It’s likely a safe bet that most of you reading this article are like me, and Google is your primary tool for online search (and possibly other things too). The reason this is a safe bet is that Google continues to have the largest market share in the search business (47.3%) having risen 0.4% in December, 2006. For more details on the actual numbers, you can read Battelle’s article on the “ December Search Rankings by ComScore ”.
So, we all accept that Google is an immensely important player in the search business and as such, many businesses that are looking to market online will spend a fair amount of time thinking about Google. This includes improving our natural search rankings and possibly looking at paid-search (like Pay-PerClick with Google AdWords).
But, what a lot of people don’t realize from the numbers is that though Google has the lead in the search business, it’s still less than 50%. What about the other half of the market? As it turns out, most of the rest is made up by a combination of Yahoo! and Microsoft. Yahoo!’s market-share also grew, by 0.3% to 28.5% and Microsoft dropped half a percentage point to 10.5%.
This means that Yahoo! and Microsoft together still add up to 39% of the online search market. I don’t think it’s that big a leap to say that businesses that are putting all their eggs in the Google basket may be missing an opportunity as over a third of their potential customers are using Yahoo! or Microsoft instead .
Now, that’s just the raw numbers, and a reasonable case can be made why you should be spending some time (and possibly money) thinking about tapping Yahoo! and Microsoft as well. But, the topic is worth exploring even deeper. Here are some thoughts I have (and some questions, which I don’t have the answers to). If you have an opinion, or even some facts, please share them in the comments.
Why Google Is Necessary, But Not Sufficient
- As noted already, Google controls less than half of the search market. What about the other half?
- Google’s customers are likely, on average, more technically sophisticated than users of the other engines. As such, based on what industry you are in (and what types of customers you are trying to find), you may actually find that the other engines have a larger percent of your client-base than Google does.
- If you’re spending money on paid search with Google, chances are your results are pretty good. From what I have read online, it seems that even those that are spending money on the top three (Google, Yahoo!, Microsoft), their results from Google are simply better. But, there may be some advantage to not having all of your eggs in one basket. If there is a significant increase in your PPC (pay-per-click) costs because larger companies are moving in and driving prices up , you’ll be able to shift your ad dollars easily elsewhere and perhaps get a better return.
- There are some cautious (but not stupid) people out there that have hinted that because Google has so much data (including information about your website traffic, if you are using Google Analytics), that they have unfair leverage and have an economic interest in making the market more “efficient” and driving prices higher, if warranted. Said differently, let’s say there’s a particular, highly specialized search phrase that some of your clients are using to find you on the Internet. Let’s also say these people (for whatever reason), are using Microsoft and/or Yahoo for conducting this search. If you’re a Google Analytics user, Google now has access to this information – and this search phrase. Not surprisingly, they have “tools” that suggest possible search phrases to their customers. Clearly, they would benefit by having even specialized search phrases in their marketplace (because they would be making money, where they weren’t before). Of course, you have to be a bit paranoid to really believe this reasoning. But, there are likely subtler variations of this kind of business leverage that are more probable. In any case, food for thought.
- Yahoo! and Microsoft, because they are #2 and #3 have a strong interest in capturing additional market-share. This could mean that they will be making innovations in the search market (possibly centered around improved ways to manage online marketing campaigns and deliver you more leads), or reduced pricing in order to capture your business. Either way, this is good for you. Competition, in this case, is a very good thing. I don’t know that I want to run a business where a large portion of my revenue is being driven by a single entity. Even if that entity is trying not to be evil.
What are your thoughts? Do you think Google’s market-share is sufficient to not have to spend time or money with Yahoo! and Microsoft? Have you tried all three? Any ideas, insights or experiences you can share would be greatly appreciated.