Comparing Search numbers

Nielsen/Netratings just released its search share numbers for December 07, completing a year’s worth of search numbers from each of the three companies that report them; Compete, Nielsen/Netratings, and Hitwise.  So what can we learn from all of the numbers?  Well mostly that tracking search share is an inexact science, at best.  John Battelle as much as scoffed at the latest Nielsen numbers, which show Live Search making some significant gains on Google, and indeed the other sets of numbers don’t seem to be showing the same thing.  However since each company has reported numbers over the past year, I took a little time and my rudimentary Excel 2007 skills and put together a little comparison.

First, here’s the sets of numbers.  Compete came out the other day with some revisions to its numbers over the past year, so I used those.  For the others, I went back to their press releases (Nielsen/Netratings and Hitwise) over the past year and pulled the numbers.  One note: Hitwise for some reason did not have numbers for January ’07.  In order to complete the number sets, I simply took an average of the month before and the month after (=c10+e10)/2, etc.  These numbers are shown in red:

searchnumbers_thumb News

Then to try to make some sense of it all, I put together this chart (using Paint.Net to annotate a bit):

searchchart_thumb_1 News

So really we can’t discern much at all, other than the relative positions of each of the four search products, that Yahoo looks like it is definitely losing share (although much less drastically if you believe Hitwise over the other two), and that Nielsen is reporting gains for Live Search that the other two aren’t.  Really, if anything, the numbers for each of the products could be said to have remained fairly flat in their share of searches over the past year.  Just for fun I made one more chart, this one adding up the numbers for each reporting company and dividing by 3, to get an average:

avgsearchshare_thumb News

And again, we see Google has gone up a bit, Yahoo has gone down some, and who knows what to say about either Ask.com or Live Search.  So what have we learned (other than how rusty I am at Excel)?  The three services seem to be in general agreement about the relative rank of the search products, that they vary quite a bit in particulars, and when it’s all said and done, not much has changed in search over the last year: Google rules, Yahoo’s got some issues, Live Search hasn’t made an impact, and we’ll have to wait and see what happens in the new year.