comScore has released its latest search engine rankings, and Google has managed to increase its already significant share of the US market. Bing is the closest competitor, but it is not even close to Google’s numbers. 

Search Trends

Google is continuing to dominate the US search market. The June data from comScore indicates Google owns 66.7 percent of the US search market. That’s more than the other four players in the top five have combined. Bing continues to hold the number two spot. Microsoft’s share of search slightly increased from 15.4 percent in May to 15.6 percent in June. Yahoo is in the number three spot, declining .4 percent  to 13 percent. Ask Networks and AOL round out the top five with less than 5 percent of the market each.

According to Nielsen, Bing overtook Yahoo in the US search market in July 2010. Nielsen’s data showed Bing with 13.9 percent of market and Yahoo with slightly smaller share at 13.1 percent. However, comScore and Hitwise still showed Yahoo in the number two spot. Research by comScore moved Bing into the number two spot over a year later in December 2011. No matter when the change of the search guards occurred, it’s clear Bing growth is happening at the expense of Yahoo.

Yahoo’s now constant decline doesn’t indicate Yahoo isn’t trying. Last year the company made changes to its Today algorithm to increase site stickiness, but this move was about its news and editorial content, not search. This year the company has experienced quite a few changes and most were not positive. Yahoo shed staff and apps in April in effort to streamline its operations. Yahoo’s co-founder left in January only months after the company fired its CEO. The replacement CEO left citing health issues in the midst of a scandal about his credentials in May. 

However, even with all the effort Yahoo continues its decline. Some of the decline in user numbers is clearly Yahoo’s fault. It has had an identity crises for years. Instead of focusing on its core search business, it attempted to grow revenue, mostly in advertising dollars, via becoming a content destination. It hasn’t worked. Microsoft in contrast has had a laser focus on search and the Bing brand. Simplifying its search page and making several tweaks in its search algorithm. The Seattle giant even partnered with Yahoo to improve its search. The work clearly paid off in rising market share, which should mean advertising revenue growth

What’s Next

Search has become a ubiquitous technology.  In fact, Google’s brand has become a synonym for find -- at least in the US. However, there are some signs that search as we currently know it may not last much longer. Search companies are incorporating semantic technology in an effort to return results that better reflect what the user was actually attempting to find. Search results are more personalized. Search engines use all kinds of contextual details like location, what a user has clicked before, language and the biggie -- social -- to tailor results. Users searching for the same term are now very unlikely to see the same results. 

Few factors, however, have the influence of social media. In January, Google incorporated Google+ data into its search results to the horror of many. Bing followed suit later by adding a column to the right of search results that displays which friends from a user’s social network or online experts might have additional information on a topic. Bing also added the ability to post a question to social connections on Facebook or Bing and get responses without leaving Bing. Both Bing and Google raced to make deals with Twitter to incorporate its data into their search. Bing eventually won.

Eventually the separation between search and social will likely disappear. That’s clearly what Google is pushing with Google+ -- making search part of the fabric of everything users do while online. Users will always need to find information, but the act of going to a separate site to find information will eventually disappear. The evolution will require standards to emerge for search.

There are currently no standards for interacting with search. Every search company has its own approach for submitting queries and returning results. Databases used to work the same way, but after some years the chaos disappeared and SQL emerged. I believe the same thing will happen in the search space. When this occurs, any site, app or service will be able to incorporate search via one or more major engines into their solution. Most search engines already support something similar, but it’s far from standard.

It’s likely this hasn't happened yet because search companies make most of their money via on page advertising. A new standards based model could be supported by offering premium services to site owners that allowed them to tweak search results with options like weighting topics so that they appear higher. Search companies are still attempting to captivate their audience to give advertisers more eyes with proprietary features, but search is becoming a commodity. It’s unavoidable. It happens with all long lasting technologies. If you don’t believe me, just Google it.