Most Popular Search Engine: Google's Share of Search Market Still Three Times Yahoo!'s

The most popular search engine is still Google by a large margin. The latest numbers from Nielsen Online say that Google’s share of the search market is nearly three times Yahoo! or 56.9% to Yahoo!’s 19%.

Here’s an update: According to one report, Google grabbed 69.17 percent of all U.S. searches for the four weeks ending June 28, 2008. Nielsen Online still shows Google at 59% (PDF document).

That’s why, when web marketing professionals talk about optimizing a website for search engines, they mean optimizing for Google. In general, ranking well in Google search results will bring more visitors to your website than ranking well in Yahoo! search results will. And a paid advertisement on a Google search page will typically be seen by more people than a paid advertisement on a Yahoo! search page.

However, more people clicking on your ads and more visitors to your website does not always mean better results. One way to measure results is by the number of “conversions” on your website, that is, the number of visitors doing what you want them to do, like picking up the phone and calling your business. It’s always good to remember that people searching on Yahoo! or MSN.com might be of different demographics than those searching on Google. For every 100 visitors that come to your site from a Google search, you might get one phone call. (Just a hypothetical example.) But for every 100 visitors that come from a Yahoo! search, you might get 5 phone calls. With that information, you may want to advertise more on Yahoo!

Then again, even conversions, like the number of phone calls you get for 100 visitors to your site, are not the final measure of results. What if almost every phone call you got from a Google search resulted in a sale, whereas only a small fraction of the calls you got from a Yahoo! search resulted in a sale? In that case, even though more calls are coming from ads on Yahoo!, it would still be smarter to do most or all of your advertising Google. (Again, these are just hypothetical examples.)

Ultimately, more traffic is good, but more qualified traffic is really what you want, whether it’s from Google or Yahoo! or whatever. And you need to use website traffic tracking software like Google Analytics (which is free and easy to install) to collect this information. Combined with other techniques, such as putting a special 800 number on your website so that you know which inquiries and sales are coming from your site as opposed to through other marketing channels, you can get a good idea of which online marketing channels are working well and which are not.

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