Study: Google challenges Yahoo as top search engine

Search-engine technologies were among the first services to appear on the Internet, and their popularity continues today. More searches continue to be performed through Yahoo's Web portal, but Google's site is quickly closing in on the leader.

Of all search referrals worldwide, 36.35 per cent come from Yahoo, while Google trails close behind with 31.87 per cent, according to figures from market researcher WebSideStory Inc., which released the results of a tracking study by its StatMarket division Tuesday.

Microsoft Corp.'s MSN network placed third with 12.73 per cent of worldwide search referrals.

StatMarket defined search referrals as "the percentage of daily Internet users that arrive at a Web page via a particular search site," it said in a statement. The study data was gathered from the 125,000 client sites that use the Hitbox Web analysis services from WebSideStory, which attract 50 million daily Internet users, said a WebSideStory spokeswoman. The company used cookies -- small software programs stored on a user's computer -- and tags in a client Web site's code to gather the search referral data, she said.

Google is one of the few search engines that focuses just on search technology, unlike Yahoo and MSN, which feature broad categories of services and features. Google also provides the back-end technology for searches conducted through Yahoo and Netscape Communications Corp.'s site, although only searches originating from Google's site are included in the statistics above.

While Yahoo's search engine numbers are declining, the company does enjoy a leading presence in several Internet categories, including finance, music and personal Web page services. Despite the strength of its brand, the company has struggled with sustaining profitability, and now charges fees for services that were previously free, including a premium search service.

The two companies are headed in different directions, according to WebSideStory: Search engine referrals from Google have risen from 1 percent in June of 2000 to the current level, while Yahoo's numbers have dropped from 46 percent of all referrals in the same time frame.

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