Yahoo and Google – who has the youngest audience?

[18 Feb 2008]

Heather Hopkins at Hitwise wrote last week Yahoo! Search Draws Younger Audience; Google Users Big Spenders Online (page no longer available). She compared the relative percentage of Google and Yahoo searches by age group and obtained the following results.

Yahoo - Google comparison

She then concludes that:

Yahoo! Search attracts a younger audience than Google.

This follows from comparing at the percentages of younger and older searchers between Google and Yahoo. This chart may make it clearer:

Yahoo - Google

But wait a minute. This is just comparing age group percentages. What about comparing the actual usage figures, based on total hits, for the different age groups and search engines?

I looked at the most recent 50,000 search results for my Interactive Mathematics site. The percentage of search results coming from Google was 87.5%, while from Yahoo it was only 6.2%.

This translates to 43737 Google searches compared to 3093 Yahoo searches. (The remaining 6.3% of searches are from Windows Live, MSN and other assorted bit players.)

Assuming the Hitwise percentages are generally correct, the relative number of search results across different age groups and different search engines is as follows:

Yahoo - Google comparison

Actually, I expect that for my site, the percent of searches would be skewed towards the younger age groups for both search engines since it is an educational site.

It is very clear that young people are choosing to use Google in droves. Yahoo’s market share continues to drop and one can hardly conclude, as Hopkins does, that “Yahoo! Search Draws [a] Younger Audience”.

There were few analytical comments on Hopkins’ post. Over at WebProNews, where Hopkins’ article was quoted, there was quite enthusiastic criticism. One person wrote:

I have never seen such a comparison and such a misleading headline and interpretation.

Well, I don’t know about that – many of Dubya’s headlines and interpretations were pretty misleading, but I agree with the sentiment.

I will not attempt to comment on which search engine attracts the bigger spenders as I do not have data to compare.

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3 Comments on “Yahoo and Google – who has the youngest audience?”

  1. mathmom says:

    When I was an undergraduate, we had a class for math majors entitled “Uses and Abuses of Statistics”. It was very popular, because it was an easy math credit, but it was also very useful. It taught us to be on the lookout for “abuses” like the one you discuss here. (I doubt it was an intentional abuse on the part of the student in this case, but often the effect is intentional, especially where politics may be involved…)

  2. Murray says:

    Hi Mathmom.

    Actually, this wasn’t a student in this case. It was from Hitwise, which is a respected internet stats company.

  3. Peter says:

    This is terrible statistics. How can they draw that conclusion?

    I like the sound of Mathmom’s course – everybody should study such a course.

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