A recent Consumer Technographics survey, sponsored by Forrester Research revealed that popular portal site Yahoo! has increased its share of the search engine market to 40% of Web searchers who use a portal or search site at least once a week. The survey also listed Google as owning 40% of the market.

Forrester conducts the survey twice yearly by surveying over 60,000 households on their Internet usage. Participants in the survey were asked which portal or search engine they used at least once a week. Users were allowed to name more than one engine in the survey. Beyond Google and Yahoo!, which each receive a 40% share of the market, MSN came in with 23% while AOL scored 18%. AskJeeves rounded out the top five with 9%.

Forrester Research Chairman and CEO George Colony told PC World that he expects Yahoo! to surpass Google by the first quarter of 2005.

What I've found interesting in many of the stories reporting these new figures is the immediate jump to promote Yahoo! as the new Google. (Does anyone else find it ironic that Google was once the new Yahoo!?) What I find lacking is a true analysis of whether or not those 40% figures actually mean anything. Forrester has stated that they came up with the 40% figure by asking its users to name the portal or search engine that they use at least once a week. The problem is that portals and search engines are entirely different things and are used for different reasons.

While 40% of users may well stop by Yahoo! at least once a week, there's nothing within those numbers to indicate that each of those users stops by Yahoo! for the purpose of search. Featuring highly popular tools touting news, community, free e-mail and other offerings, many individuals use Yahoo! on a daily basis without ever conducting a search on the Yahoo! search engine. On the flip side, the majority of Google users visit the site to conduct online searches. Itís not unusual to run across an Internet user that visits Yahoo! daily, but conducts their online searches at Google.

That isnít to say that the data from the Forrester survey is totally without merit. After all, Yahoo! remains the most popular destination on the Internet, according to comScore Networks. comScore Networks tracks the Internet usage of more than 2 million consumers by tracking the actual Web sites that they visit. Recently released data on their site lists Yahoo! as the number one site on the Internet in terms of traffic, pulling in over 115 million unique visitors last month. MSN-Microsoft sites ranked second with 113 million visitors, while Google placed a respectable fourth with 63 million unique visitors.

comScore released its own study in May of 2004 that explored search engine usage by both Canadian and American consumers. In that study, comScore reported that Google handled 36% of the searches conducted by American internet users. Yahoo! finished a close second by handling 30% of American searches. Searcher penetration, which explores whether or not a searcher had used a particular engine at least once within the last month, resulted in higher numbers for Yahoo!. According to data collected in March of 2004, 51% of Internet users conducted at least one search at Yahoo!, while only 46% of Internet users conducted at least one search at Google. That shows that Yahoo! has down a better job of reaching more searchers, but that Google users are more likely to be frequent users of their search service.
July 21, 2004

Jennifer Laycock is the Editor of Search Engine Guide, the Social Media Faculty Chair for MarketMotive and offers small business social media strategy & consulting. Jennifer enjoys the challenge of finding unique and creative ways to connect with consumers without spending a fortune in marketing dollars. Though she now prefers to work with small businesses, Jennifer’s clients have included companies like Verizon, American Greetings and Highlights for Children.

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