RealTime IT News

Study: Top Four Search Sites Dominate E-Commerce

The top four search sites on the Internet are where most consumers go for referrals to shopping sites, according to a new study from Web analytics company WebSideStory.

The San Diego-based company's research unit, StatMarket, found that Google was the top place for shopping referrals, generating 27 percent. Yahoo! came in just behind Google with 26 percent, followed by MSN (24 percent) and AOL NetFind (16 percent). The study has implications for online marketers, in that it indicates that they may seek to spend the bulk of their search engine marketing budgets to court the most significant players.

The study was based on visitor data culled on Dec. 1 from more than 6,000 retailers using WebSideStory's HitBox tracking product. The data was compared to that collected on the same day last year.

"More than ever, there's the haves and have-nots on the Web," said Geoff Johnston, StatMarket's vice president for product marketing. "Retailers recognize in general there are four search engines that matter and everything else is really small returns."

And chief among those mattering is Google, which is wrapping up an impressive year. According to StatMarket, Google added 8.7 percent to eke out the top spot over Yahoo!, whose referral share dropped more than 15 percent from last year, when it had 41 percent of all referrals. MSN also added market share, growing its share of referrals 8.7 percent.

"What we're finding is for a long time everyone used Yahoo! and was killing the market, Johnston said. "For the last year, Google has continued to rise and rise."

Johnston pointed out that Google is even more central to e-commerce, since its algorithmic search results are used by Yahoo!.

StatMarket estimates that 8 to 10 percent of referrals to e-commerce sites come from search engines. Search providers have capitalized on this trend by supplying keyword-based advertising.

Since entering the paid listings market early this year, Google has made quite a splash. The company has taken away key contracts with EarthLink and AOL from market leader Overture, which maintains paid-listing deals with Yahoo! and MSN. Recently, Google and Overture have taken their fight abroad, fighting for contracts with Freeserve in Britain and Yahoo! Japan.

Pay-for-performance search has emerged as a key driver of online advertising's growth. Recent research from eMarketer found that spending on paid listings last year grew 144 percent, to $301.9 million.