Who is on top in the Search Engine Business?

Measuring the greatest search engine depends upon what you think makes a search engine great. Public opinion would indicate that Google.com is the greatest boasting almost 82 million unique users each month spanning the globe. Google is consistently regarded as delivering the most relevant results. They certainly make an effort to make their search service applicable to web enabled businesses through search term advertising.

Perhaps their greatest asset is their drive to index more and more useful information each week. Since mid-2004, Google has launched a series of new projects including the scanning and indexing of university libraries like Stanford University and finding ways to offer video results for searches conducted concerning television programming.

Google is working hard because other deep pocketed corporations like Yahoo! ™ and Microsoft™ are pushing more capital towards developing their search services. Yahoo!, throughout the dot-com bubble, maintained their profitability by expanding their search engine from a service for the digitally literate, to a consumer product advertised at major sporting events and during prime time television.

Yahoo! continues to develop consumer friendly services such as Local search, geared towards supplying the searcher with the contact information of a business near the physical location they are searching from.

Microsoft Corporation has taken a new interest in the potential revenue of search. As a recognized industry leader in computer technology, a long history of profitability, and immense brand recognition, Microsoft has gone from offering search results from other search engine’s indices to developing its own search algorithms and creating its own index of web pages. With that accomplished, Microsoft will undoubtedly try to win search engine market share from the current leader, Google.

Measuring market share is difficult because the same people may use a variety of search engines to discover the answers to the questions they seek. Having watched the incoming traffic of my clients and seeing where they receive their traffic from, I feel confident providing a few statistics. The following numbers are the percentage of visitors that are referred by each search engine:

Google: 30-60%
Yahoo: 5-20%
MSN: 5-20%
AOL: 3-15%

The ranges are given to illustrate that the amount of traffic entering your website might have everything or nothing to do with search engines. Since our goal is to maximize keyword qualified traffic from search engines, these are the results that a website optimized to receive search traffic might expect to receive. Keep in mind that there are many other referrers besides search engines both on and off the web that drive traffic to websites.

For example, businesses might receive the majority of traffic to their website through offline marketing efforts such as direct mail with their website location as part of the mailing, television advertisements promoting their website location, or simply using existing brand names as their website location as in Wachovia.com™. Other examples of traffic generators other than search engine traffic include industry specific directory listings, online yellow pages listings and links from sites that would like their audience to benefit from the information, products and services offered on businesses websites.

Another noteworthy quality enhancing Google’s status as the leader in their pack is their commitment to global relevance. Fully 50% of traffic on Google.com comes from outside the United States. What Google has done to segment both their traffic and their massive index of web pages into regionally focused indexes is supply mirrors of their homepage search form. Two such examples are Google.ca and Google.hk, the Canadian and Hong Kong mirrors, respectively.

In both cases, the purpose is to cater to the fact that what users in one part of the world may find most relevant may not be as useful to users in other areas.

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