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Is Yahoo Gaining on Google? Maybe, But Maybe Not for You

Back in November, Mozilla and Yahoo announced a new partnership that could bring an end to the tyranny of Google. Okay, that's quite the overstatement, but the news that Yahoo was replacing Google as the default search engine in Firefox did have a potential impact on the world of search—and a potential impact on website owners.

So just how big was the impact of this new partnership? Well, that depends who you ask.

According to StatCounter, Yahoo now has its highest US search share in five years. StatCounter's December report has Yahoo with a 10.4% search share, up from 8.6% in November and 7.4% in December 2013. Yahoo's gain was Google's loss. The search engine behemoth dropped from 77.3% to 75.2%.

statcounter 2014 compImage Credit

More Yahoo Traffic?

Of course, this doesn't necessarily mean your website is getting more traffic from Yahoo. Whether or not you are seeing more visits from Yahoo will depend on a variety of factors:

  • The browser share of your potential users
  • The browsing habits of your potential users
  • Your search performance in various search engines
  • The search engine loyalty of your potential users

If you are in an industry where not many of your potential visitors are using Firefox, then you likely haven't experienced much change at all. After all, this is a browser-specific issue here. Your Chrome users probably aren't conducting more Yahoo searches right now.

In an effort to get a more thorough understanding of the impact of the Yahoo-Mozilla deal, I dug into the Analytics for several websites, taking a close look at the organic search share of the top three search engines during December 2013, November 2014, and December 2014. The results led me to one sweeping conclusion, but let's look at the data first.

Site #1

December 2013November 2014December 2014
Google78.17%82.68%80.64%
Yahoo5.06%4.97%6.31%
Bing15.50%11.18%11.85%
Firefox7.69%7.43%8.23%

The first site saw a decrease this month in Google share and an increase in Yahoo share consistent with StatCounter's findings, as well as an increase in Firefox users during December 2014.

Site #2

December 2013November 2014December 2014
Google83.62%85.86%85.12%
Yahoo6.95%6.50%7.42%
Bing7.99%6.62%6.48%
Firefox7.56%6.52%6.67%

The second site also saw a gain from Yahoo, albeit one smaller than StatCounter's data. The drop in Google traffic was negligible.

Site #3

December 2013November 2014December 2014
Google84.64%87.66%88.26%
Yahoo7.03%6.48%6.24%
Bing7.11%4.96%4.58%
Firefox6.06%4.85%4.72%

The third site saw consistent gains from Google and consistent losses from Yahoo and Bing. This site seems completely unaffected by the new Firefox deal.

Site #4

December 2013November 2014December 2014
Google90.60%91.91%90.65%
Yahoo2.39%2.16%2.80%
Bing5.44%4.62%5.56%
Firefox16.61%16.57%16.36%

This one was the most interesting case study by far. Both Yahoo and Bing saw a gain from November to December, but Yahoo's increase was much smaller than what StatCounter's data suggests. What's more interesting here is Google's complete dominance, especially given that this site has a much larger share of Firefox users than the other sites. If any site should have seen an increase in Yahoo traffic, it's this one.

Why would the site with the most Firefox users have the least amount of Yahoo traffic? It could just be that searchers in this industry are more loyal to Google. After all, it only takes a few seconds to switch Firefox's default search engine back to Google.

In all four case studies, Google carried a much larger traffic share than what StatCounter reports—and Yahoo a much smaller.

Conclusions

So what was my main conclusion? Well, Yahoo might be seeing more searches, but it doesn't mean you are getting more traffic from Yahoo.

What does a larger Yahoo search share mean for your site? Maybe nothing, but it should at least serve as a reminder that Google isn't everything. It's important to optimize your website for search engines, not just for Google. But if you had to choose just one...