Fact: Growth in the number of U.S. “core search queries*” is slowing down dramatically. According to the latest numbers from comScore’s qSearch, overall search volume growth slowed down to 7.6% in March, 2010 from 10.4% growth in February, 2010 and 33.1 % growth in March, 2009.
* Core Search queries is defined as a search conducted on one of the five major search engines: Google, Yahoo, Bing, AOL, and Ask, which includes partner searches and cross-channel searches. Searches for mapping, local directory, and user-generated video sites that are not on the core domain of the five search engines are not included in the core search numbers.
While the above graph still illustrates growth, it clearly shows that search, as we know it, (via standard search engines) is leveling off. In addition, this data is also supported by a recent show of Google market share starting to plateau (graph below).
All this is not to say that fewer searches are being conducted, in fact the opposite is true – and its supported by the data below. The numbers of searches are actually up, it’s just that they are being conducted across different venues – social venues to be specific, are taking a big chunk. Search habits are changing, and fast. Social venues have clearly become a major channel for people looking for information.
According to comScore qSearch, Americans conducted 15.4 billion “core searches” in March 2010, with Google accounting for 65.1 percent search market share.
Why is this distinction of “core searches” significant?
If you look at core searches in March ‘10, then Google accounted for 10.0 billion searches, followed by Yahoo! (2.6 billion), Microsoft (1.8 billion), Ask (593 million), and AOL (380 million).
Get it? Got it? Good.
However, when you look at ALL or “expanded searches,” then you get a very different picture of the search market.
What is an expanded search? It is a search on the top properties where search activity is observed. What are these top properties? Oh, small sites like YouTube, craigslist, eBay, Facebook.com, MapQuest, MySpace, Amazon etc.
If you look at these top properties, Americans conducted 23.9 billion search queries in March 2010. That’s right. About 8.5 billion searches were conducted in March on properties that generally aren’t considered “search engines”. Of those, 3.7 billion of these expanded searches were conducted on YouTube, which is less than the 10.5 billion conducted on Google, but more than the 2.7 billion conducted on Yahoo!, or the 1.6 billion conducted on Bing. And the 647 million conducted on Facebook.com are more than the 594 million conducted on Ask or the 380 million on AOL.
So, definitions do matter, and this data supports the strength of search. However, as marketers and consumers, we need to be mindful of the changing landscape, and be prepared to embrace what lies ahead – a new search, a social search, a more meaningful and personable way to find results most relevant to our individual needs.