Friday, August 13, 2010

The Battle for Supremacy in the Rarefied Realm of Search Engines

I always google. That the noun has now become a verb speaks volumes about the popularity of Google as the search engine of choice. However, lately I have also tried out Bing, which was launched in June last year, simply because my new desktop came with Bing as the default search engine.

Google's search page is minimalist, as Michael Miller states in Chapter 3 of his book (A Complete Idiot's Guide to SEO), fringed by a wide band of white thickened at the two sides. However, one can import any image as the backdrop if the space seems disconcerting, including Google's own selections. A pleasant feature here is that on some days of historical significance, the word Google will be encased in a banner of image drawn to depict the historical event with the word skillfully blended into the image. Each time it appears, rather randomly for those who do not keep tab of past events, is a moment of pleasant surprise. Clicking the image produces a textual account of that day in history. Below are some of these dainty Google banners that I have collected over time from dating back to 2008.

A collection of Google banners, courtesy of the Google People.

Bing's search page similarly spots a white buffer zone at all the sides, but the search box overlies an image that changes every day. Clicking the flashing boxes when the cursor is moved over the image invokes accompanying texts that tell more about the image. On exploring further, readers are admonished to “kiss that sea of blue links goodbye” and to enjoy the Bing's version that has been “visually organized to help you make more informed decisions.” Sometimes a change of scenery does help to relieve some of the tedium of having to conduct a serious search; otherwise I think the sea of blue links should get me to where I want more expeditiously, especially when I am doing a scholar(ly) search.

According to the book, Google is said to capture about 55-65% of the internet searches, with Yahoo! As a distant second, laying claim to about 20%. Next comes Live Search of Microsoft, knocking on 10%. After the Fab Three, AOL Search and ante up the rear with about 4% and 2%, respectively, with the balance of less than 2% comprising all the minority stake-holders.

Out of curiosity, I binged “Bing's market share in search engines” and was rewarded with the #1 result page dated Sep 14, 2009 at the Search Engine Land website that lists the latest search engine stats from Nielsen wherein MSN/Windows Live/Bing Search's share has surged to 10.7%, primarily at the expense of Yahoo Search, which dropped to 16%. Google continued to solidly lead the number game, steadied at 64.6%.

To be fair, I entered the same query in Google. Of the top ten results, all but one (it came in at #9) are dated this year. I clicked on the one results with the most recent date, July 14, 2010, a BBC news article that displayed a new set of numbers. These did not change the order, but reflected a gain for Bing (12.7%) while Goggle registered a drop to 62.6%. Yahoo also regained some lost ground by chipping in at 18.9%.

Obviously I will be remiss if I did not accord the same courtesy to Yahoo!. It listed the same BBC article as the #1 result. However, by continuing to the 2nd ranked page I was rewarded with the market share battle at the global level. And guess where Google (- Global) stands? A whooping 85% based on the July 2010 stats. Yahoo (- Global) trailed far far behind with 6%, and Baidu, which I sometimes use for searching items in Chinese, was neck-to-neck with Bing, at 3.3% a piece.

Since US is not a small market, I have to venture that the rest of the world is much more in tune with Google than US users. So if you are on the global stage, you will be kissing off 85% of the potential site traffic, certainly making ignoring Google as your SEO target a much more shakier proposition than Michael Miller would allow in his book.

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