Billions served: PC search is down but query volume is way up for Google

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Writing about search market share on the desktop is now a bit like writing about old cars. It’s sort of interesting but less and less relevant. For reasons that remain mysterious, comScore has neglected to provide a unified view of the search marketplace — despite the fact that likely between 55 and 60 percent of search queries now come from mobile devices.

July desktop search rankings in the US reflect the following distribution, according to comScore:

search share July 2016

For comparison, the following are the comScore numbers from July 2015:

  • Google Sites — 64.0%
  • Microsoft Sites — 20.4%
  • Yahoo Sites — 12.7%
  • Ask Network — 1.8%
  • AOL — 1.2%

Essentially, all parties have lost incremental share except for Bing, which has gained 1.5 points. Depending on your perspective, this could be spun as trivial or part of Bing’s long, slow climb to meaningful desktop search market share.

PC query volumes peaked on the desktop in 2013. However, in mobile, Google commands roughly 94 percent of the market, according to StatCounter, which may not be entirely representative but certainly gives us a directional indication of where things stand.

Mobile search market share in US (percent)

Mobie search share

Data: StatCounter

An interesting question, then, is what Google’s total query volume is, combining PC and mobile web. Operating under the assumption that 55 percent of Google’s queries are mobile — extrapolating from comScore desktop query figures — here’s what I estimate Google’s current search volume distribution looks like:

Estimated US Google search queries: July 2016 (billions)

total google search queries

Data: StatCounter

Accordingly, it’s safe to say that while PC search volumes are flat to declining, Google is seeing vastly more queries overall because of its dominance of the mobile search market. On a global basis, Google is processing something in excess of two trillion search queries per year.

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