Google Search…Or…(Misc.)

By Anthony Vespucci

NEWS FLASH: Google is the number one search engine on the web! Oh wait, you already knew that didn’t you.  Let’s try this one than.  What percentage of the search marketplace does Google currently hold? Is it 55%…..60%….65%? Nope.  As of the November ’08 report by Hitwise, Google had an overwhelming 72% of the market and growing.

Growing that is, at the expenses of the other leaders in space, specifically Yahoo and MSN.  And I use the term leaders loosely.  Combined Yahoo and MSN account for a meager 21.8% of the search market, or less than one third of Google’s share.  Below is a graph of the last 15 months for each of the four leaders in the search space and their respective percentage of the market as listed by Hitwise:

Since September of 2007, Google’s share of the market has grown by a modest 8.42%.  However it’s how it compares to the other leaders in the space that really paints the picture: Yahoo (-4.85%), MSN (-3.73%), Ask (-0.97%).  Some in the industry project that within the next year Google could feasible control 90% of the search market, something that has never been achieved within the US (Google already contain over 90% of marketshare in several countries outside of the US).  If this continues as predicted, it is feasible that the current other leaders would combined make up less than 10% of the search market.

The question that comes to mind is: How does this affect us as marketers?

While in the current market, Google is the clear leader in the space, most advertisers spread their search budgets across several search engines giving themselves exposure across the board, while at the same time, giving them flexibility to adjust and shift budgets based on ROI.  Essentially, if it is shear reach you are looking for, there’s no question Google is the way to go.  However, for advertisers utilizing search marketing as a means to increase some form of a transaction or sale, Google will not always be the most efficient.  Some advertisers will find that when it comes to ROI, the likes of Yahoo/MSN, are much more efficient than Google.

Taking this into context, as Google’s market share reaches into the 90%+ range, most advertisers will be left with no real choice.  At that level, MSN and Yahoo will lose the ability to deliver much scale, if any, and their value will be minimal at best.  With this, two things will happen to advertisers in the search marketing space: 1) Advertisers who had focused on MSN/Yahoo will have no choice but to put their dollars into Google, increasing competition in the space, and thus effectively driving up cost per clicks across the board 2) Advertisers currently utilizing Google will have to up their budgets in order to maintain their same levels of exposure/ranking.

Clearly the search marketing road ahead is going to be tough.  It is also one that will see those advertisers whom are either a) not savvy in the space b) working with relatively small budgets, to face a real battle against the mass quantity of competition.  The question is who will emerge in this time of Google Search Domination to provide an alternative solution? That remains to be answered.  One thing however is for sure: Within the next couple of years the search engine market share graphs will only have two columns; Google and (Misc).

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