John Paczkowski

Recent Posts by John Paczkowski

May Search Metrics: Google Losing Share or Gaining It? All Depends on How You Look at the Data

Getting an accurate read on the tides of search market share these days is no easy feat given the interface changes being rolled out by the major players.

Consider comScore’s May search market report (see tables above; click to enlarge), which shows Microsoft’s Bing and Yahoo gaining share, ostensibly at Google’s expense. For the month, Yahoo gained 60 basis points for a share of 18.3 percent, and Bing 30 points for a share of 12.1 percent. Meanwhile, Google’s (GOOG) share declined 70 basis points to 63.7 percent.

While those numbers seem straightforward enough, they really aren’t, given some of the navigational ploys Yahoo (YHOO) and Microsoft (MSFT) have been using to boost their numbers. Slideshows and contextual search links have helped raise the share of both companies, but they need to be backed out of the data to get an accurate view of the sector, as J.P. Morgan (JPM) analyst Imran Khan explains.

“User interface changes continue to cloud the picture,” Khan said in a note to clients. “Google, Yahoo! and [Bing] all made notable changes in April and May, according to comScore. As such, numbers may not be directly comparable to past months. On a reported basis, Google lost ~70 bps of search share in May vs. April, while Yahoo! was the biggest gainer, up ~50 bps. Excluding the impact of all adjustments, Google gained ~30 bps of share, Yahoo! was down ~25 bps and Microsoft was flat.”

In other words, the numbers here do lie and will continue to do so until measurement outfits like comScore (SCOR) account for context-driven searches and slideshows. ComScore plans to do just that.

“[The] continued evolution of search and emerging innovations in how it is used to enhance user experience, calls for a thoughtful review of how we classify various types of searches, count them and report them,” Cameron Meierhoefer, comScore’s executive VP of analytics, wrote in a blog post released along with the company’s latest search stats.

“We want to ensure that we provide comprehensive and flexible measurement that meets the needs of the various constituencies in the digital marketplace,” Meierhoefer added. “As our thinking evolves, we will include relevant stakeholders in the discussion and clearly communicate our thinking and rationale to the marketplace.”

The timeline? “While we will maintain the current method through the end of the second quarter to avoid reporting disruptions, we will aim to implement proposed revisions in the third quarter, ideally starting with the release of July data in the first half of August.”