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Unread 15th Aug 2009, 12:16 AM   #1
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August 14, 2009, 5:23 PM

The Gap Between Google and Rivals May Be Smaller Than You Think

By MIGUEL HELFTIt’s no secret that even with their recently-announced alliance, Yahoo andMicrosoft will lag well behind Google in the hugely profitable search and search advertising business. How far behind? With a combined 28 percent of the American search market, Yahoo and Microsoft could double their usage and still trail Google, which accounts for 65 percent of the market.

But by another important measure, the two sides are much closer. ComScore found that for the combined Yahoo-Microsoft, “searcher penetration,” or the percentage of the online population in the United States that uses one of those search engines, is 73 percent. Google’s searcher penetration is higher, but not by that much: at 84 percent.

The difference between the two ways of measuring is frequency of use. Users of Yahoo-Microsoft on average searched just under 27 times in a month on those sites, whereas users of Google searched on average 54 times a month, or twice as often.

Of course, when it comes to making money from search, it is the number of searches, not penetration, that matters. But the penetration figures suggest that Yahoo-Microsoft could close the gap with Google if they persuade their existing users to use them a bit more often.

“The challenge will be to create a search experience compelling enough to convert lighter searchers into regular searchers which is generally easier than converting new users,” Eli Goodman, comScore Search Evangelist, said in a press release. “Though clearly easier said than done, if they were to equalize the number of searches per searcher with Google they would command more than 40 percent market share.”

That suggests Microsoft may want to spend more of its money improving Bing, rather than on marketing Bing. Spending on both, of course, can’t hurt.

The Gap Between Google and Rivals May Be Smaller Than You Think - Bits Blog - NYTimes.com


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