Search is not the final word for all portal users.
What makes one portal better than another, either for users or for marketers? Or are all portals fundamentally alike, easily exchanged by visitors and advertisers? Further, how does Yahoo! differentiate itself from Google or MSN, for instance?
From the audience point of view, as measured by the American Customer Satisfaction Index, US consumers now express more satisfaction with Yahoo! than Google, Ask.com, MSN or AOL. The ACSI report on e-business Websites is sponsored by ForeSee Results.
"Even more important than Yahoo!'s first lead over Google is the trend of their scores moving in opposite directions," Larry Freed, president/CEO of ForeSee, said in a statement. "We may see a real turnaround for Yahoo! in the next year."
Past performance is not an indicator of future results. But the fact remains that Google is not the be-all and end-all for all users. So which portals are best for reaching which type of user?
Within each portal, the most visited subdomains describe the most popular offerings. A December 2006 Quantcast study showed that for AOL, the most popular application was instant messaging. For MSN and Yahoo!, it was e-mail. If portals are defined as a gateway to another destination, Google might be more pure portal than the other three large sites. Its most popular subdomain is its specialized images search.
So search, communication and content differentiate the top portals. For marketers, choosing the "best" portal depends on who they want to reach and may mean using more than one in the end.
"For most brand-oriented campaigns, a mix of portal placements and focused ad network buys can offer the greatest reach—with the caveat that a good share of the audience might be duplicated across the portal-network combination," said eMarketer senior analyst David Hallerman.
Learn how portals differ in reach. Please read eMarketer's Portal Marketing: The Big Four report.