Google grabs 78 per cent of UK search market

New data reveals that the Google and Yahoo share of the UK search market is growing, driving up the level of referrals from search engines to retail websites.

According to online competitive intelligence company Hitwise UK, Google dominated the search market, accounting for 78 per cent of UK internet searches in the four weeks to October 21st 2006, up nine per cent year-on-year. In a distant second place was Yahoo with just 7.7 per cent of the search market. Together Google, Yahoo, MSN and Ask account for 96.6 per cent of all UK internet searches, up two per cent year-on-year.

The Hitwise data also revealed that the growth came mainly from e-commerce searches, with the biggest rise seen in the insurance sector with the 14 per cent growth in the past six months. This was followed by appliances and electronics, which grew by nine per cent, while the travel agency sector saw a rise of seven per cent in the last six months.

"Consumers are increasingly using search engines to navigate the web, increasing the importance of search engines as a source of referrals for retailers," said Heather Hopkins, vice president of research for Hitwise UK. "Google and Yahoo in particular are seeing strong growth in their share of the UK search market and their share of referrals to online retailers. Growth for these search engines seems to be organic, driven in part by toolbar usage but also growing familiarity with the Google and Yahoo brands."

Many of the major retailers are spending heavily on the search engines to capitalise on the growth, yet the top 10 players in the travel agencies, appliances and electronics, and insurance industries receive a relatively small proportion of their search traffic from paid listings. in particular stands out as a top 10 player with a larger proportion of its own traffic coming from search engines (54 per cent in the week to October 21st 2006) but a relatively low share (29 per cent of its search traffic) from paid listings.

Organic listings are also helping many other major companies achieve huge audiences. Many of the leading UK websites receive little to no search traffic from paid listings. MySpace, Bebo and the BBC all receive less than one per cent of their search traffic from paid listings. Hitwise analysis reveals that whilst there appears to be no indication that paid search is a defining factor for a top ranking based on share of internet visits, leading retailers tend to engage in at least some paid search activity.