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MSN, Yahoo catching up to Google

January 14, 2005

Google may be still the preferred search engine for Internet users, but No. 2 Yahoo and No. 3 MSN are gaining ground, according to a new report from market research firm Keynote Systems.

Bonny Brown, Keynote director of research, told Elizabeth Millard of “When we did the study six months ago, we were surprised by how strong Google was, now they’re still number one, but they’re about where they were before, whereas Yahoo and MSN have made gains.”

Lessons to take for law firms are not to ignore Yahoo and MSN while only watching your search results at Google and the big reason for the increase, local search – something that is going to be very important to law firms.

Yahoo’s & MSN’s gains

  • Since May, 2004, Yahoo has boosted the number of users who say they would consider the site as their primary search engine by 20 percent, and MSN has upped its figure by 30 percent.
  • The two companies experienced the highest improvement in Keynote’s future usage index, which measures the likelihood of consumers to use a search site as their primary tool. In this index 81 percent of Yahoo users and 61 percent of MSN users stated they would return in the future.
  • Google maintains the top position in the future usage index, but Keynote noted that its overall standing did not improve.

Reason for gains: locale search & sponsored results

  • The quality of local search results is a major frustration to many search engine users. Across all search sites, almost one in four (22%) users complain that the local results are not what they are looking for or are not ranked appropriately.
  • Yahoo! showed significant improvement in the ranking of the quality of its local search results, tying Google in leading the industry in this key category.
  • Ask Jeeves also showed a significant increase in its overall customer experience in large part driven by a significant improvement in its local search.
  • The perceived usefulness of sponsored results is one of the top five drivers impacting user experience.
  • MSN began separating sponsored results from its Web search results in July 2004 and, as a consequence, also showed a significant improvement in overall user experience.
  • More than 47% of MSN users described the site?s sponsored results as very useful in the most recent study, as compared to just 37% doing so prior to the change.

Google, MSN and Yahoo remain the big three and are likely to remain so for the time being. Law firms should not spend much time worrying about the other search engines and should certainly not spend time listening to the search engine optimization (SEO) snake oil salespeople saying they will work wonders for you on 85 different search engines.

Search results, though similar, do vary a little with rankings. LexBlog, for example is in the first 3 or 4 results at Google for most of the words our target audience would search under, but for – Lawyer Blogs – we get bounced anywhere from 4 to 13. While on Yahoo and MSN we are number one for lawyer blogs.

Bottom line, monitor the results for relevant key words and key phrases on the big three and as Yahoo and MSN grow in users do not ignore them in favor of just Google.

Also watch what the big three are doing with local results and how your law firm is doing in the local results. Within a year, internet users will be prompted to put in their locale and the type of service or product they want. The type of lawyer, as opposed too just ‘a lawyer” will be relevant.

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