In a timely follow-up to Alex Iskold's thought-provoking piece on Google being The Ultimate Money Making Machine, Hitwise has released stats today that reinforce Google's dominance in the search engine market - at least in the USA, the leading market still. Hitwise says that Google accounted for 64 percent of all US searches in the four weeks ending March 31, 2007. Their main competitors were far behind: Yahoo! Search got 22%, MSN Search 9% and 3%. The remaining 48 search engines in the Hitwise Search Engine Analysis Tool accounted for 5 percent of U.S. searches. Note to Hitwise: check out Charles Knight's Top 100 Alt Search Engine list for a further 48 search engines (4 + 48 + 48) to add to your list ;-)

Here are the charts from Hitwise, with a bit of commentary below each...

This chart clearly shows Google is continuing to grow it's search market lead - up from 58% this time last year to 64% this year. MSN is the main loser in this, dropping from 13% to 9% over the past year. It's not impossible to think that Google may end up with an Internet Explorer-like dominance in search within a couple of years.

Hitwise notes in its press release that "search engines continue to be the primary way Internet users navigate to key industry categories." We've noted on Read/WriteWeb a number of times that vertical search is one area in which Google could be successfully challenged. However, Hitwise's data says that Google has in fact increased its share of vertical search traffic - by 20%+ in 4 cases (see last column in above table). What's going on here? Clearly there are many impressive best of breed vertical search engines - e.g., a shopping search engine that R/WW author Sramana Mitra gave very high marks to this week. Yet they don't seem to be stopping the Google juggernaught in vertical search categories. Personally I'd like to see more data though, on the growth (or otherwise) of vertical SE like TheFind, Kayak in travel, Retrevo in electronics, etc.