August 14, 2009, 12:00 AM

Even Microsoft and Yahoo users google a lot, comScore says

Nearly three out of four search engine users employ either Yahoo or Microsoft in a given month, good news for the two companies that are joining forces in search, comScore says. The bad news: even those searchers use Google most of the time.

This is a classic good news/bad news story for those who hope the proposed Microsoft-Yahoo search deal will create a real challenger to Google Inc.’s dominant search engine. A study by comScore Inc. shows three out of four search engine users employ either Yahoo or Microsoft in a given month-but even they use Google more often than either of the other two major search engines.

Yahoo and Microsoft accounted for only 28% of the searches in June, versus 65% for Google, comScore says. But in terms of searcher penetration-that is, the percentage of searchers that used a given search engine in June-Microsoft and Yahoo were not that far behind, with a 73.3% penetration rate among searchers compared with 84.0% for Google.

But Google users conducted many more searches on Google, 54.5 on average for the month, compared with 26.9 for Yahoo and Microsoft, which are the second- and third-ranked search engines, respectively. What’s more, even those who used Yahoo and Microsoft only conducted 32.6% of their searches through those engines, while turning to Google for 60.7% of their searches.

The results show how “googling” for information has become part of the subconscious decision process of web users, says Gord Hotchkiss, president and CEO of search marketing firm Enquiro Search Solutions.

“For Microsoft/Yahoo to disrupt the Google habit, they have to offer a compelling enough reason to do the cognitive heavy lifting required to break a subconscious habit,” Hotchkiss says. “A significantly differentiated and superior search experience would be such a reason. The other option is to continue to interrupt consistently ‘upstream’, by integrating search tightly into their properties or applications so that people don’t have to go to the effort-minimal though it is-to go to Google to launch their search.”

Microsoft Corp. and Yahoo Inc. announced last month a 10-year deal to make Microsoft’s Bing the search engine on Yahoo sites. If it passes regulatory scrutiny, the agreement will be implemented starting in 2010, the companies say.

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