If Microsoft and Yahoo are to take chunks of Google's 65 percent search engine market share, they will need to convert some of the so-called lighter searchers that visit their sites once a month to full-time status, according to market research firm comScore.
Microsoft and Yahoo July 29 announced a 10-year search and search advertising deal in which Microsoft would serve as the back end of Yahoo's search and pay it the bulk of the revenues per search query. If the deal measures up to regulatory scrutiny in 2010, Microsoft and Yahoo would account for a combined 28 percent of the search market.
While this is still less than half of Google's total, new research from comScore shows that Microsoft and Yahoo boast a search penetration rate of 73.3, with some users dabbling in Microsoft Bing and Yahoo search once a month.
However, dabbling may be all most users are doing; searchers on Google conducted 54.5 searches on average in a month, compared with searchers on Yahoo and Microsoft, which logged 26.9 searches on average per month. See comScore's data charts here.
"The challenge will be to create a search experience compelling enough to convert lighter searchers into regular searchers, which is generally easier than converting new users," said comScore Search Evangelist Eli Goodman in a statement. "Though clearly easier said than done, if they were to equalize the number of searches per searcher with Google they would command more than 40 percent market share."
However, this optimistic scenario is tempered by comScore's analysis of search loyalty among users of Google, Bing and Yahoo.
Users conducted only 32.6 percent of their searches on the combined Yahoo and Microsoft sites, compared with 60.7 percent of their searches on Google sites. Google users notched the highest loyalty rate, with 68.9 percent of all their searches occurring on Google sites.
How might Microsoft and Yahoo break Google's search stranglehold? Enquiro Search Solutions President and CEO Gord Hotchkiss noted that most users' choice of search engines is subconscious and that Microsoft and Yahoo would have to unleash something disruptive to break the near-universal "Google habit."
"A significantly differentiated and superior search experience would be such a reason. The other option is to continue to interrupt consistently 'upstream,' by integrating search tightly into their properties or applications so that people don't have to go to the effort-minimal though it is-to go to Google to launch their search."
Read more about this Google versus Microsoft and Yahoo topic on TechMeme here.