Who, What and When? – Profiling Google, Yahoo and Bing search demographics
Google is the most used search engine in the world, hands down. If you are a digital marketer then choosing Google as the focus of your activity would be the obvious choice… or is it?
Does your target audience use Google, or are Bing users a better match? What are the market conditions, are they changing? When should a marketing message be delivered, is there a preferred time or day? Understanding these questions within your strategy could help identify opportunities and could make all the difference to a successful search marketing campaign.
Digital marketers tend to have preconceived notions of the demographics of users of search engines Google, Bing and Yahoo. As we have access to analytics data for a number of websites with a vast global audience, we thought we’d crunch the (anonymised) numbers and discover the truth for ourselves.
By comparing each user base to the overall population we can see the differing characteristics of users who are searching on the worlds major search engines, and whilst we’re at it provide some insight into time of day usage too.
The data provided below is free for you to use for your own purposes, we simply ask that you provide attribution (licensed under CC BY 4.0)
As with any analysis, there are caveats. If you would like to read ours, please jump down to the Analysis Notes section at the end of the article.
What’s the most popular search engine?
Tip: Hover your mouse over each of the graphs and maps to see detailed data
Global percentage of visits 2015:
Global percentage of visits 2014:
Global percentage of visits 2013:
Globally for 2015, Google dominates the web sending 83% of the total organic visitors to the websites we analysed. Bing sends 7%, Yahoo sends 5% and all others sending 5%. If this was a race then Google would have lapped Bing and Yahoo about 7 times. Despite its overwhelming domination, it is still growing year-on-year gaining an additional 1% in 2015 vs 2014.
What’s the most popular search engine by country?
Percentage of Visits by Country 2015:
The chart above shows that Google has taken over the world of search, however, when we look at the states, Canada and United kingdom these have proportionally more Bing and Yahoo users. This influx of alternative search engine users has a significant impact on user profiles which will be discussed later on.
The Who – User demographics of Google, Bing and Yahoo
Understanding the characteristics of Bing and Yahoo users will allow tailoring of specific messages for particular keywords, understanding which search engines may perform better via PPC advertising, or which search engines to focus on for organic search marketing.
The data below has been analysed using Indexing; that is to say that each data set shows how the users of each search engine differ from the overall population.
- If the value is greater than zero, it means that specific trait is more common than the ‘average’
- If the value is less than zero, the converse is true; that specific trait is under-represented on that particular search engine vs the average online audience.
By analysing the data in this way, we can show the differences in demographics between different search engines, whilst avoiding being mislead by the general demographics of online users.
Index of Gender:
When compared to the overall population, Bing and Yahoo users are more likely to be female whereas Google users are more likely to be male.
Index of Age:
There is a clear line at middle age that splits Google users to Bing and Yahoo users. Google users are more likely to be younger whereas Bing and Yahoo have a more mature audience.
Index of Interest (taken from Google Analytics interest categories):
Caveat here: Google clearly maintains more data about the search interests of users who routinely use Google than those who also use Bing and Yahoo. Take this analysis with a pinch of salt.
Again Google users and Bing/Yahoo users are really showing their differences. Google seems to have Music Lovers and Gamers whereas Bing and Yahoo share Thrill-Seekers, Bargain Hunters, Pet Lovers, Cooks and the Arts & Theatre enthusiasts. Interestingly, they all share an interest in sport.
Bing and Yahoo are showing their red, white and blue usage bias with a strong interest in American football whereas Google users are showing their European roots with an interest in football (a.k.a soccer). Bing and Yahoo also appear to be dog lovers and bargain hunters.
It is clear that Google, Bing and Yahoo users have different characteristics. Google has a global reach and therefore has a more disparate audience whereas Bing and Yahoo audiences are more localised which shines through when analysing their interests.
The What – Device and Browser Statistics
We now know who is using the search engines but what are they using? This part of the analysis will look at the devices and software users of different search engines prefer.
Index of Browser:
No surprises here. Google users are more likely to use Google Chrome and Bing users are much more likely to use Internet Explorer.
Yahoo users are relatively browser agnostic, more likely to use Internet Explorer, Safari and Firefox. Proportionally, Firefox users have more Yahoo users than Google despite Google being the default search engine for the majority of 2015. Firefox announced in November 2014 that it’s default browser will move to Yahoo, as such, this move has had an impact on Yahoo visitors using Firefox in 2015.
Index of Device:
Is Google the search engine for mobile devices?
Google’s Android and it’s historic affiliation with Apple as the default search engine for Safari has clearly helped Google’s domination of the mobile search world. It sends 86% of mobile traffic to the websites analysed. Bing and Yahoo both have a higher proportion of tablet search users – perhaps the driving force behind Microsoft’s Surface?
There were rumours that Apple’s Safari browser on mobile and desktop devices was switching from Google to Bing as the default search service. However, Google paid Apple a significant amount to keep it as the default browser proofing how important Apple’s traffic is to Google. There are also rumours that Apple may launch its own search engine.
The When – Most popular time for search engine usage
When do users of Google, Bing and Yahoo use these search engines? Do their patterns differ? Well, let’s see:
Percentage of Visits by Hour of Day:
Looking at the percentage of visits over time it appears that all users follow a similar pattern. The majority of activity happens during the waking hours peaking at lunchtime/early afternoon and then drops off in the evening, hitting the lowest point in the early hours. This doesn’t tell us anything that we don’t already know. So let’s dissect it and use indexing to find areas where the users of each search engine vary from the overall population.
Index of Hour of Day:
When dissecting the data we see some very interesting patterns arising. When compared to the overall population Google users are more likely to get to the keyboard after 8pm until midnight whereas Bing and Yahoo users are more likely to use it between 10am to 3pm or during their morning coffee between 4am to 7am.
Percentage of Visits by Day of Week:
This graph shows that user activity is relatively consistent throughout the week. There is a slight peak at Wednesday/Thursday with activity sloping off towards the end of the week – weekends consistently being the days where people are least likely to be conducting online searches in our study. If we look closer we can see the marginal difference between the different types of users, but these are not particularly significant.
Index of Day of Week:
Even though activity is generally consistent, we can see slight differences between the search engines. When compared to the overall population, Yahoo and Bing less likely to be active during the working week, and more active at weekends.
So, is there a preferred time for very focused digital marketing campaigns? The answer to this invariably depends on your own objectives, offering and target audience. If you have a global campaign then be sure to consider the difference in time zones. There are opportunities to target Bing and Yahoo users searching early in the morning or at the weekend and Google users during the week at working hours. But do so with caution as those searching in the morning could just be searching for news stories and have little ‘purchase intent’.
We already know that Google is the dominant player when it comes to organic search but with recent changes to default browsers from Google to Bing and Yahoo, we could soon see a shift in search market share. If you are a small business then there may be an opportunity to carve out a niche on Bing or Yahoo if these suit your target audience; where digital marketers tend to place less emphasis and cost-per-click for PPC advertising can often be cheaper.
This analysis has shown that the characteristics between Google, Bing and Yahoo users can vary. The most significant being gender, age, interest and time of day usage. Understanding these difference and using them as part of your digital marketing strategy could prove fruitful.
But please, be mindful that this analysis was a generalised approach and that the outcome could be very different for your specific website, approach and audience. A proper test and learn approach should always be taken when doing any new marketing activity as otherwise you risk not achieving the best performance possible. If a statistically significant improvement on a test happens and you have complete confidence in the data, only then should a campaign be rolled out.
Do your findings differ from ours? Do you have your own experiences to share? Please let us know in the comments section below.
As with any analysis, there are caveats.
- The first caveat is the data: Website organic search referral traffic, aggregated from Google Analytics accounts with demographic and interests data enabled. A number of websites with a global reach and a mass-market audience were analysed, with over 10 million data points. However, by their nature, the websites analysed had a western world bias, and this is reflected in the data. We’re confident however that there is minimal bias in the aggregate data towards a specific age group, gender or location.
- The vast majority of the traffic analysed was of a B2C nature, with very limited B2B audience. The data will be biased accordingly. If your business is B2B, we advise caution in your interpretation of the data.
- Univariate analysis only looks at one variable at a time and does not take into account other external factors. It has the advantage of being quick and easy to understand and can give you instant insight for each variable in a database. It does not, however, allow insight from one variable to be combined with other variables. For example, if we found that male users were more responsive to a marketing campaign and rainy days have more campaign responses we cannot say that male users on a rainy day will be more responsive; we can only say that males or rainy days are more responsive.
- This data analysis is based on organic search traffic for the whole of 2014 and, where specified, compares this to 2013’s data.
- Don’t take this as gospel. This is a generalised analysis and is not specific to a particular company or campaign. It is designed to highlight, give tips and guidance to start those cogs turning. Any campaign strategy based on this data should be properly tested to see if your findings match ours for your particular target audience.