Compete.com released their version of March US search market share numbers on Friday, showing a surprising surge for Live Search, up nearly 4 percentage points from February (a notoriously slow, and short, month), and up .7% year over year. In addition, search volume (the number of searches performed) was up significantly as well. Also notable was that for the first time in nine months, Google lost market share.
Overall volume of search in March exploded, with total queries increasing over 6% and surpassing the 9 billion mark. That’s the biggest month-over-month increase in total search volume since July of last year. Interestingly enough this growth was not driven by our perennial search leader Google. In fact Google actually underperformed the market for the first time in 9 months and saw market share decline more than ½ a point.
Yahoo! continued it’s nosedive, and while Compete.com wasn’t sure how to explain the numbers, it could very well be that Yahoo! Search users are sensing the end is near for their product, and giving Live Search a try. A wild guess, granted, but there’s not much else to explain the rapid rise of Live Search numbers.
In another interesting note, John Battelle, author of “The Search” (and founder of Federated Media), hinted that Microsoft may have something up their sleeve:
Regardless, offline marketing of search can, no doubt, boost share. Why? Because honestly, there’s not much further down Yahoo’s share can go. With Ask all but throwing in the towel, Yahoo is one notch closer to the bottom (yeah, I know, Microsoft is lower, but I sense they could be, as many in the industry have said to me, lying in the weeds for a reason….).
(emphasis mine – kip)
The last time Microsoft saw a significant surge in market share numbers, it was traced easily to Live Search Club, a word game attempt to artificially inflate the numbers, which the ratings services quickly factored out. We’re not aware of any such campaign going on now (at least not one so blatant), which makes these numbers a little eye-opening. Of course one month’s numbers, by one of the three big rating services, does not mean that the game is changing, but this may be the first significant change in share for quite some time.