences

To start the discussion, let’s look at male vs. female usage because it sets the stage for some of the other data we have to look at.


Note that female Internet usage in 2007 is 107 percent of male Internet usage. Basically, this trend remains the same throughout the entire chart.

If we consider the historical data below suggesting Google’s demographic skews toward male users, and Yahoo! and Microsoft skew toward female users, it make for some interesting data to think about.


For example, Google users skew toward male, and even though male usage of the Internet is less than female usage, Google still has the largest market share by far, as supported by the latest comScore data:

comScore Core Search Report*
August 2007
Total U.S. – Home/Work/University Locations
Source: comScore qSearch 2.0
Core Search Entity Share of Searches (%)
Jul – 07 Aug – 07 Point
Aug – 07
vs. Jul-07
Total Core Search 100.0% 100.0% N/A
Google Sites 55.2% 56.5% 1.3
Yahoo! Sites 23.5% 23.3% -0.2
Microsoft Sites 12.3% 11.3% -1.0
Time Warner Network 4.4% 4.5% 0.1
Ask Network 4.7% 4.5% -0.2

This is pure speculation, but it would lead one to think that a larger percentage of male users opt to use Google than female users. Note that other explanations are mathematically possible.

Traffic Differences

Let’s dig a little deeper and see if we can find some other differences between the engines. The following chart is courtesy of Enquisite. The data analyzes the search engine traffic to a group of sites targeting high school and college students.

The chart shows a breakout of the search engine traffic this group of sites received. For example, Google is in red, and on January 2, 2007, was responsible for about 67 percent of the search referrals to the group of sites. Also shown are Yahoo! (green), Live Search (blue), and Ask (Yellow). About 60M queries were sampled to build this chart.


Some fascinating things emerge from this chart: · Google’s market share (of this class of users) dips on the weekend. · Live Search’s market share also drops on the weekend. · Yahoo!’s market share goes up on the weekend. · Google’s market share dropped during the summer months. · Conversely, Yahoo!’s market share went up during the summer months.

The other data point provided by Enquisite was that traffic to these sites in May and September was about 9M visitors, whereas traffic dropped to 5M in July. What this means is that both Yahoo!’s and Google’s traffic dropped during the summer months, but the drop in Google’s was significantly higher.

Age Demographics

Keeping in mind that our data is from high school and college students, you can begin to speculate a bit about what this data means? For example, is this data saying that the students who use Google, use it for schoolwork and related research? This might explain the drop off during the summer and on the weekends.

Similarly, you could speculate that the students who use Yahoo! are more likely to be using it for entertainment or recreational purposes. This would explain why it grows its market share on weekends and over the summer.

It’s also interesting to note the drop in Google share and increase in Yahoo! share in the mid-January to late February timeframe. I can’t begin to speculate why that might have happened.

If we look again at the Hitwise data presented above about the gender and age orientation of the search engines, we see that in 2004 at least, Yahoo! had 48 percent of its searchers coming from the 18-to-34-year-old audience.

This is the single largest, age-related focus of any of the search engines. Perhaps Yahoo! is focusing very deliberately on this audience.

Ultimately, this data may be providing us some visibility into the marketing orientation of the two largest search engines and how the market is reacting to them. (There is not enough data on Live Search or Ask in the above statistics to speculate too much about their strategies.)

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