Little more than a year ago, the search market looked like it might be up for grabs for the first time in years. Microsoft was attacking search with renewed energy, Yahoo was shaking up its effort, and Ask.com was on TV with clever ads. It seemed just a matter of time before search juggernaut Google would feel the pressure. Apparently, nobody told Google: the latest comScore results are out, and Google once again increased its market share. As reported by ZDNet, Google’s share of search traffic bumped upwards by .4% to 47.4%. Yahoo gained .3% to hit a respectable, if distant, 28.5%. MSN lost a half-point they could ill afford to drop to 10.5%. The novelty of Ask is apparently wearing off, as they slid slightly to 5.4%. Here’s the amazing statistic: for U.S. searches, Google has gained market share in 16 of the last 17 months! This must be depressing indeed for Google’s would-be competitors. I suspect that all of them would be happy to see Google lose some share, regardless of who gained it – anything that reduces the perception that “google” is shorthand for searching the Web benefits all of the competition.
Yahoo and Microsoft have the best opportunity to dent Google’s dominance because of the high traffic levels of their web properties. To play up search, though, might reduce the emphasis on other profitable activities. This is the issue that has haunted Yahoo and Microsoft from the beginning: if your diverse portals are sticky and profitable, why emphasize an activity that is almost guaranteed to take visitors off your site? Unencumbered by this concern, Google was free to focus on creating a pure and highly effective search experience. Looking at Yahoo’s and MSN’s home pages, it’s clear that they have hardly commited to search as Job 1. Apparently, this difference in approach is still serving Google well in today’s competitive search market.