Vertical Engines Cannibalizing Majors' Traffic?

  |  March 1, 2005   |  Comments

Hitwise data shows leakage away from major search engines.

NEW YORK - Still in its early stages, the "verticalization" of search to industry-specific engines is beginning to be evident, particularly in the online shopping category, according to data released by Hitwise at the Search Engine Strategies conference in New York.

The company, which monitors 10 million Internet users in the U.S. and over 25 million worldwide, as well as over 500,000 businesses, identified the online shopping category as the clearest indication of the trend.

According to Hitwise analysis, as the market share of shopping search engines has grown over the past 15 months, the percentage of traffic driven to them from major search engines has increased along an almost identical growth curve, said Bill Tancer, Hitwise's VP of Research.

"Over time, as users grow more sophisticated, they appear to be turning to shopping search sites for their comparison shopping and other online buying needs," Tancer said. "In the shopping classifieds category, we are beginning to see signs of cannibalization of traffic away from the major search engines as overall search traffic grows."'

Tancer believes that searchers are beginning their efforts at major search engines, then peeling away to more vertical destinations when their needs aren't satisfied.

The pattern appears to substantiate the conclusions of a recent study by JupiterResearch that growth in search over the next five years will be driven by four primary verticals, including retail, financial services, travel, and media and entertainment. That study found that 79 percent of overall search volume was already concentrated in those four sectors in 2004.

Measured in volume of searches, Hitwise estimates Google's market share of search at 55.5 percent, Yahoo with 30.8 percent, and MSN with just 6.6 percent. Those findings differed from a report released by Nielsen//NetRatings on the same day. That study assessed Google's market share at a more modest 47 percent, with Yahoo at 21 percent and MSN at 13 percent, roughly double the Hitwise estimate.

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