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Search Engine Market Share: Is Google Still King?

It has been more than 14 years since Google first made its appearance as a Stanford University Ph.D. research product. Like so many Silicon Valley giants it went from academic curiosity, to garage-start-up, to one of the most highly valued publicly traded companies in the world.

These days, the verb “to google” is in the dictionary, but in the early days its market dominance was not nearly so certain. In those early days# Google was competing with the likes of WebCrawler, InfoSeek, AltaVista, Ask Jeeves, AOL, Inktomi, and Yahoo!.  This early period was a time of mergers, acquisitions, and failures. It was a period of consolidation for the search industry as a whole.

By 2006 Google’s growing dominance was apparent. Most of the small search engine players had failed or been acquired by one of the larger engines. “Powered by Google” became a tag-line across sites that used to have their own search algorithms. But Yahoo was still a significant power, and MSN search, as Microsoft’s default search, had a respectable presence as well.

In 2006, searchenginewatch.com (which aggregates search engine data from a variety of industry analysts) created this chart based on market share data from ComScore#:

By April of 2011 – AOL, ASK and the other small search engines had all but dropped off the map entirely, MSN had been rebooted as Bing search, and searchenginewatch.com’s latest market share report pegs Google at a commanding 65.7% control of the total number of search queries that were performed in March#.
And it is worth pointing out that ComScore’s market share estimations are some of the more conservative in the industry. Estimates of Google’s market share in fact range as high as 91%.# Google is not just a destination on the web. It is the gateway to the web.

Search is the web. And Google is Search.

So is that where we stand today? Is Google still the undisputed King of Search?

Yes and No.

In many ways it seems hard to knock Google off of its throne. It has moved beyond search and now has a cornucopia of supplementary products and services, like Google Apps, YouTube, Blogger.com, and the Android operating system. But Google’s core product is search, and the lion’s share of its revenue – about 96% – comes from advertising in search results# – the same business that made them dominant throughout the 2000s.

But the search engine landscape is changing. For one – Yahoo! and Microsoft have set up a powerful partnership, where Microsoft’s Bing search engine now powers Yahoo! search results#. Combining Yahoo and Bing’s market share shows that Bing powers as much as 30% of current searches. And Bing’s market share has been steadily growing#. Bing is also the default search tool on a growing number of mobile devices, including all Windows Mobile phones, and new Blackberry phones as well.

Two new behemoth markets have emerged – social search, and mobile search – and it is not yet clear that Google has secured its dominance. In the mobile space Google is doing very well, using the Android operating system to bring its search to mobile devices everywhere, but mobile device market share is much more competitive, and closed carrier policies make it a much more difficult market to predict. In fact, Bing will be the default search on a number of Google Android phones!#

The social space is more troubling. Google got off on the wrong foot with Google Buzz, a social networking tool that was criticized for poor privacy settings, and has ended up as more of an aggregation tool than a destination for the savvy social-web user. More troubling still for Google – Facebook was the most visited site on the web in 2010#. The youngest, savviest web users have moved from an isolated, disconnected model of using the web as individuals, to an interconnected shared model of using the web socially and cooperatively with micro- and macro- communities throughout the ‘net. And that is the future.

So search may be the web today. And Google may be search. But what will the web be tomorrow?

Tim L – CoachingWebsites Support
Email any questions to [email protected]


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