ComScore's latest search data showing Google queries declined has caused concern and a good bit of overanalysis. But everyone needs to take a deep breath when it comes to analyzing every little Google twitch.
Now it's clear everyone is trying to call Google's quarter, which will be revealed in about a month. There's a lot at stake, but one month's of data--a short month at that--is hardly a reason to freak out. Consider the main takeaway from the Techmeme talk today: Google queries decelerated in February, says Henry Blodget. Reuters has the same take. The rub: February is a short month--29 days this go round. Meanwhile, we're comparing a sequential dip--hardly killer trend material.
And what's really interesting is that comScore is up front about the short month affect. From the statement:
February 2008 saw Americans conduct nearly 10 billion core searches, representing a 6-percent sequential decline in activity versus January, primarily a result of the shortened month.
It's a shortened month folks. It's damn lucky that there was an extra day in February or we'd have to put Google on death watch. Simply put, there's a lot of handwringing going on over a company that saw its core search share increase to 59.2 percent, up from 58.5 percent in January.
Overall, search queries were down across the board. Says comScore:
Each of the five core search engines experienced search query declines as a result of February being a seasonally soft month for overall search activity.
Perhaps fewer search queries are a sign of a looming recession. Perhaps it's a seasonal February thing. One thing clear: Google is still the best house on the block. A year ago, Google had 53.8 percent search market share. Today it has 58.4 percent. This is hardly a reason to fret.
Other caveats: comScore's data is based on its relatively new qSearch measurement. As Thomas Weisel analyst Christa Quarles notes "the qSearch definitions are relatively new and it's unclear how predictive the data will be."
We've seen this Google data watch play out just a few weeks ago over comScore's paid click data. Google’s Tim Armstrong, president of advertising and commerce in North America, said that the decline in paid click rates was due to a focus on ad quality. Google shares were whacked on concerns about the most recent data from comScore. However, Armstrong noted that the changes created a better consumer experience because they saw better targeted ads.
Add it up and you have new definitions, a decline in search queries in a shortened month and a lot of worrywarts. Breathe in. Breathe out. Relax.