Searches Performed : Lies and Statistics

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Yahoo abruptly quit using Google as a search partner last week in a surprise move that has the search industry now scrambling for statistics to analyze and numbers to bandy about. I’d like to share some rarely discussed statistics and numbers with you here. First the numbers and stats from the press, then I’ll share a few of my own. Here are the stats that are getting the most attention for the Yahoo search story.

Share of searches performed by U.S. users (source: comScore Media Metrix)

Google = 35%
Yahoo = 28%
AOL (powered by Google) = 16%
MSN = 15%
ALL Others = 6%

Charts and analysis of this statistical lie can be seen at:


As an SEO specialist, I don’t care if Yahoo and MSN together get almost 40 percent of all searches performed as long as Google delivers nearly triple the REFERRED traffic of either of those also-rans.

I love those numbers presented by comScore. The problem is that it has nothing to do with search engine REFERRED TRAFFIC to webmasters. I did a small study of client traffic stats last year and found in EVERY case that Google delivered over 70% of referred traffic to client sites and one gets nearly 90% of his referred traffic from Google!

Those included some new clients as well as several of those I’d been working with for up to a couple of years. This indicates to me that it’s not the work I do that favors Google, and that it is a similar result across many types of sites, optimized or not. My article discussing these numbers was picked up in half a dozen places and debated in a forum or two because it seems shocking to imagine Google dominating at that level.


If you scroll down the page at that SearchEngineWatch page linked above, you’ll see another chart that reflects Google’s reach and, guess what? It’s actually closer to 70% due to the fact that Google powers AOL and, up until last week, Yahoo. Now I expect the 28% loss from Yahoo will make those numbers fluctuate a bit in coming months as searchers decide whether they like the results they get from Yahoo search without Google powered results.

Now that Yahoo search will no longer be contributing to Google’s 70% of referred traffic, I suspect it will vary from last year if webmasters look at their traffic stats at the end of next month. I’ll look forward to THOSE numbers!

Still, I’ll wager that if you look at your client traffic stats for search engine referrals that delivered traffic from Google FAR outdoes traffic from any other search engine for some time to come. When that changes, then it will start to matter. Until it changes – who cares even if Yahoo and MSN search get double their current “Searches performed” when the referred traffic they deliver is just a fraction of that?

Who cares if the competitors are at 27% of searches performed if they deliver only 5% of their referred traffic? What do people do when they get results at Yahoo and MSN search? They must stay there, follow paid links, or give up their search and go shopping if they aren’t ending up clicking through from those oroganic results to the top ranking sites!

I have multiple top ranking terms at MSN and Yahoo for several clients that get trickles of traffic from both of those sites, EVEN THOUGH those very same search phrases deliver dramatically higher traffic from Google – and in cases where they rank lower at Google! Puzzling, eh?

Google delivers traffic. The others don’t deliver at even half the rate that Google does. So I simply don’t care that nearly a third of searches are done elsewhere. I am going to work on ranking well for the search engine that DELIVERS VISITORS from organic search.

I’ll pay for traffic from the others if necessary since they don’t deliver on even TOP RANKING searches. I believe that is because the searches at MSN and Yahoo sites and their search partners have too many flashing, blinking, prominently placed, paid ads dominating the SERP’s.

Yahoo and MSN may get lots of searchers searching, but if those searchers don’t click through on those top ranking organic results – what earthly good does it do to rank well in organic results at those search engines?

I suspect that Yahoo will profit nicely from Overture, and since they appear to be so highly profit-driven (yes, I agree that is a good thing for business, but bad for search) then the results will be profit driven too. Paid results will dominate at both Yahoo and MSN and they will continue to deliver far less organic search referred traffic than does Google.

Until I see some changes in referred traffic, I’ll bet some serious money that Google will continue to deliver over 50% of all referred search traffic to everyone due to the emphasis on relevance above profit.

The impending Google IPO makes me nervous about all of this because Google will have to do as the others do and emphasize paid results on the SERP’s at a much higher level than they do now in order to keep investors happy. Investor pressure.

Those two clearly marked sponsored ads at the top of the page and clear boxed Adwords ads along the right will be charming memories in short order. We’ll see paid links grow to dominate the Google SERP’s and it wouldn’t surprise me if they started running banner ads in addition.

Statistics from the webmaster perspective show Google sending nearly triple the traffic of all other search engines combined. That’s the only statistic that webmasters care about.

Mike Banks Valentine operates SEOptimism, Offering SEO training of
in-house content managers http://seoptimism.com/SEO_Staff_Training.htm
as well as the Small Business Ecommerce Tutorial at
http://WebSite101.com and blogs about SEO at http://RealitySEO.com
where this article appears with live links to SMO stories, buttons, blog posts and examples.

Searches Performed : Lies and Statistics
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