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Monday, August 8, 2005

Research: Search Engine Result Overlap Lower Than Previously Estimated

Posted by @ 1:16 am

Dogpile, together with Penn State and the University of Pittsburgh, released new research on search engine overlap last week.

The researchers looked at a random sample of queries and compared the overlap of results between the four major search engines Google, Yahoo!, MSN and Ask Jeeves.

Only 1.1% of the total first page results were identical across all four search engines; a whopping 84.9% of total first page results were unique to only one of the engines (11.4% were shared by any two, 2.6% were shared by any three of the four search engines).

Looking at the individual search engines, the level of uniqueness of first page results is high, but varies:

  • Unique to Ask Jeeves: 73.9% of Ask Jeeves first page results
  • Unique to Yahoo!: 71.2% of Yahoo! first page results
  • Unique to MSN Search: 70.8% of MSN first page results
  • Unique to Google: 66.4% of Google first page results

The overlap for paid search ads was similarly low. In about 15% of cases, search queries that returned paid ads on Google didn’t even return any ads on Yahoo! and vice versa.

What does this mean? Searchers who only use one search engine are not seeing a lot of Web content that is very visible in other search engines. Likewise, marketers who only focus on optimizing for one search engine are ignoring vast quantities of potential traffic from other search engines.

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