Posted February 15, 2008 7:41 pm by with 5 comments

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Dear Heather Hopkins,

I heart you. You and your lovely data.

If you’ll recall, in December, Google lost market share by a minuscule amount. Instantly, the blogosphere abounded with rumors that Google was past its prime, that it was the beginning of the end for their dominance, blah blah blah. Then Silicon Alley Insider posited that students spend less time on their computers in December, therefore it’s only natural that Google, whose audience must surely skew towards students, would suffer the most.

Nice theory, but Hitwise’s stats today shows that the fact just don’t bear the theory out here. You see, while Google is most assuredly more popular among the 18-24 demographic than Yahoo is, the 18-24 demographic makes up a (slightly) greater percentage of Yahoo’s audience. (And overall, Yahoo’s audience is skewed younger than Google’s, which follows a much more normal-shaped distribution.)

I promise you, this is a lot easier to understand than I’m making it sound. How about some lovely hypothetical numbers to illustrate?

Let’s say that there were a million searchers in December. Using Nielsen’s and Hitwise’s numbers to extrapolate for our much much smaller hypothetical world:

  Google Yahoo
Total searchers 548,380 290,897
# of student searchers 98,215 56,231

So, obviously Google has more students using it. Again, using more hypotheticals, let’s say that approximately half of all students stop using search engines in December.

  Google Yahoo
Lost searchers 49,108 28,116
% of searchers lost 8.96% 9.67%

Because a slightly greater proportion of Yahoo’s audience are in the 18-24 (student) demographic, there is a slightly greater impact of decreased student usage. Even if we take into account the fact that Nielsen says that Google searchers perform 37.9 searches and Yahoo searchers perform 22.4 searches, the difference is still extremely negligible, perhaps even less than one thousandth of a percentage point.

So, what’s the point? The point is that students are not the reason why Google lost a tiny amount of market share in December. We may never know the reason why, but odds are good that it was nothing more than a blip on the charts.

  • My parents are old-school and they use whatever their preinstalled browser defaults to. Just so happened to be msn (obviously). I’m convinced the older crowd is on msn for that reason.

  • I’m a parent but would say that the opposite applied with my teenage daughter.

    She and every single one of her friends (or so it seems) are addicted to MSN Messenger and invariable also use MSN as their homepage.

    I imagine that will change though when they start to use the internet for something useful !

  • Hmm…my teenagers don’t use MSN. They are all over google.

  • Surprising to hear. I would have guessed Yahoo’s demographic to be much older.

  • I don’t get good quality searches out of Yahoo. I think google does a better job of finding good content.