Google Garners Nearly Half of February Searches

Google continues to be the search engine of choice for many users, garnering almost half of all searches last month.

In separate reports issued this week by Nielsen//NetRatings and comScore Media Metrix, Google maintained its lead in share of overall U.S. searches. Depending on which research firm you ask, Google owned either 48.5 percent of searches (Nielsen//NetRatings’ number) or 42.3 percent (comScore Media Metrix’s number) in the U.S. in February. That’s up from 36.3 percent a year ago, according to comScore.

Next runner-up continues to be Yahoo, which saw 22.5 percent (Nielsen//NetRatings) or 27.6 percent (comScore Media Metrix) of queries, down from 31.1 percent last year. MSN remains a distant third, at 10.7 percent (Nielsen//NetRatings) or 13.5 percent (comScore Media Metrix), down from 16.3 percent last year. ComScore also said that Ask.com gained share in the past year, up to 6 percent in February from 5.3 percent share a year ago.

Nielsen//NetRatings pegs the growth in overall U.S. queries at 38 percent year-to-year, from 3.8 billion in February 2005 to 5.3 billion in February 2006. By contrast, comScore’s numbers say growth was only at 11 percent. The same discrepancy showed up in January’s reports from the two competing research firms.

One factor that might explain the difference between Nielsen//NetRatings’ and comScore’s numbers are the 2005 search volume measurements. In February 2005, Nielsen//NetRatings measured 3.8 billion total searches, while comScore measured 5.2 billion. In February 2006, Nielsen//NetRatings measured 5.3 billion total searches, while comScore measured 5.8 billion. When the volume of searches is compared, instead of the share of search queries, the two companies seem to reach similar results.

Nielsen//NetRatings broke out its numbers for some vertical search categories in February, and found that image search topped the year-to-year growth with a 91 percent increase in queries. Most of the queries were done on Google’s Image search, which had a 71.9 percent share. Lagging behind Google were Yahoo with 19.1 percent and Ask.com with 3.5 percent. MSN and AOL rounded out the top five with 2.3 percent and 1.4 percent, respectively.

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