Nielsen//NetRatings: What Search Slowdown?

In sharp contrast to a report issued earlier this week by competitor comScore Media Metrix, Nielsen//NetRatings said U.S. search volume increased 39 percent in January 2006, as compared to the previous January. Looking at the same two months, comScore had pegged growth at just 11 percent.

The companies are fairly close on the number of total searches conducted in January of this year: Nielsen//NetRatings puts the number at 5.7 billion and comScore counted 5.5 billion. The bigger difference is in the January 2005 numbers, which Nielsen pegged at 4.1 billion and comScore said was nearly 5 billion.

At stake are perceptions about growth in the popular interactive advertising medium, which this week took a hit not only because of comScore’s report, but also because of Google CFO George Reyes’ negative comments at an investor conference.

Ken Cassar, chief analyst at Nielsen//NetRatings, believes people were conducting more searches because the habit of searching has become an important part of their everyday lives. January’s search volume, the company said, was the highest it’s ever measured. ComScore had said growth in volume was declining because fewer people were coming online for the first time, and those who come online aren’t heavy searchers.

Looking at the top three search engines’ share of search, Nielsen found Google boosting its share 1 percent, going from 47 percent share to 48 percent. Yahoo also saw a 1 percent rise, climbing from 21 percent to 22 percent. Those two stole their growth in share from MSN, which saw its share of volume decline from 13 percent to 11 percent.

Nielsen//NetRatings looks at around 60 search engines in the U.S. to compile its research.

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