Dec. 2004 Top 20 Search Engines In UK

NetRatings has released a list of the top 20 search
engines in the UK for December 2004, ranked in order of the number of unique searchers they had. Google comes first, followed by Yahoo, then Ask Jeeves.

The report also provides data on clickthrough per searcher, suggesting that the most popular search engine in terms of number of searchers isn’t necessarily the most
popular in terms of clickthrough to web sites.

For example, AltaVista was ranked 15th in terms for number of unique searchers. However, in terms of clickthrough per searcher, it was ranked third. Each unique searchers
at AltaVista clicked 13.6 times in the month, compared to say 4.8 clicks per month at Lycos.

The idea is that you want to target both a search engine with traffic and high clickthrough, because if there aren’t many clickthroughs, that traffic won’t translate into
visitors for you.

I guess. I find the data a bit confusing, however — and wish I had time to analyze it more closely. I don’t, but I’ll at least post some of the questions I’m wondering.

  • Clicks per searcher might be the wrong metric. Any unique searcher in a given month might do a number of different searches. One search might come up with the "right"
    answer and generate a single clickthrough. So low number of clicks — but not an issue for the site that got the traffic.
  • Another search might generate several different possible answers, causing a person to click, come back to the search results, click again and so on. So clickthrough is
    high, but that doesn’t matter to the sites that only got brief visits, because perhaps the search engine wasn’t putting up the best results.
  • A better metric might be clickthroughs per search session. In any given search session, how many clickthroughs happened. Only a few might indicate a better degree of
    accuracy. Then again, perhaps not. High clickthrough could indicate a skew of people for a particular search engine who like to explore various options.

In the end, the stats are interesting, but most marketers will still probably find it useful mainly to see which search engines are ranked tops in the UK by unique
searchers. Even better would have been ranking by volume of search.

The report (in PDF format) is here. NetImperative has coverage here:
Bigger not always better for search.

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