Google Commands 66% Search Share over Yahoo, Bing

Google held its 66 percent U.S. market share through June. Yahoo and Microsoft Bing notched 16.7 percent and 11 percent, according to adjusted numbers from comScore. Financial analysts question comScore's search metrics.

Google retained its 66 percent U.S. market share through June, while Yahoo and Microsoft Bing notched 16.7 percent and 11 percent, respectively, according to adjusted numbers from market researcher comScore.

Search share didn't change much when comScore July 12 stripped away "contextually driven searches" powered by slide shows and contextual shortcuts on Yahoo and Bing.

Google slipped a touch from 66.4 percent through May to 66.2 percent through June. Yahoo nudged up from 16.6 percent and Bing grew from 10.8 percent. HitWise also had Bing gaining for June, albeit to only 9.85 percent.

However, when comScore counts the slide shows and other shortcuts, which trigger automatic searches instead of actual physical clicks by users, the numbers tell a different story.

Viewed through that lens, Google lost share, going from 63.7 percent in May to 62.6 percent in June. Yahoo leapt up to 18.9 percent in June from 18.3 percent the month earlier. Bing jumped from 12.1 percent in May to 12.7 percent in June.

Accounting for automated search queries, it doesn't look like anything will stop Yahoo or Bing from chomping share from Google. That is, of course, unless Google begins offering slide shows and other shortcut links.

There is no indication from Mountain View, Calif., that will happen. Moreover, comScore's adjusted figures are the numbers that most financial analysts are looking at when they assess the U.S. search sector.

Marianne Wolk, of Susquehanna Financial Group, noted as much in her research note July 13:

"We prefer to examine Google's share of adjusted core searches, which strips out the incremental volumes associated with contextual searches from slide shows, etc., recently included with Yahoo and Microsoft's results."

Jefferies and Co. analyst Youssef Squali joined Wolk in this sentiment, calling Google one of the best plays on ad recovery and a "must buy" for advertisers. He added:

"While comScore data suggests that Google lost 110 basis points (bps) m/m (month-over-month) in June and Yahoo and Bing gained 60bps each, we believe most of Yahoo and Bing's gains came from cosmetic changes. Adjusting for these, Google lost only 20bps m/m."

Finally, FBR Capital Markets analysts chimed in:

"comScore June data needs some adjusting. While comScore's reported numbers may cause some confusion by suggesting that GOOG lost 110 bps m/m in June and Yahoo and Bing gained 60 bps each, we believe that most of Yahoo's and Bing's gains came from incorporating automatic searches in slide show navigation and in-text links."

This isn't a case of financial analysts unjustly ganging up on comScore; the research firm said in June it is altering its methodology for classifying and counting Web searches.

The research firm expects to employ them in time for its July data, slated for a mid-August release.

That may mean more good news for Google, FBR noted: "comScore appears to be finalizing the restructured measurement this week and should be on plan to provide more relevant search figures starting in 3Q. We believe this will ultimately benefit Google's reported share figures.