Microsoft’s group of sites has edged ahead of Yahoo! to claim the second highest number of unique visitors on the internet, according to a ComScore announcement released on December 22nd. Google, as expected, is still holding on to the first place spot.

Drawing on November’s data, comScore reported that Microsoft’s sites had received 175,499,000 unique visitors, a slim margin ahead of Yahoo’s 174,481,000 during the same timeframe. It’s interesting to note that according to these numbers, Google isn’t that far ahead of Microsoft.

These numbers don’t tell the whole story, especially from a search engine marketing perspective:

  • The data above is based on total search traffic across all sites and can be inflated by what’s called “contextual search” (especially in Yahoo’s case).
  • Contextual search entails that certain situations which wouldn’t normally be considered searches by common standards, such as when a user flips through a slideshow or interacts with a map, are still counted as searches.
  • This is distinct from what is being called “explicit core search” which resembles what most users would consider a real search: typing terms into a search engine.
  • Explicit core search is of course most relevant to a business’ marketing interests, as getting “downstream” traffic from search engines is crucial for sales and brand awareness.
  • As far as explicit core search goes, Google still has a commanding lead over Bing or Yahoo for referrer traffic.

Bing is the search engine to watch when considering market share fluctuations:

  • Bing is threatening to pass Yahoo! in comScore’s November Search Engine Rankings Report. This report offers a clearer understanding of how much each search engine may contribute to organic or PPC search traffic.
  • Bing has been consistently drawing market share away from Yahoo! in the past months and is also slightly affecting Google’s reign at the top.
  • The addition of Bing search on the Xbox platform should provide a further boost to Microsoft’s search engine traffic grab.