Research group comScore has made some fairly major-looking changes to the way it measures search engines’ market share, by including ‘cross-channel searches’ and queries made on third party sites.

But the move won’t have given any cheer to Google’s main rivals – it is still way out in the lead.

Reporting its ‘core search rankings’ for July, the company said Google attracted 55.2% of searches by US web users in the month, up from 54.9% in June and 46.2% in July 2006.

Yahoo!, meanwhile, declined from 23.8% in June to 23.5% in July, while Microsoft raised its share slightly, from 12.2% to 12.3%.

Yahoo!, according to Bloomberg, blamed its fall on the measurement changes, saying it has a weaker third party programme than Google.

comScore’s move is the latest in a string of changes by web research groups in the past few months - they hope to fend off scepticism from some quarters and modernise how they report usage of search engines and websites.

Nielsen//NetRatings said in July that it would adopt the time users spend on sites as a key metric – although Andy Beal has since pointed out the problems of doing so. comScore also rejigged its site metrics earlier this year.

Announcing the launch its new ‘qSearch 2.0’ service, the company said it would also start using data from more sources to pull together reports for its clients, and that they would be able to tell whether queries had been made on a search engine, a browser’s URL box, a downloaded search toolbar, a local search site or a search engine’s partner site. 

Its reports will now look at:

  • The five major search engines.
  • International search engines, with individual reporting for the US, UK, Canada, Mexico, France, Germany, Japan, China and Korea.
  • The top 50 web properties where search activity takes place, such as MySpace and Baidu.
  • Major vertical and local search engines.
  • Searches initiated at sites that redirect visitors to search engines.

The company added:

“Previously, the search universe was defined as searches occurring at the major web search engines. With search becoming a more ubiquitous activity across the web, comScore is expanding the market view of the search universe to encompass other searches that occur on the internet.”