Microsoft-Yahoo! search partnership offers new opps, says comScore

With news of the recent partnership, buzz in media circles points to growing competition in search audience share - and Canada, with its lead spot in searches per searcher, will be affected, according to analysts.

A new study recently released by comScore in the U.S. is highlighting the challenges and opportunities following the recently announced search partnership between Yahoo! and Microsoft.

Analysis reveals that while the Yahoo! and Microsoft’s combined search share still lags Google by a wide margin, their combined search audience provides an opportunity to become more competitive in the search marketplace: According to the study, Google sites had a 65% share of searches in the U.S. search market in June 2009, compared to 28% percent for Yahoo! and Microsoft sites combined.

The release posits that while separately Yahoo! (19.6%) and Microsoft (8.4%) sites search market share were dwarfed by Google’s reach, when combined they’re reaching close to 30%, so it now becomes a more viable ad opp for national marketers. And the study states that combined searcher penetration of Yahoo! and Microsoft was 73.3%, while Google had 84%. The study, which examined the use of the various alternative search engines by users of the Google, Yahoo! and Microsoft engines, also revealed that those who searched on Google had the highest loyalty rate, with 68.9% of all their searches occurring on Google sites.

While the analysis focuses on the U.S. search market landscape, VP of comScore Canada Bryan Segal tells MiC the findings are even more significant for Canada’s media industry. ‘As branded search becomes more popular, the importance of having high penetration among the Microsoft-Yahoo world is going to be really important,’ he says. While Segal points out that Google penetration in Canada is higher in terms of share of searches than it is in the U.S., he notes that the themes of the comScore study for a Canadian perspective are very similar: ‘We’re talking about the aggregation of two amazing portals that offer so many things, which are so highly visited, so the potential for people to use their search engines are much higher now that the two are put together, even though you still see a huge leap by Google which is 81.5% of all the searches in Canada. At present in Canada, we’re seeing 6.2% of all searches on Microsoft and 4% on Yahoo, so if you look at the [post-partnership] world, you’ll just see that the Microsoft-Yahoo partnership will now be 10.2%.’

Segal also points out that Canada leads the world in the amount of searches per searcher that occur. ‘The average Canadian does 142.6 searches per searcher which is unbelievable,’ says Segal.’I really think the need for a [media] buy with both [Google and Microsoft/Yahoo!] is even more important now with the aggregation of these two properties, and I would say for Canada even more so, because if you look at it as two engines, you’re going to account for almost 92% of all searches that occur in Canada.’

From Sept. 2005 to June 2009, the total amount of unique searches has increased from 19 million to 3.5 billion, according to comScore and last year along the amount of searches grew by 35%, year over year from June 2008 to June 2009.

‘The market is still growing, it’s very healthy, it’s not plateau-ing, it’s over-indexing the growth of the general population’. The opportunity is there he says, adding that he doesn’t think the partnership will hurt Google. ‘I just think the more dollars that flow into it, the more opportunity there is from both sides.’