August 22, 2006, 12:00 AM

Google’s share of search volume dips slightly in early August, Hitwise says

Saturation point or seasonal flux, Google’s share of searches declined from the end of July through the first three weeks of August. But Nielsen/NetRatings finds actual searches on Google still doubled those on Yahoo, its closest competitor.

Is a 60% share of searches conducted on the web’s top search engines the saturation point for Google? That’s one possible interpretation of data from Hitwise over the past three weeks, which show Google’s share declining very slightly over that time, versus very slight gains at search engines Yahoo and MSN.

For the four weeks ending July 29 – essentially, the month of July – Google’s share of searches was 60.23%, versus 22.54% at Yahoo and 11.77% at MSN, according to Hitwise. But three weeks later, a review of the search volume at the engines over the previous four weeks showed Google’s share had declined to 59.84% versus an increase to 22.77% at Yahoo and 12% at MSN.

Hitwise global general research manager Bill Tancer notes that while 60% may be a plateau point for Google, the shift could also stem from a seasonal fluctuation. In a blog post, Tancer notes that Hitwise’s review of the same time period last year showed a similar trough in visits. “We should wait for longer-term trends before jumping to conclusions,” Tancer says.

Meanwhile, Nielsen/NetRatings July figures on search volume share don’t reveal a weekly trend, but do show Google and Yahoo neck-and-neck in terms of the rate at which they grew search share year-over-year, though Google’s actual search volume remained twice that of Yahoo, its closest competitor. In July, at 49.2% -- about 2.8 billion search queries -- Google had a 35% increase in the share of searches conducted among the top search engines. Yahoo at 23.8% -- about 1.3 billion search queries -- experienced 34% growth in its share over last year.

Hitwise attributes the differences in search volume share among its figures and those of other tracking services such as Nielsen/NetRatings and comScore to differences in sample size and in data collection and analysis methodology.

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