Growth in U.S. search queries were up 11 percent in January 2006 compared to the same month in 2005, a new report from comScore Media Metrix finds. While the double-digit growth rate would be healthy for many industries, it looks positively anemic for search, which saw 42 percent growth during the same interval a year ago.
Part of the reason, says comScore president and CEO Magid Abraham, is that new Internet users aren't coming online at the same pace they did previously. Those that do come on, he said, tend to be lighter users who don't search at the same rates as more seasoned veterans. Abraham says that even the growth of broadband, which encourages search because of its always-on nature, isn't enough to boost search growth to its previous highs.
"We do see a significant difference between broadband and narrowband in terms of search usage, and that is partly what's keeping the growth rate in search going up," he said. "But, you know, the flip side of it is that the new people who are being added are lighter users, so the two combined sort of neutralize each other."
Amid the growth slowdown, Google has managed to hold onto, and even grow, its market share. In January of 2005, Google accounted for 35 percent of search queries. A year later, it had grown its share 6.3 percent to 41 percent of the market.
"What Google is doing is capturing a higher share of the new users," said Abraham. "And there's a lot of it that's driven by the reputation that they have. Chances are if you're new to the market and you're coming in, you're going to go to Google as opposed to anybody else."
The news isn't so bright for Google competitors. Yahoo's market share dropped 3 percent, going from 32 percent of the market to 29 percent. MSN, which launched its own search technology in 2005, went from 16 percent of the market to 14 percent, losing 2 percent market share. Ask Jeeves, meanwhile, boosted its share slightly, going from 5.1 percent of the market to 5.6 percent.
Search engines as a whole managed to squeeze more revenues from each query, on average, comScore found. In December 2005, 57 percent of search queries carried a paid search ad, as compared to 49 percent the year before.
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Pamela Parker is a former managing editor of ClickZ News, Features, and Experts. She's been covering interactive advertising and marketing since the boom days of 1999, chronicling the dot-com crash and the subsequent rise of the medium. Before working at ClickZ, Parker was associate editor at @NY, a pioneering Web site and e-mail newsletter covering New York new media start-ups. Parker received a master's degree in journalism, with a concentration in new media, from Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism.
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