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2011 represented a year of change, contrast and, in some cases, continuity for search engines in both the US and UK markets. It was a bumpy ride for most, with many experiencing optimistic highs and worrying lows at some point throughout the year.
Yet the clearest indication of how well they performed is to analyse their percentage changes from the start of 2011 to the end. Whilst some of the statistics were to predictable, some are actually quite surprising, representing new opportunities and challenges for the year ahead.
Starting with the UK markets, the latest data from Hitwise (accurate as of 31/12/2011) revealed that Google ended the year on a high, along with Ask. Of the major search engines, these were the only two to experience any growth in terms of search volume in 2011. More surprising was Microsoft’s Bing, which, despite its plaudits and continued promotion, actually experienced a minor drop in search volume, along with Yahoo and ‘other’ search engines.
For Google, despite a number of poor performing months towards the end of 2011, they actually turned things around gaining a 0.76% share from October to December. That means that between January 2011 and December 2011 they gained 0.67% to take their share from 90.68% to 91.35%, as shown in the table above.
Ask also saw an increase in market share, as they gained nearly half a percent from January to December. As the chart above shows, that now takes their overall share to 1.73%. Whilst this is still quite small fry, the advantages over their larger competitors, such as Bing and Yahoo, is quite significant. With Google totally dominating the market, it’s important for these search engines to get the upper hand on each other, and for Ask 2011 was a pretty good year, despite pulling out of the search market itself.
Surprisingly though, their gain was, in part, due to the losses seen by Yahoo and Bing. Starting with Yahoo, their demise was well documented throughout 2011, with fire sales, erroneous investments, the loss of their CEO and a severe lack of identity and direction. This was reflected in their market share in the UK, as they lost 0.62% from 2.85% in January 2011 to 2.23% in December 2011.
The final surprise was the lack of growth for the new kid on the block, Bing. After a great start to 2011, their market share reached a high of 4.24% in March [See: Rise in Search Volume and Market Share for Bing]. They then struggled throughout the remaining months, ending 2011 with a search volume of 3.57%. This represented a small fall in search volume of 0.30% between the start and end of the year. This stands in complete contrast to how well they performed in the US market though.
As you can see from the table above, Bing were the biggest winners of 2011 in terms of market share statistics. Figures from comScore (accurate up to November 2011) show that between the start and end of the year, Microsoft’s search engine gained a pretty sizeable 3.00%. Of all the search engines across in both the UK and US markets, this was the highest gained. Whilst this is a fantastic achievement for their US efforts, it does highlight the need for additional work in the UK and Europe, where they have struggled somewhat to topple the tight grip of Google. Will their recent integration with Yahoo help in 2012? [See: Yahoo to Finally Integrate Bing Search in Europe]
All other search engines in the US market actually saw falls in their search volume. Whilst Google are still the dominant force in the US (despite their share not being as large in the US compared to the UK), it is a much larger and much more competitive market. Considering this, their loss of 1.20% between the start and end of 2011 could be quite damaging. Due to the sheer volume of people in the US compared to the UK, a 1.20% loss is highly significant, just as a 3.00% gain for Bing is.
For Yahoo, their market share loss of 0.90% in 2011 really wasn’t that surprising. As mentioned, their demise has been well documented and the fact they have lost ground in both the US and UK is a testament to how bad 2011 was for them. However, they still have a 15.10% share of the market, and despite Bing’s success, they’re still ahead of them – if it is by a nominal amount. This means that 2012 will be a very interesting year for the ailing Internet company, so Can Yahoo Turn it Around in 2012?
As we head into 2012, eyes will be fully focussed on Google’s dominance once again. Yet it will be interesting to monitor Bing’s success in the US, as well as how, and if, they can develop and grow in the UK and Europe to look forward to. There is of course Yahoo as well, and whether or not they can put 2011 behind them a get some much needed direction for 2012, whilst we will also be looking to see if Ask can build on their success in the UK market.