Internet search powerhouse Google garnered 37.6 percent of all U.S. search queries on the Internet in this year’s second quarter, according to comScore Networks, a Net metrics service firm. That’s the largest market share that Google has had in a quarter since comScore began compiling its search reports in December 2003.
Google’s 5.65 billion U.S. queries placed it at the top of the Web ferret pack for the quarter, followed by Yahoo, with 4.65 billion queries and a 30.4 percent market share; MSN, with 2.39 billion queries and a 15.6 percent share; AOL/Time Warner, with 1.41 billion queries and a 9.2 percent share; and Ask Jeeves, with 934 million queries and a 6.1 percent share.
While Google’s market share increased from the first quarter, when it was 35.9 percent — as did Ask Jeeves’ share, which climbed from 5.3 percent, and AOL’s, which jumped from 9.1 percent — Yahoo’s share dropped from 31.2 percent and MSN’s from 16.3 percent.
Not Rolling Over Competitors
Although Google maintains a hefty market share, it isn’t rolling over its competitors, Chris Sherman, associate editor of SearchEngineWatch.com, said.
“A 2 percent change over a quarter doesn’t represent a significant gain in momentum,” he maintained. “I would much rather take a look at a year or couple of years time frame and see if there is any trend there,” he said. “And for the last year or so there really hasn’t been.”
Google, Yahoo, MSN and Ask Jeeves declined to comment on the comScore numbers. AOL could not be reached for comment.
On a year-to-year basis, comScore’s latest U.S. numbers show growth declining in queries to the general search engines. Growth in the first quarter was 45.8 percent higher than the first quarter of 2004, but in the second quarter it was only 31.4 percent higher than the same period in 2004.
Mark S. Mahaney, an analyst with Smith Barney, in a research note released this week cautioned investors about reading too much into overall query growth rates.
“[W]e’ve only got seven months with [year to year] growth results to look at, and comScore has a habit of layering in new properties into search results without restating prior results, so organic growth rates are very tough to get at,” he wrote.
Law of Large Numbers
However, he noted, “Overall, we would expect to see a deceleration in query growth rates due to the law of large numbers.”
He estimated that query growth rates at Google would rapidly decline from approximately 53 percent in 2004 to 39 percent in 2005 to 15 percent in 2006.
If query growth decelerates, it could impact revenues at the major search engines, but Sherman doesn’t believe growth will decelerate significantly.
“If anything, as the Internet grows more complex, I think people are going to turn to search engines more frequently, rather than less,” he said.
Slivering the Pie
However, Sherman noted that general purpose search engines like Google are starting to see slivers cut from their pie.
“We’re seeing a real rise in vertical search engines, which are subject-specific or task-specific — shopping, travel and so on,” he explained. “We’re going to see more of that going forward as people become more sophisticated and as these specialized search engines become better at what they do.”
“People still need information on the Internet,” added Rita Knox, an analyst with the Gartner Group based in Stamford, Conn., “but a more generic search capability like Google is going to be less useful.”
“They’re going to need their searches more specialized, more pointed, have more functionality wrapped up in it,” she told the E-Commerce Times.
Same Old Dog Food
Alan Gordon, president of Findit.com, a site that specializes in localizing search results for users, reasoned that if query growth has begun to lag, it’s because people are tired of what they’re getting from the major search engines.
“You can’t make a dog like its dog food,” he told the E-Commerce Times. “If it doesn’t like its dog food, you can’t keep giving it the same thing.”
“I applaud some of these companies for being very creative,” he added. “But their basic model is raw search results and then paid search results pasted on top of that. That’s not always the most efficient way to find things on the Internet.