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Yahoo gains US search share at Google's expense

Yahoo gains US search share at Google's expense

Mozilla's decision to use Yahoo as the default search tool in Firefox is paying off for the Internet company

Gaining the status of default search engine in Firefox is paying off for Yahoo, which has grown its share of the U.S. search market over the last three months while Google's portion has dropped slightly.

Neither Yahoo's gains nor Google's losses were massive, according to Web analytics company StatCounter. In January, Yahoo's share of the U.S. search market rose to 10.9 percent. That's a minor increase from the 10.4 share the struggling Internet company claimed in January and a sizeable jump from the 8.6 percent share it held in November. Last month's gains weren't enough to lift Yahoo past Microsoft Bing, which occupies the second spot with a market share of 12.4 percent for January. That's down slightly from the 12.5 percent share Bing held in December.

Meanwhile, Google maintained its dominant search position, handling 74.8 percent of U.S. searches for January. But that figure marks the first time since July 2008, when StatCounter began tracking global search statistics, that Google's share came in under 75 percent and is the third consecutive month that it's lost U.S. search share. In December, Google commanded a 75.2 share, down from 77.3 percent in November.

Still, the data comes as a small victory for Yahoo, which has faced challenges as it attempts to reinvent itself and increase revenue from online and mobile advertising. The figures show the December move to make Yahoo the default search tool in the Firefox browser is paying off. Google previously had that role.

At the time, questions were raised over whether Firefox users would simply switch back to Google or change to another search engine in Firefox. StatCounter data that looked at U.S. search engine use from Firefox users only showed that not all of them followed that scenario. In January, Yahoo usage on Firefox rose to 28.3 percent from 24.1 percent in December. Those numbers represent huge gains from November, when Yahoo's share was 9.9 percent.

By contrast, the percentage of Google searches run only by Firefox users fell significantly over the last three months. In November, a month before Yahoo dethroned Google as Firefox's default search tool, 81.9 percent of Firefox users used Google for Web searches. That figure decreased to 68 percent in December and lowered to 63.9 percent in January.

Firefox users are entirely responsible for the changes in Yahoo's and Google's U.S. search share, said StatCounter, a Dublin company that measures activity across a range of services like search, social media and OSes. Yahoo's gain and Google's loss were eliminated when Firefox users weren't included, the company said.

For its search engine stats, StatCounter looks at a network of over 3 million websites and tallies every page view that comes from a search engine. The company is not tallying search queries, but rather page referrals from search engines to those sites.

Fred O'Connor writes about IT careers and health IT for The IDG News Service. Follow Fred on Twitter at @fredjoconnor. Fred's e-mail address is fred_o'connor@idg.com

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