Thursday, 9 April 2009

Should you optimise for more than one search engine?

Have been reading a very interesting SEO theory blog by Michael Martinez, who said that we should distinguish between the number of searches done by each search engine and the number of individual visitors to the search engines.

He wrote an article quoting figures from Quantcast showing that in Dec 2008, there were about 103 million US visitors to Live/Search.msn and 136 million US visitors to Google. Google's share of the total visitors is about 33%, and Live/Search/msn's is about 22%.

Now lots of people are reporting that in the total number of searches, (as opposed to visitors), Google handles some 67%-70%. He thinks this is because people use Google for other things than search (eg to check spellings, perform calculations, find phone numbers), but these are not things that result in click throughs to websites. Also, the SEO community uses Google resources heavily, bombarding the search engine with automatic tools that are trying to find out where in the listing certain pages are. A good number of searches on Google are just down to these tools making queries.

I decided to have a look at Quantcast for myself. For Feb 2008, Quantcast is showing 109.2 million US visitors to live, 141.1 million US visitors to Google and 125 million US visitors to Yahoo.

Which means that Yahoo plus MSN/Live have 234.2 million visitors, overwhelming Google.

Martinez also says you should look at the demographics of your own site before deciding which search engine to target. On another post, by way of illustration he showed the top ten searches on Yahoo for 2008 and Google for 2008. They were different. Yahoo was heavily celeb oriented (the only non-celebrity on their list was Barack Obama). Google showed a more tech based audience - in their top ten was the iphone and Facebook.

This struck a chord with me - my Sarkozy hubpage is getting a lot of hits from Yahoo, but the Get out of debt page is getting hits from Google.

The Quantcast profiles provide fascinating information about what pages visitors to the respective search engines also visit. MSN people seem to like visiting Fox Sports, Newsweek and PC World. Yahoo people seem to be visiting Ebay, paypal, recruitment websites, plus dating sites like and Google visitors are into lyrics, cartoons and reference sites such as

My head is absolutely buzzing with this. Of course it makes sense to optimise your site for the engine that delivers the best demographic. But it's hard to get onto MSN/Live or Yahoo. Google is kinder to the little guy. You start a blog and they will index it and feature it for at least a day, to give you a chance to make an impact (later they may drop you, but at least they gave you your initial chance). The other serach engines don't seem to like the little site and only give you traffic once you are really established.

Getting back to my problem of getting targetted traffic to my hubs - maybe I shouldn't be worrying too much about dating ads on my Sarkozy hub, if Yahoo visitors like both celebs and dating sites. Maybe Adsense served up the right sites after all...

My next step is to try to find out how to optimise for Yahoo and MSN when I'm targeting the type of demographics they deliver.

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