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'Google killers?' I don't think so

Competition's alive and well, but an Adweek reads a Forrester Research report wrong. Google's still Numero Uno in search by a wide margin.

Adweek is hyperventilating about the results of a new Forrester Research report, leading with the headline, "There's Still Room for Google Killers, study says."

Actually, it says no such thing. If you don't believe me, check with the analyst who wrote the report. (I did.)

"Yeah, I'm definitely not trying to say that the 'nascent search field is wide open,'" Shar VanBoskirk told me in an e-mail. "I do agree that the search field is young and still growing, but Google has a far, far lead over others, in terms of both consumer search use and search-advertising spend."

Forrester Research

The point of her research was to demonstrate to marketers that they should be advertising on more than just Google and that they can actually target specific users on different types of search engines, she added.

Fair enough, but that's a world removed from what Adweek reports.

Not surprisingly, Google is quite content with the impression being left on a too easily impressed press. Little wonder about that. The last thing the search giant wants is anything that fosters the impression of a so-called Google monoculture on the Internet. Last Saturday's malware glitch, however brief, only fed into the meme that Google's too big and pervasive.

Not that Google expects antitrust headaches. CEO Eric Schmidt, who informally counseled Barack Obama on tech policy, also was on the presidential transitional advisory board prior to Inauguration Day.

Besides, from a technology perspective, what's the cost of switching from one Internet browser to another? Google has also made it relatively painless to port data to rival services. But with a new administration looking for dragons to slay, who needs conspiracy theorists taking to the cyberbarricades, screaming about monopoly power? So it is that Google must have especially welcomed the Adweek (mis)report.

VanBoskirk's larger point about the fickleness of search loyalty is correct. Other sites may be better at finding certain things. However, she is not claiming that Google's domination of U.S. Internet search is in imminent trouble. Here's what she actually concluded:

  • Consumers are still not loyal to a single engine. But Google still enjoys the most exclusivity--20 percent of all searchers use only Google on a weekly basis.
  • Google's lead has grown from 41 percent three years ago to 59 percent.
  • Twenty-one percent of consumers use Yahoo as their primary search engine. But consider this: while 53 percent of consumers who set Yahoo as their home page most frequently select Yahoo for search, 91 percent of consumers who set Google as their home page most frequently use Google for search.
  • MSN remains a distant No. 3, with 3 percent of consumers using the service as their primary search engine.

Draw your own conclusion from the evidence. But "Google killers?" I don't think so.