This article was published on June 11, 2010

Yahoo! and Microsoft join forces to artificially pad their search share.

Yahoo! and Microsoft join forces to artificially pad their search share.
Brad McCarty
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Brad McCarty

A music and tech junkie who calls Nashville home, Brad is the Director TNW Academy. You can follow him on Twitter @BradMcCarty. A music and tech junkie who calls Nashville home, Brad is the Director TNW Academy. You can follow him on Twitter @BradMcCarty.

The numbers don’t lie…or do they?  According to some insight, apparently the increased search share for Bing and Yahoo! isn’t entirely what it’s cracked up to be.

Business Insider has the scoop about the May search numbers, showing a net increase for both MSFT and YHOO (0.85% and 2.79% respectively).  Should be cut and dried, no?

Well, no.  Not exactly.

You see, there are ways to increase search numbers.  We’ve known about various ones for quite some time, but Ben Schachter from Broadpoint AmTech brings up the talk of old dogs and old tricks.

According to Schachter (and this is a bit in depth, but take your time and read it, because it’s important):

“While these numbers are correct on an apples-to-apples basis (in the sense that certain types of searches – e.g. contextual shortcuts and slide-shows – are being counted consistently across properties), the trending data for which we think comScore is most useful shows a different picture.

On an adjusted basis…we estimate YHOO’s share declined roughly 30 bps m/m in May to 16.6%, while MSN’s share was flat m/m at approximately 10.8%. GOOG, after a small data collection adjustment to the April data, appears to have gained roughly 30 bps of share in May to 66.4%.”

You get what he’s saying?  In a nutshell, what this means is that either comScore’s ranking data needs to be changed, or Bing and Yahoo! need to have their hands slapped for exploiting.

That’s right folks.  In this case, the numbers are indeed lying.  But the question again comes down to who is to blame?  comScore needs to clear things up, but is it really comScore’s fault that Bing and Yahoo! are exploiting the loophole?

On the bigger picture, this comes down to outright theft.  Make no mistake, Yahoo! and Bing are perfectly aware of what these slide shows and other types of searches are doing.  So to put these out, knowing what it will do to results, is a fallacy being thrown into the faces of shareholders.

The honestly sad part of this?  Bing is a great service.  It’s not my personal search of choice, but it is very good.  There’s really no need to try to inflate numbers.  If the results that you’re getting from honest numbers aren’t good enough, then do something different.

With Yahoo! on the cusp of having full Bing integration by the holidays, it’s likely that we’re going to continue to see some false inflation until either comScore or someone else raises enough of a stink about it.  And after that integration is complete?  Heaven help comScore if something hasn’t been changed by then.

Update: comScore has already addressed the issue, and is working on ways to resolve it.  In a late night blog post, Cameron Meierhoefer from comScore had the following to say:

…the continued evolution of search and emerging innovations in how it is used to enhance user experience, calls for a thoughtful review of how we classify various types of searches, count them and report them. We want to ensure that we provide comprehensive and flexible measurement that meets the needs of the various constituencies in the digital marketplace. As our thinking evolves, we will include relevant stakeholders in the discussion and clearly communicate our thinking and rationale to the marketplace.

Cheers to Dan Frommer from Business Insider, both for bringing up the issue, and also for giving us a heads up on comScore’s response.

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