Can we expect to see a change in search engine market share

by Peter Young on April 11, 2009 · 0 comments

Yahoo’s market share has been somewhat volatile recently, andaccording to some experts a continuing decline is to be expected, particularly if some reports from the Dow Jones are to be believed. According to a report by the Web Street Journal Yahoo’s share may decline by around another 3% and lose around 12-18% of its current search volume. Much of this can be attributed to the loss of partnership deals with major computer hardware manufacturers such as HP and Acer.

A secondary impact of the loss of such deals is probably more notable, particularly when you consider the lack of ‘competition’ in the sector. Lose Yahoo and you only really have  a choice of three – in realistic terms two search engines to choose from namely MSN and Google. Given Google’s dominance in the market, I would suggest there is only one suitable competitor and that competitor happens to be your nearest rival in terms of market share.

It is indeed further noticeable that Microsoft have indeed been quick to exploit these opportunities. Partnerships with HP (replacing previous engine of choice Yahoo) and Dell will have given Microsoft some added impetus – and the potential to immediately target around 55% of PC shipments in the US. With Google continuing to dominate the search landscape it is increasingly becoming a race for second place, something neither engine has managed to make a clear move on.

Yahoo have been quick to suggest that the loss of such parternships shouldn’t affect market share as much as the above report would have us believe suggesting “consumers will continue to use Yahoo search even if they buy a new computer pre-loaded with a rival’s toolbar.”. I personally would suggest the only engine that could guarantee that level of loyalty would be Google, and that taking that for granted in the current climate is possibly a bit foolhardy – particularly given the apparant focus on search from Microsoft, and even the rise of channels such as Twitter as a search engine of sorts.

Whilst the US search engine market is very different to that of the UK, the share of Google being far higher in the UK, I would suggest this could still have some significant knock on effects. With Google still taking nothing for granted, in a continual drive towards further relevance (and lets face it increased revenues), the other two need to continue to be innovative in order to attract both advertisers and searchers alike to utilise them more. Lets be brutal both of them could do no worse by starting at:

  • Looking further afield. The world doesn’t end at the US, new products are generally slow at moving to foreign markets (if at all).
  • Giving users value add. I am always disappointed by the relevance of a number of searchers on both engines – and whilst I personally use them more than most – it comes through a requirement of considerable data mining more than anything
  • Giving advertisers value add. In my opinion natural search battles is continually ongoing. Monetising and ‘Management’ or organic search and digital asset value adds would seem to be natural progression
  • Hitting new channels hard. Google in particular seem to be pushing mobile hard. The other two need to be hitting this – harder!!

Search engines can’t take anything for granted. Lets just take a look at Altavista. They have to continue to evolve – otherwise things can change and change very quickly. I personally would expect a very different landscape in 5-10 years, but I guess only time will tell.

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