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« Harvard-Yale Game prank shows power of viral/social networks | Main | Yahoo! announces its desktop search plans, with others right behind »

December 08, 2004

The battle for search loyalty drives innovation

By Charlene Li

I recently published extensive consumer survey data on search loyalty, toolbar usage, and search effectiveness (note: the full report is available only to Forrester clients). Here's the summary and a few of the key findings from the report.

"Although Google has a commanding lead in the number of online consumers regularly using its search tools, the fact that users frequently use another search engine opens the door for defection. MSN's beta launch of its own search engine -- as well as continued innovation from Yahoo!, Ask Jeeves, and new entrants -- means that Google will see plenty of challenges as the battle for search moves to the desktop, mobile devices, multimedia files, and industry verticals. Major search players will play a central role but will slowly cede ground to search specialists."

Our online survey of North American households showed that:

+ Google continues to lead as the site consumers use most frequently to search the Internet, while Yahoo! lost share from 2003.
+ MSN gained substantial share as the default home page for online consumers. <br />+ Among Google's loyal searchers, many were likely to have MSN and Yahoo! as their default home pages, opening up the possibility that these portals will regain search loyalty.
+ MSN has a slight lead in the percent of consumers who use its toolbar.
+ Almost half of all toolbar users also use another toolbar.
+ Google tops the list in terms of search effectives (as ranked by their own loyal searchers) but overall quality remains poor, leading consumers to use multiple search engines.

The result: "Each of the major portals and search sites will engage in a game of one-upmanship -- Google launched its desktop search product and all the rest will follow -- MSN has acknowledged it will debut its product shortly, and AOL, Yahoo!, and Ask Jeeves are all expected to follow suit. MSN launched local search, and others will follow. Rather than getting too caught up in such copycatting, search players should be making investments in deepening the loyalty of their existing users."

I believe that even as the major search players continue to extend their reach, growing consumer sophistication will mean that specialized search will make their debut -- and stick. Look at Singing Fish for audio/video search, local-i.com for local search, and Feedster for RSS feeds. And don't forget that there are already many examples of vertical "search" engines with access to proprietary databases, such as cars.com, Expedia, and Monster. So look out big guys -- even as you extend your rearch beyond Web search, look out for the little guys who will start chipping away at your users.


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» Search Loyalty - What Factors Influence the battle over Search? from Threadwatch.org

Forresters Charlene Li shares some snippets from a consumer survey conducted on US households. Some of the data is unsurprising but it does mak [Read More]

» Search Davids chip away at Goliaths from SiliconBeat
Charlene Li over at Forrester Research says today that search engines such as Google and Yahoo that engage in a game one-upmanship are missing the big picture -- and the real threat to their user base. Based on a consumer survey Forrester conducted, Li... [Read More]

» The battle for search loyalty drives innovation from Search Engine Guide
Source: Charlene Li's Blog - I recently published extensive consumer survey data on search loyalty, toolbar usage, and search effectiveness (note: the full report is available only to Forrester clients). Here's the summary and a few of the key findings... [Read More]

» Forrester Stats, Search Defection & Vertical Search from Search Engine Watch Blog
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» Forrester Research on search loyalty from Niall Kennedy's Weblog
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» Forrester: Search Loyalty and Innovation from Bellbits Blog
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