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AOL Search : Growth, Technology, Major Player in 2007?

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AOL Search : Growth, Technology, Major Player in 2007?

I’ve been spending my mornings over the past two weeks on the local gym’s bike or cross training machines with one eye glued to the TV and the other to the timer counting down. On some days the televisions hanging from the ceiling are playing ESPN Sportscenter, which makes my workout go by quite quickly.

On other days, I’m subjected to Alex de Large style Ludovico technique torture, forced to watch episodes of Regis & Kelly or the View… on those days the workout seems much longer.

What does this have to do with search & AOL?

I’ve noticed that on the days the television system is serving Regis & Kelly that on almost every commercial break I do enjoy a brief sign of relief and comfort, in the form of AOL Search commercials.

New Free AOL

The AOL commercial is geared towards the female, perhaps married female, demographic and heavily promoting AOL Search, their OpenRide application, and multimedia search – the cornerstone of AOL proprietary search technology.

Sure, AOL Web Search is powered by Google, but AOL has taken the core Google results and put together a more enhanced user experience for its searchers, with integrated AOL information, snapshots, and the company seems to be banking on its new ease of search and web usability angle. They layout their new message from their TV commercials at the page discover.aol.com.

But did you also know that AOL could be on the verge of knocking MSN / Windows Live Search out of the #4 position in the search market share charts?

Larry Dignan of ZDNet (not of BottleRocket) recently looked at the Nielsen NetRatings charts and how AOL Search grew 11% over the past year to a 6.2% share of the search market. Windows Live however fell in usage by 12%, to an 8.2% share of the market.

Is AOL on the verge of becoming #4 in the search market field? If they keep on doing what they’re doing in terms of search technologies and the opening of their web networks and growth (yes, for the first time in a long time AOL is actually growing)… then yes, AOL becoming more popular than Live.com could be a reality.

Table 1: Top 10 Search Providers for November 2006,
Ranked by Searches (U.S.)
Searches YOY Share of
Provider (000) Growth Searches

Google Search 3,097,838 31% 49.5%
Yahoo! Search 1,518,249 27% 24.3%
MSN/Windows Live Search 515,526 -12% 8.2%
AOL Search 389,577 11.0% 6.2%
Ask.com Search 159,586 33% 2.6%

So, will Yahoo acquire AOL in 2007? I’ll go out on a limb and say no, but I do foresee AOL becoming more of a major web and search player in 2007, especially if their current advertising campaigns and openings of their content result in more user adoption of the AOL system.

If anything, expect AOL to be a success story in 2007… in a turnaround similar to what we saw (and are seeing) from Ask.com in 2005/2006.

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Loren Baker

Loren Baker is the Founder of SEJ, an Advisor at Alpha Brand Media and runs Foundation Digital, a digital marketing ... [Read full bio]

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