Google continues to lead in search - but not in verticals

CNET reported today that Google's share of the U.S.

CNET reported today that Google's share of the U.S. Web search market continues to increase against Yahoo and Microsoft, according to April 2005 data from ComScore Networks:

"The search giant's market share among home, work and university Internet users climbed from 42.7 percent to 43.1 percent from March to April of this year--up from 36.5 percent in April 2005, ComScore said Monday.

In second place, Yahoo saw its market share hold steady at 28 percent between March and April, a decrease of 2.7 percent from last year. [...] The relative number of search queries through Microsoft's MSN also continued to fall, leaving its market share at 12.9 percent in April of this year, down from 16.1 percent at the same time last year."

So there's a massive 15% between first-place search engine Google and second place Yahoo. MSN must be getting very worried about its meagre 12.9% market share, but I suspect they're putting a lot of stock in Windows Live Search to reverse their fortunes in the next 12 months and more.

However data from Hitwise shows that it's not all beer and skittles for Google.

On one hand the search engine comparison from Hitwise actually shows an even bigger lead for Google over its two main rivals, than the Comscore data (Hitwise shows Google at 47.4%, Yahoo 16% and MSN at 11.5%). Both Hitwise and ComScore datasets are US users, however due to different measurement methods you'd expect some differences. But overall the comparisons are pretty close, except perhaps Yahoo which is a miserly 16% in Hitwise but 28% in ComScore.

The most interesting data in the Hitwise analysis though is undoubtedly the comparison of verticals between Google, Yahoo and MSN. In web email services, despite my post at the end of last week about Gmail being the best webmail service - when it comes to cold hard stats Gmail is a distant last:

1. Yahoo Mail 42.4%
2. MSN Hotmail 22.9%
3. MySpace mail 19.5%
4. Gmail 2.54%

It doesn't surprise me that much, because obviously Yahoo Mail and MSN Hotmail have been around for years and are very much mainstream products. Gmail has only been around for 2 years and is mostly still used by geeks. Even so, Google has A LOT of work to do to make Gmail a competitive product with Yahoo and MSN's offerings - in terms of customer numbers. The geek in me says it's just a matter of convincing the masses that Gmail's innovative product is superior to Y! Mail and Hotmail. But we all know that mass markets don't always choose the best products - it's a matter of what's convenient to users.

It's a similar story across the other verticals Hitwise analysed: News & Media, Business & Finance, Travel - Maps. Yahoo leads in all of those segments. And that's where Google's portal strategy, if there is one, must come into play more. Yahoo is known to have a very strong consumer portal and Google probably needs to come up with a similar portal - ideally based on it's leading search property, where it already has the users.

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