*Google* may be the undisputed king of search — but that doesn’t keep the average user from trying *Yahoo*, *Microsoft* or even Ask on a daily basis, as new Forrester Research found that just 20 percent of searchers use Google (NSDQ: GOOG) exclusively. The survey of more than 4,800 searchers also found that people thought Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT) and Yahoo (NSDQ: YHOO) were better engines for news, finance and media content; Yahoo also trumped Google when it came to the site users identified as their home page.
According to Adweek, the findings represent an opportunity — albeit a slim one — for Google’s challengers to chip away at its dominance by targeting users in areas other than core search. And judging from the product launches and announcements this week, the competitors are clued in to the benefits of said strategy:
More after the jump.
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– *Yahoo*: Yahoo rolled out Search Pad, a tool that lets users keep track of the sites they visit during an ongoing search; the idea is to eliminate the need to track their research with another program like Microsoft Word, or even jotting down notes on a sheet of paper. Currently in beta, Search Pad picks up where the now shuttered Google Notebook left off; VentureBeat notes that there are thriving alternatives like Zoho and Evernote, but Search Pad’s integration with Yahoo Search gives it a pre-established user base.
— Ask: Facing decreased traffic and user retention, IAC (NSDQ: IACI) plans to shift Ask.com’s focus yet again — this time to vertical search. “The strategy for Ask is…to not go frontally against the larger competitor, Google,” CEO Barry Diller said, per ClickZ. “We’re going after vertical sites that give us traffic and give users a taste of a better experience so they’ll come back.” Building on its partnership with NASCAR to power search on Nascar.com, the company will roll out around 10 similar relationships this year, though no details on which verticals were given.
— *Microsoft*: The company is trying to woo Valentine’s Day shoppers with additional cashback promos on gifts from partners like FTD, Organic Bouquet and even online jeweler Blue Nile; it’s also highlighting its Farecast travel search engine through a Spring Break forecast, showing that flight and hotel price points are down 15 percent year-over-year. Campaigns like these could help Microsoft gain a foothold in the e-commerce and travel search niches; the efforts also propel the company in its battle for second-place with *Yahoo*.