An interesting data point got me thinking recently. According to Compete data there are roughly 7.5 billion search queries performed every month by the US Online Population. However there are only about 5 billion search referrals every month. This means that roughly 1/3 of all searches in some sense go unanswered. People search for something and then don’t click on a search result. So the obvious question is which search engine is doing the best job from a “search fulfillment” standpoint?
It then answers:
Yahoo! pretty much takes the cake on this one with about 75% of searches performed on Yahoo! in August resulted in a referral. By comparison, searches on Google result in a referral about 65% of the time and searches on MSN/Live result in a referral about 59% of the time. Lower search fulfillment numbers mean that on a percentage basis fewer search queries on that engine resulted in the searcher clicking on a result link. So from this perspective one might consider Yahoo! more effective at getting consumers the results they want.
I can imagine that these results have to do with any number of contextual issues – do people who use Yahoo search exclusively, for example, have habits that Google searchers do not? For example, I wonder if folks who do tons and tons of searches each day – the most high volume, hard core users of search – might be Google users, and also might use Google the way I do – very iteratively, in other words, I try a lot of query strings till I get the one I want, then I drill down.
Just a thought. When I see studies like this, I tend to not buy the obvious conclusion. That’s not to say it might not be true, but it strikes me more is most likely in play here than meets the eye.