Google Market Share Hits Turning Point?

Something strange happened in the sunny days of July: Google appeared to lose market share to Yahoo and Bing. At least, that’s what the numbers reported by ComScore said. After the Internet ratings company adjusted its reporting methodology, something even stranger happened: the numbers didn’t change.

When ComScore originally reported its numbers, there was an outcry that Microsoft and Yahoo had used various gimmicks to give their own search engines an apparently larger slice of the search market. So ComScore made sure that its new numbers for July measured only “explicit” searches. The company no longer counted automated searches or “hovers” or anything but a user actually typing a term into a search window and hitting “search.”

ComScore refers to this new metric as “explicit core search” and defines it as “user engagement with a search service with the intent to retrieve search results.” It matters because it means that ComScore is no longer counting “incidental” searches that Yahoo and Bing caused to be set off when a visitor interacted with certain slide shows or clicked on links that led to search queries. So now they’re comparing apples to apples.

And with this change in methodology, Google’s market share is still down. When you look at the percentages, it isn’t down by much, but with this large a market, even a fraction of a percentage point counts for many thousands of searches. It’s worth keeping in mind, however, that this is still an expanding market, and its growth is accelerating. The US explicit core search volume increased 15.1 percent year over year in July, which is up from 10.8 percent growth in June.

So let’s look at the search engines. Google’s US explicit core search market share was 65.8 percent in July, down from 66.2 percent in June. Despite the fall from the previous month, Google’s search volume is still 16.9 percent higher than this time last year.

Yahoo, on the other hand, saw its US explicit core search market share increase to 17.1 percent in July, up from 16.7 percent in June – and nearly two percentage points higher than this time last year. That may not sound like much, but it’s a major reversal considering that it had actually declined 5.5 percent in June. Given that Google’s share of the search market is down slightly, Yahoo might actually be starting to turn a corner. One can only hope; these numbers are still among the lowest in the venerable search engine’s history.

Microsoft’s search share, interestingly enough, stayed flat at 11 percent in July, showing no growth over its June numbers. However, when we compare those searches to this time last year, Microsoft’s share of the search market grew nearly 44 percent.

For what it’s worth, Ask’s share of the search market also stayed flat, and AOL’s share actually dropped slightly.

So what does this mean? Many observers thought that Google would have a smooth path to 90 percent dominance of the search market. These numbers show that it ain’t necessarily so. It’s hardly a stampede, but it does show that Google might not want to risk resting on its laurels.

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