Popularity of Online Search Is Skyrocketing

It seems everyone is searching for something — and Nielsen//Netratings is proving it.

The Internet media and market research firm on Thursday reported that the number of online searches across 60 search engines grew 55 percent year-over-year to nearly 5.1 billion in December 2005. By contrast, there were 3.3 billion searches conducted via search engines in December 2004.

While the number of online searches online swelled, the number of people connecting to the Internet rose a mere 3 percent to 207 million people in the U.S.

“The double-digit increase in online search activity marks a significant milestone in the evolution of Internet consumer behavior,” said Ken Cassar, senior director of analytics, Nielsen//NetRatings. “Online search is the primary tool most people rely on to do everyday research.”

The Undisputed King

Google is widely recognized as the search king. The search superpower continued its reign in 2005. Google rose nearly six percentage points to garner a 49 percent share of all searches in December 2005 from a year prior.

It seems Google’s success came at the expense of its rivals. Yahoo and MSN experienced slight declines in their search share points. Yahoo now holds 21 percent of the search market, while MSN is hanging on with about 11 percent.

Still, there is some good news for Yahoo and MSN. The top three search engines all experienced double-digit growth year-over-year in December 2005. It’s just that Google grew far more than the rest.

Why Google?

Google Search grew 75 percent to nearly 2.5 billion searches; Yahoo Search rose 53 percent to nearly 1.1 billion searches, and MSN Search increased 20 percent to 553 million searches. Why Google?

Google is more aggressive about penalizing sites that are questionable, Jason Dowdell, who operates MarketingShift, the blog focused on media research and technology, told TechNewsWorld. That leads to more accurate results.

Google also did something that distinguished it from the rest of the pack in the early days: focused on vanity searches. If you type your name into the Google search box, you will typically find more results there than with Yahoo or MSN.

“Google’s name is a verb. When you are at the point of branding that your name is a verb, it’s pretty hard to argue with the results,” Dowdell said.

Heading to China

Google is not only a popular verb stateside, but also in China, where it is in a position to challenge Baidu in the search engine market — despite the distinct brand recognition and market share advantages Baidu currently holds there, according to a January 18 study by Keynote Systems.

The tremendous success Google has enjoyed in English-speaking markets appears transferable to the rapidly growing Chinese market, study results show. With billions of investment dollars riding on Chinese search in both the U.S. and Chinese stock markets, the study’s implications are far-reaching.

Chinese consumers, once they are exposed to Google, have an overwhelmingly positive search experience on the site and generally prefer that site to competitors in the market, the Keynote study indicates.

“Baidu holds a clear lead in the Chinese market in terms of usage and brand recognition,” said Dr. Bonny Brown, director of research and public services for Keynote. “However, we see that Chinese consumers really like the overall Google experience better. Eventually, this promises to translate intoincreased market share, particularly given Google’s strong resources and focus on the market.”

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