Source : Search Engine Watch

Over the past year, Google took market share from Yahoo and MSN, according to a new report from industry analyst Hitwise. But the increasing popularity of vertical search sites poses a significant threat to all of the major search engines.

The Hitwise report monitored U.S. internet visits to more than 1,900 search and directory web sites between August 2003 and April 2004. Combined, this category accounted for 14% of all internet visits.

During the study period, increased its share of visitors to 15%, while and both lost share, slipping to 29% and 11%, respectively. Factoring in sub-sites such as and, Yahoo’s combined share was 45%, followed by MSN at 19% and Google at 17%. Ask Jeeves, Excite, and iWon were the only three other services to make the top ten, each with about 1% share.

Hitwise also looked at what people search for. MSN Search has the highest percentage of visits from the very lucrative categories of shopping and classifieds, business and finance, and travel. By contrast, Yahoo! Search and Google are stronger in the education, news and media, and entertainment categories.

What specific sites do people visit immediately after using a search engine? For Google, it’s, followed by a number of popular non-Google web sites such as eBay, CNN and the Internet Movie Database (Google news was #3).

Both Yahoo and MSN were more successful in routing visitors to other properties within their own networks. Notably for search marketers who are wavering on renewing their Yahoo directory listing, the most frequently visited site immediately after a Yahoo search was Yahoo’s Directory. The two most frequently visited sites after an MSN search were and, suggesting dissatisfaction with MSN search results.

Though the big three dominate search market share now, vertical search sites experienced strong growth over the past year, most notably in the shopping, classifieds and travel categories. This growth is correlated with a concurrent decrease in referral visits from search engines.

In other words, searchers are becoming more sophisticated, and are learning that general purpose search engines are not always the best choice for every type of search, a mantra that we’ve been chanting here at Search Engine Watch for years.