Google in Jeopardy

August 18, 2009

Two heavyweights in the search expertise department have concluded that Google may be vulnerable to Microsoft and Yahoo when their search systems are combined. And if not actually in trouble, two search experts think that Googzilla could be cornered and its market share reduced.

Let’s look at what the search experts assert, using new data from online monitoring and analytics vendors.

Search Engine Land, a publication focused on search engine optimization or SEO, ran “Report: MicroHoo Penetration Near Google’s, Google Users Most Loyal”. Greg Sterling analyzed the comScore data. He noted that Google had “65 percent of the search volume in the US”. He added, [the data] shows that 84 percent of search users are on Google.” Then he inserts the killer comment for those who want Google neutered:

However 73.3 percent of the search user population are on Yahoo and Microsoft, when the two are combined.

He pointed out that Google is a habit. He closed the analysis with the comment:

The new conventional wisdom is that people simply use Google because they’re familiar with it and have become habituated to using it. But I suspect that explanation doesn’t really capture what’s going on.

My question is, “What is going on?” You can look at his presentation of the comScore data and draw your own conclusions.

Along the same line of reasoning, the New York Times weighed in with “The Gap between Google and Rivals May Be Smaller than You Think”. Miguel Helft wrote:

ComScore found that for the combined Yahoo-Microsoft, “searcher penetration,” or the percentage of the online population in the United States that uses one of those search engines, is 73 percent. Google’s searcher penetration is higher, but not by that much: at 84 percent.

Again the foundation of the argument is comScore. Mr. Helft concluded with what I found a surprising direction:

“The challenge will be to create a search experience compelling enough to convert lighter searchers into regular searchers which is generally easier than converting new users,” Eli Goodman, comScore Search Evangelist, said in a press release. “Though clearly easier said than done, if they were to equalize the number of searches per searcher with Google they would command more than 40 percent market share.” That suggests Microsoft may want to spend more of its money improving Bing, rather than on marketing Bing. Spending on both, of course, can’t hurt.

So, two search experts see the comScore data as evidence of an important development in Web searchers’ behavior. And the New York Times is offering Microsoft marketing advice. I recognize the marketing savvy of the New York Times and I think that the New York Times should tell Microsoft what to think and do.

Three questions flapped through the addled goose’s mind:

  1. Are the comScore data accurate? I did not see any information from other Web traffic research firms, nor did I see any data from either Google or Microsoft. My recollection is that any data about Web traffic and user behavior has to be approached with some care. Wasn’t there that notion of “margin of error”?
  2. What is the projected “catch up” time for Microsoft and Yahoo, once the firms’ search businesses are combined? My analyses suggest that the challenge for Microsoft is “to get there from here”. The there is a significant chunk of Google market share. The “here” is the fact that the traffic data are in early days, influenced by “pay for search schemes”, and research methods that have not been verified.
  3. Are the search experts working hard to create a story based on a consulting firm’s attempt to generate buzz in the midst of the August doldrums?

Experts like Search Engine Land and the New York Times know their material and are eminently qualified as consultants in information retrieval. What keeps nagging me is that pesky 80 percent Google market share and the 11 years of effort necessary for Google to achieve that share. I am not expert. I see a lot of work ahead for Microsoft.

Stephen Arnold, August 18, 2009


One Response to “Google in Jeopardy”

  1. New Clickbank Products for Tuesday, August 18, 2009 on August 18th, 2009 9:57 am

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