Google regaining lost search market share

Search giant's share of market tops 66%; Yahoo drops

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So much for the slow deterioration of Google's search market share.

Google's dominance of the search market increased in January as 66.2% of Internet searches were conducted via Google, up from 65.9% in December, according to the latest stats from comScore.

Microsoft's Bing search engine inched up to 15.2% market share in January from 15.1% in December, while Yahoo slipped to 14.1% from 14.5% in December.

Google hasn't been in danger of losing its top position in the U.S. search market for years, but its market share had slipped during 2011 to below 65%.

Now it's clear that if Google does lose substantial search market share, it will be to someone other than Microsoft and Yahoo, neither of which have been able to gain any traction in the U.S. search market separately or together.

Look back to July 2007, when comScore began reporting monthly U.S. search market statistics. Google's share was 55.2%, well below what it is today. Yahoo, meanwhile was at 23.5%, with Microsoft at 12.3%.

By July 2008, Google was up to 61.9%, while Yahoo was down to 20.5% and Microsoft to 8.9%.

The trend was clear, and Microsoft and Yahoo announced a search partnership in 2009 in which Microsoft's Bing search engine would power Yahoo queries in return for Redmond getting 12% of advertising revenues.

At the time of the deal, Google had 64.7% of the U.S. search market, compared to Microsoft and Yahoo's combined 28.2%.

Two and a half years later, and not much as changed: Google's at 66.2%, while Microsoft-Yahoo combine for 29.3%.

The problem, obviously, is that Microsoft and Yahoo offer no superior or even unique alternative to Google. Bing search results are amazingly similar to Google searches. What's going to make a long-time Google user switch search engines? Nothing, at the moment.

Unless Google does itself in with self-inflicted wounds. It seemed to be going in that direction in January when it began integrating Google+ social content with search results, angering companies such as Twitter and Facebook, which saw their content omitted from Google's aggregated search results, and alienating some users who felt Google was slanting its search results to benefit Google properties at the expense of search quality and integrity.

Also, later in January, Google announced a controversial change to its privacy policies effective March 1 that distressed many privacy advocates.

We'll see over the next few months whether those changes cause Google to lose U.S. search market share. I suspect they won't, especially since users appear indifferent to the existing alternatives.

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