Google, Bing and Moe: The Search Engines

uneven balanceWe’ve beat the drum about a search duopoly since before the Yahoo-Microsoft search alliance was finalized.

A duopoly is a market condition when there are two competitors serving many buyers.  Literalists will insist that Yahoo, Ask, AOL and meta search engines still receive a very large number of search requests.

That’s true.

What you need to know as a small business leader is that comScore’s latest data shows that Google or Bing “powered” 93.8 percent of US search in December.   There is an awful lot of money to be made in the fringes that remaining 6 percent or so.  But in January 2011, make sure you understand that web search is a two player game.

Yahoo! is reinventing itself into a content company as fast as it can.   AOL isn’t far behind.  And we’re not counting searches on entities like Facebook, Amazon or eBay.  One could argue that an Amazon search is in many ways a proxy for a commercial search–certainly among its core categories.

Your takeaway as a small business leader is to remember that even Google says search engine optimization (SEO) is an ongoing process and you have two different companies in which to position your company’s goods and services.   That’s the first, ultimate priority because you reach 94% of the United States that way.

Source:  ”December 2010 Search Engine Rankings“, comScore, 1/14/2011
Image:  Balance by Stephen Stacey

E-Commerce Grows 9% This Quarter

shopping cartWeb measurement company comScore reports that e-commerce grew nine percent in the quarter just ended, a promising sign for online holiday sales and retail profitability.  The comScore data excludes large purchases like cars and travel and marks the fourth consecutive quarter in which overall spending has increased.

Company officials caution that overall spending doesn’t mean that all sectors of the economy have recovered.

comScore Chairman Gian Fulgoni warned retailers to be aware of splits between haves and have-nots.   ”Even Americans who do have jobs still aren’t confident enough to spend freely and many are still pained by their loss of wealth since the financial crisis struck in 2008,” he said in a statement.  ”That and a higher consumer savings rate leaves less money for spending. Until the economy begins adding jobs at a meaningful rate, the lack of spending power among consumers will continue to be a drag on purchasing.”

But there is also a substantial split among  the million of Internet ecommerce sites.  comScore reported that the top 25 online retailers accounted for 70% of money spent online, up more than 8% in just one year.  That means the larger companies continue to account for more retail expenditures despite increases in online traffic, sites accepting online payments and overall expenditure growth.

Consumer spending was $32.1 billion for the three months ending October 31. The data seemed to echo a US Commerce Department estimate earlier in the day that reported “the fifth consecutive [monthly] increase in consumer spending, which has been accelerating over the past three quarters…”

Your takeaway as a small business leader is that consumers are spending more and spending more online, even as the largest e-commerce retailers capture more market share.. Remember that all boats rise together and while no one is suggesting that the economy is on solid ground, some sectors are beginning to show growth.

Source:  ”comScore Reports Q3 2010 U.S. Retail E-Commerce ”  comScore, 11/01/2010
Source: “Statement from US Commerce Secretary Gary Locke“, 11/01/2010
Image by Pam Roth

Search Grows, But Instant Search May Have Cooked The Numbers

As colder weather settles across the US, search engine volume begins its seasonal climb that will peak during the holiday season.


Measurement firm comScore released its monthly Search Engine Rankings this evening and reports the number of US search queries climbed to 17.6 billion, a 4% increase over August’s totals with one fewer day.  Google’s share continued a steady climb and remains the market maker with a 66.1% marketshare.

The data behind these measurements is likely changing because of the Yahoo-Microsoft alliance.  The numbers may be further skewed by Google’s new Instant Search feature.    comScore says they’ve adjusted their counting methodology and will now count a page of search results that remains displayed for 3 seconds as another search even if the person using the search engine continues typing.

Measurement systems like comScore’s or TV ratings are often done on a “panel” basis where a particular set of users represent all users.  This is scientifically sound analysis.   It works.  And had there only been one major change this summer, tonight’s numbers might be more illuminating.

After looking at the data, I’ve decided that I want to see at least another month or two of data before completely understanding how much Instant Search is influencing the size of the market and Google’s share of that market.  For now,  the most illuminating data is that Yahoo! search queries fell from 2.72 billion to 2.68 billion.     Even when looking at the June and July numbers, which were lower for Yahoo!, it’s clear that the #2 player is fading fast.

We’ve written many times about the US search market becoming a duopoly with two major players.  Until a Facebook partnership is created with one of them, the search marketing continues crawling to that level.  Your takeaway as a small business leader is to remain aware that Yahoo!’s role as an independent, major search player is ending.

Search Share Shrinks To Two

With respect to Ask (Dr. Pepper) and AOL (fruit juices), the duopoly created by the Microsoft/Yahoo search alliance makes U.S. search a tussle between Google and Microhoo for supremacy.

comScore’s August data was released tonight and shows a minor fluctuation with Google dropping 0.4 points in market share, which were seemingly picked up Yahoo and Microsoft. If anyone you know says 4/10ths of one percent feel free to heckle them for weeks until they conceded that the change was actually 0.6%.

In the soft drink world, Coke (40% plus market share), Pepsi (30% plus) and Dr. Pepper / Snapple (15% plus) effectively control the market. Except that the companies carving out a niche in the gaps often grow profitable or threaten to and are gobbled up.

That’s the payday Fuze and Odwallla hit when Coca-Cola bought them for a combined price of more than $400 million within a relatively short 6 year span.

Your takeaway as a small business leader is that you better decide whether you like Coke products, Pepsi products or both for your business. For you that means Google AdWords and Microsoft’s adCenter if you’re doing any kind of search advertising.

But there are new players out there. Bottled water (aka Facebook) is all the rage and smart companies are starting to see profitable direct response results from the social network.

And the comScore data also shows that Ask and AOL combined for 964 million searches in August. As a marketer I call that number “nearly one billion” and despite the manner in which we toss around large numbers, one billion of anything in one month is big business.

So have your Coke or your Pepsi or switch between the two.

Try some bottled water when it’s appropriate.

And if Dr. Pepper, 7-Up or fruit juices are on sale, you may want to stock up on some of those.

The comparison is overly simplistic, but the point is valid. Search advertising is now a Google-Bing world that will control more than 80% of US search engine actions this fall and winter. Other options exist, but they may not be direct substitutes.

Try them all. Don’t get in a rut.

US Search Engine Market Share

comScore Explicit Core Search Share Report*
August 2010 vs. July 2010
Total U.S. – Home/Work/University Locations
Source: comScore qSearch
Core Search Entity Explicit Core Search Share (%)
Jul-10 Aug-10 Point Change
Total Explicit Core Search 100.0% 100.0% N/A
Google Sites 65.8% 65.4% -0.4
Yahoo! Sites 17.1% 17.4% 0.3
Microsoft Sites 11.0% 11.1% 0.1
Ask Network 3.8% 3.8% 0.0
AOL LLC Network 2.3% 2.3% 0.0

Chart: comScore qSearch analysis

comScore Shows Why Search Is More Than Google

4.3 billion searches in the United States during July 2010.

That’s how many searches were handled at Yahoo! and Microsoft controlled sites for the month. Both saw modest gains while Google saw a slight decrease but the biggest message is in comScore’s new “Explicit Core Search Query Report“.

As Yahoo and Microsoft increasingly intertwine their search businesses, the companies combined for nearly 1/3 of all US searches.  And there are studies that suggest certain product categories convert better for sales or leads than a Google search or advertisement.

Your takeaway as a small business leader is that Google remains synonymous with search, but ignoring a combined 33% of the market is bad strategy.  The advertising formats and frameworks are different for Google and the new Microsoft adCenter Search Alliance.  Facebook adds a third, complicating wrinkle, but search advertising is no longer Google and 5 smaller competitors.  There are three platforms with opportunities, and the small business leader will have a stake at all three.

Google Up, Yahoo Down, World Continues Spinning

Stop me if you’ve heard this before.

Google’s share of U.S. search was up again last month

Oh, you’ve heard it?  Good.  Google up a fraction, according to comScore.  Yahoo down a fraction.  Microsoft holding around 11%.  Ask and AOL combine for a little over 6%.

It’s a big world.  Billions of searches.  One tiny percentage of one percent is huge.   And that’s what comScore calls the core search market.  Add in properties like YouTube, which has more searches than Yahoo! according to this study and Google laps the field.  comScore sizes overall search at 22.2 billion searches with Google properties accounting for 60% of search and Yahoo! accounting for 11%.


There are really two places you need to be aware of as a businessperson:  craiglist at just under 3% and Facebook closing in on 2%.  I think the Facebook number is grossly underreported.  Even if Facebook’s search number is accurate, comScore says Facebook search traffic grew 10% between January and February.

When you’re dealing in the hundreds of millions of anything, ten percent is a staggering number.

25 Reasons To Be On Facebook

Facebook, Inc.

Image via Wikipedia

  1. Facebook has amazing scale.  Measurement firm comScore says there were more than 57 million unique visitors on the site in January 2009.  Think any were your customers, employees and partners?
  2. All kinds of kids wrote notes and tagged each other — the jocks, the nerds, the band kids.  Being tagged was like watching a John Hughes movie, especially when the adults who came of age in the 1980s began tagging each other.  This cut across race, gender and some age lines.If you are not actively engaged or employ someone actively engaged in social media, the train is already at the next station and leaving.  Don’t know when another one is coming by, but I would sure move down the tracks instead of hoping to catch the next one.  After all, Facebook appears to be an express, and you may end up riding the local.
  3. Brand yourself.   Don’t lie, but don’t post your family secrets either.  This was an opportunity to brand yourself to 25 individuals and some extension of their circle of acquaintances.
  4. People who used the ’25 Things’ meme as anything other than branding – for future growth or past acomplishments – really missed the boat too.  Maybe your train will catch up with them if you managed to find a train now.
  5. If you are a business leader and think your kids and their friends are the only ones who microblog about their lives while simultaneously texting and watching television, you’re sadly mistaken.
  6. If you don’t know about microblogging, check the travel agent and see if there is one of those fancy airships to catch up to the train and boat ahead of you.
  7. Leaders don’t dismiss trends.  Leaders leverage trends.  Which did you do?
Did your social media vehicle crash?

Did your social media vehicle crash?

No, I won’t give you 25 things to read.  Eight is enough to convince you that social marketing has a place in your business.   An actual forced number, in this case the number was 25, only provides structure.  As a small business leader, you have plenty to go on here.

You don’t have to be involved, but you better be aware and you better be understand.  Failing to do both will start the countdown for when you are no longer relevant to reaching your audience.

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