Just an Online Minute... Measuring Search

We've long followed the "most-searched" rankings on individual search engines, but now it looks like there might be a better way to figure out what consumers are looking for online. comScore Networks today announced the launch of qSearch, a system that will track and report consumers' distinct search queries across 25 major search engines and portals.

According to comScore, qSearch will offer advertisers an "objective understanding of actual consumer search activity based on queries" and "provide agencies and marketers with an accurate understanding of consumer search activity, including keyword level detail." The company says that advertisers will get data that's more accurate and objective than data provided directly by sites.

Here are some numbers to get us started: The consumer search market is intensely competitive, with four major players dominating the vast majority of all search activity. Google sites control the largest share of searches conducted by global English-speaking Internet users, accounting for nearly one-third of all searches. Yahoo! is the domestic share leader, accounting for 26% of the 790 million average weekly U.S. searches. Highlighting Google's success in attracting a loyal and active user base, comScore data also reveal that the typical Google user searched an average of nine times per week. And, while 54% of AOL visitors used AOL search functionality, those who did so searched an impressive average of nearly 8 times per week.

A breakdown of search activity by home, work and university locations reveals the unique strengths of major search providers. For example, while Google and Yahoo! are the share leaders in at-work searching (27% and 26% respectively), MSN has the highest proportion (51%) of its total searches conducted by at-work users. This provides an attractive opportunity for MSN to help marketers reach the valuable at-work audience, which previous comScore research has found to be responsible for more than half of all online buying. With a 25% share, AOL is tied with Yahoo for the leadership position in at-home searching. AOL also has the highest proportion (64%) of its total searches conducted by at-home users.

Additionally, two paid search providers - Overture and Google - currently enjoy a dominant opportunity to reach consumers through their respective services. Sites that are a part of the Overture network - including Yahoo!, MSN, InfoSpace and Altavista - served a total of 46.8% of all searches conducted in the four weeks ending January 26, 2003. Over the same time period, sites that offer Google results - including Google.com, AOL, InfoSpace and Ask Jeeves - accounted for a comparable 46.6% of all searches.