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How Do the Search Engines Stack Up?

  |  August 18, 2005   |  Comments

While shopping and classifieds are the most common search terms across all search engines, each engine has characteristic strengths.

Search engines are used for shopping and classifieds unilaterally, but each engine has its own strengths among search categories. The "Hitwise United States Online Search Report" published by Hitwise identifies clickstream and behaviors associated with search engine use.

Shopping and classifieds receive the most downstream visits across the board. Google sends 10.68 percent of its traffic to the shopping and classifieds category, Yahoo Search forwards 11.24 percent of traffic, MSN routes 10.65 percent, and Ask Jeeves 15.05 percent. Other categories settle in at individual engines. Searchers who want news and media tend to frequent Google and Yahoo while Google and Ask Jeeves are used most for those who search for education sites.

Download Visits From Leading Search Engines, by Industry Category, July 2005 (%)
Hitwise Category Google (%) Yahoo Search (%) MSN Search (%) Ask Jeeves (%)
Shopping & Classifieds 10.68 11.24 10.65 15.05
Entertainment 9.58 9.81 8.97 7.68
Business & Finance 6.54 7.10 8.10 8.55
Education 6.24 5.28 3.48 6.45
Lifestyle 5.98 5.36 5.33 7.36
News & Media 4.58 4.79 3.60 2.73
Travel 4.00 4.73 4.51 4.11
Source: Hitwise, 2005

"People do shop using search engines as their entry point," said Bill Tancer, VP of research at Hitwise.

Last year's report identified clear strengths for each search engine. This year, search terms are more evenly distributed among the major players. "In the past, people have thought of search engines for certain purposes," said Tancer. "We've reached a stasis or normalcy across search engines."

Tancer also notes specific occurrences of Web site names appearing as search terms. "Google" is the top search term on Yahoo (1.88 percent) and MSN (4.07 percent), and third-highest on Ask Jeeves (0.59 percent).

"People are using search to navigate over the Web," Tancer told ClickZ Stats. "At first I thought it was due to less sophisticated searchers. But more and more, I'm convinced that it's easier to navigate from the search bar instead of going to the URL bar in the browser."

Google's strength in general search widely recognized; the report finds Google's market share to be greater than Yahoo, MSN Search, and Ask Jeeves combined. Tancer said Google looks more like a portal.

Search Engine and Directory Sites by Visit Market Share, July 2005
Rank Name Domain Visit Market Share (%) Average Session Time (hr:min)
1 Google www.google.com 39.34 12:10
2 Yahoo Search search.yahoo.com 18.16 10:59
3 MSN Search search.msn.com 15.32 06:31
4 Google Image Search images.google.com 3.95 13:39
5 Ask.com www.askjeeves.com 2.09 8:57
6 Yahoo Image Search images.search.yahoo.com 1.52 14:06
7 AOL Search www.aolsearch.com 0.96 07:15
8 My Web Search www.mywebsearch.com 0.81 09:51
9 Dogpile www.dogpile.com 0.77 12:30
10 My Search www.mysearch.com 0.64 08:51
Source: Hitwise, 2005

As search engines develop additional properties, content enters the picture. "There's going to be a blurring of the line between search and content," said Tancer. "The next battle in search is going to be providing content, the search engine that can provide me with answers with the least amount of effort is going to be the one to win over time."

Suvey data were collected during the week ending July 23, 2005. Hitwise monitors traffic on the ISP level of 10 million users in the U.S. Additionally, it has an opt-in panel of 2.5 million users who provide demographic information.

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Enid Burns

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