Shedding Light on Search Statistics

  • Posted October 13th, 2010 at 1:10 pm by Yahoo! Search
  • Categories: Search

There’s no doubt that the Search landscape is changing dramatically. However, there are many different perspectives about how it is changing and what those changes mean to advertisers, investors, and ultimately to consumers.  With products like Google Instant in the market, it’s more important than ever to understand how third-parties measure search queries and be judicious in how we use their numbers.  We all know that if statistics and metrics are not used correctly, they can tell a story that is misleading. I think it’s important for anyone reviewing today’s comScore September 2010 qSearch report to understand some key changes they made this month.

One example to consider is Google Instant. This user experience does not fit the mold for traditional search measurement – when a user starts typing, and pauses for a few seconds without finishing their thought, should that be counted as a search? For example, I want to find Sprinkles Cupcakes. When I start typing “S-P,” Google Instant offers up “Sprint,” unrelated to what I was looking for. However, this would count as a search in comScore’s measurements.

Going further and typing “S-P-R-I,” I still see a suggestion for “Sprint,” not quite what I had in mind. In the mean time, this counts as another search. If I typed slower, more searches would be counted.

Looking at comScore’s report, it appears to me that a majority of Google’s query growth in September (a month in which Google Instant was live for 20 days) came from precisely these kinds of interactions. I bet even the folks at Google are mystified by this kind of accounting.

I’d argue that with this type of counting, third party measurement companies are potentially misleading the consumers of their data, despite encouragements to take a more careful look at how to most accurately evolve their collection, verification, and analysis of the numbers. It is time to think about ways to more accurately measure searches in the long term, so that all of the players in the industry can focus on driving innovation that will ultimately benefit consumers and advertisers alike.

Regardless, we at Yahoo! believe that the tools of measurement need to keep pace with innovations in the Search experience and we are excited to keep delivering new ways to answer people’s information needs. I’m glad to report that Yahoo! Search is doing extremely well! People are liking it, using it more, and coming back to search on Yahoo! more frequently. In less than one week since we launched our latest innovations, we’ve seen engagement increases on Yahoo! Search, and we are growing at a pace that makes all of us proud.

Shashi Seth
Sr. VP, Yahoo! Search & Marketplaces

P.S. On Yahoo!, I found Sprinkles Cupcakes in Palo Alto, CA (10 miles from my house) on the first try, and no, it has nothing to do with cell phones.

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