Google Retains Top U.S. Search Spot In November

January 1, 2008 0

Google proved the most popular search engine in the US during November, according to new research…

“Last year, Google remained at the top of its search class. This year, the company tried out for the wireless varsity teams, played hooky with YouTube, and courted cheerleader DoubleClick…”

Google Inc. maintained its top spot in the online U.S. search market in November, according to a monthly online audience measurement report released by Nielsen Online.


“Two reports show Google continued to dominate search in November, with data from Nielsen Online showing Google had 4.3 billion or 57.7% of search queries for the month while data from comScore Inc. shows Google had 5.9 billion core searches or a 58.6% share.”

Other measuring firms report somewhat different numbers. But the trends are the same: Even as the overall search pie grows, Google’s slice of it grows larger, while those rivals Yahoo, Microsoft and Ask.com either stay the same or get slimmer.

“The research firm Hitwise, which measures Web audiences, said that Google accounted for 58.3 percent of all searches in the United States in March of 2006. By November of 2006, Google’s share had grown to 61.8 percent, and by this November, to 65.1 percent. That is more than triple the share of its nearest rival, Yahoo, and more than nine times that of third place finisher Microsoft.”

Figures produced by Nielsen Online, a unit of The Nielsen Company, revealed that about 4.25 billion searches were made on Google sites in the U.S., bringing the company’s market share of online searches performed to 57.7% of all online queries, up from 56% in October.

“This represents an increase on October’s results, when Google users were found to be responsible for a total of 4.40 billion searches – 55.5 per cent of the complete number.”

Meanwhile, Yahoo! was found to be the second most popular search engine, having processed 1.32 billion queries, or 17.9 % of searches. However, Yahoo’s slice of the U.S. search market declined from October, when Nielsen reported the company captured 18.8 % of the market with 1.49 billion searches.

In third place over the month was fellow rival Microsoft, which recorded 881 million searches or 12% of all search queries in November, compared to 13.8% or 1.09 billion in October, according to Nielsen Online, and 984 million or a 9.8% share according to comScore.

Following the top three engines in search volume by Nielsen Online’s reckoning were AOL Search, with 332 million searches or a 4.5% share of all search queries for November; Ask.com Search with 196 million or 2.7% of November searches; and My Web Search with 87 million or 1.2% of searches.

Could Google grab three quarters of the search market? Could it grab 80 percent or 90 percent? And what are the implications?

“As long as Google’s competitors are aiming to be like Google or almost as good as Google, Google will continue gaining share,” said Jordan Rohan, an analyst at RBC Capital Markets. “It has more resources and engineers focused on search. It is an arms race that they have won by a landslide.”

There was a wave of consolidation in the online advertising space, with search companies gobbling up ad firms like crazy. Google started it off by offering $3.1 billion to acquire online ad serving and ad exchange provider DoubleClick in April. The merger was kept in limbo most of the year due to privacy and antitrust concerns voiced by lawmakers, privacy advocates, and rivals like Microsoft.

Last week, however, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission gave its approval for the Google-DoubleClick deal. But the transaction is expected to be a tough sell in Europe, where regulators face an April 2 deadline for deciding.

Yahoo kicked off 2007 by acquiring Right Media, which runs an online ad exchange, and then later in the year it purchased online ad network Blue Lithium.

Microsoft spent a whopping $6 billion for online ad serving firm Aquantive in May, and then bought ad exchange AdECN in July.

Not to be outdone, AOL acquired behavioral ad targeting firm Tacoda. And advertising giant WPP Group got in on the act, buying 24/7, a search-based ad-serving company.

“Thus, these findings roughly corroborate those published earlier this month by comScore, which also indicated that Google was the top search property.”

The number of actual monthly searches attributed to the engines varies due to longstanding differences in methodologies as well as recent changes. For example, a comScore spokesman notes that under recent changes to its ongoing analysis, comScore now includes searches conducted on affiliate sites that use the Google toolbar in its count as well as searches that occur on Google.com.

At Standard & Poors, analyst Scott Kessler has a slightly less bullish take on Google’s prospects to keep growing its search share. “Google’s market share gains will slow in 2008,” Kessler predicted. Several factors went into making his prediction, Kessler said. They include a maturing search market, improvements to the search services of competitors like Yahoo, Microsoft and Ask.com and, the possibility that Google might get distracted by its growing number of non-search projects.

“Google, to me, seems like a company that is focused on a lot of things right now,” Kessler said. “There is a greater chance that they will take their eye off the ball.”

While trying to become an advertising powerhouse, Google also staked out turf in the mobile and wireless-spectrum areas in the hopes of broadening access to its Internet search and other services.

Following years of “Google Phone” speculation, the company in November finally launched the Android mobile-software platform and the Open Handset Alliance of device makers, carriers, and others who aim to create an ecosystem for next-generation Internet-enabled phones.

The market share figures are not just about bragging rights. Rohan estimates that Google translates each point of market share into about $100 million in annual revenues. That is at current levels. As the total number of searches conducted by users grows, the dollar value of each point of market share could get larger.

And while Google’s competitors are not as good at turning their search traffic into cash, each point of market share they lose represents a sizable missed opportunity, even if their overall revenues from search continue to grow.

While Google’s search market share continued to rise along with its stock price–which has topped $700–No. 2 search engine Yahoo was struggling to redefine itself. Terry Semel stepped down as chief executive in June and Yahoo co-founder Jerry Yang replaced him.

In contrast, at Tech High, Google would definitely be voted “Most Ambitious” and “Most Likely to Succeed.”