Rich Skrenta did some quick calculations based on search referrals from a few large sites—his research shows Google’s real market share might be as high as 70%. Ironically, yesterday was the day that clocked in with its numbers, with Google still listed as barely below 50%. What gives?
As someone who has been quoting Comscore numbers that show Google’s share of searches in the 40s, I’ve long known that this number may have no relation to the number of referrals drawn to a particular site. When I worked at ibm.com, we routinely saw our search referrals from Google exceed 70% of our totals, and I’ve spoken to other companies with the same experience.
I’ve always theorized that savvy Web searchers are more likely to use Google, because when they formed their search habits a few years ago, Google was the trendy techie search engine. Yahoo! used Google but geeks wanted to show off they knew the real deal. And the Google toolbar effectively locked in the choice among this group. So, I thought that IBM’s customers might strongly prefer Google, but more consumer-oriented sites might skew higher to Yahoo! and MSN.
But when I look at Rich’s list, I don’t think of the USA Today as a geek mecca. That’s exactly the kind of site that I would have expected Yahoo! referrals to be high on. But it’s not. Rich believes that Comscore and Nielsen and the rest simply have it wrong. Rich doesn’t have scientific evidence that proves his assertion, but it certainly does make you think.
I wonder whether Comscore or Nelsen will comment.