Search engine landscape in Israel

Israel’s main language (a.k.a. Hebrew) is a great challenge to search engines engineers and marketers, simply because of the fact that it’s written from right to left with funny letters and impossible grammar.

In this post, I’ll try to review the biggest players in Israel, based on TGI/TNS surveys conducted in Israel in June 2005 and December 2005 (We’re expecting a new survey next June).

Let’s get to business:
I hope it isn’t a huge disappointment but the number one site in Israel is…

1. Google.co.il – Google’s Israeli version leads with 73.3% weekly exposure among Israeli web visitors as to the Dec 2005 survey, this expresses an increase referring the previous survey (66.4% in June 2005).
Google opened a business center in Israel in September 2005, managed by Meir Brand, a former senior manager in Microsoft. The R&D rumors came with no delay and earlier this year Google announced on opening a development center in Israel, managed by Dr. Yoelle Maarek, a respected senior researcher and developer from IBM. Google Israeli Jobs are listed here .

2. Walla.co.il– The biggest content portal in Israel providing directory services, strong search engine (based on FAST + Hebrew customization), mail and recently even a paying system. Weekly exposure in Dec 2005: 61.2%, June 2005: 57.3%.

3. ynet.co.il – Israel’s biggest NewsPaper (Yediot Ahronot), The site don’t have an In-house search, their search is currently based on Nana.co.il (see later), 44.3% weekly exposure in Dec 2005, similar numbers last June.

4. Hotmail/MSN – aggregated for MS services, including msn.co.il which is partly owned by Microsoft and Partly by the Israeli ISP Internet Gold. Weekly exposure in Dec 2005: 37.4%, June 2005: 35.8%

5. nana.co.il – biggest ISP (Netvision) portal, Dec 2005: 29.6%, June 2005: 30.6%.

6. nrg.co.il – Israel’s 2nd biggest newspaper (MAARIV), 22.5% in Dec 2005, 21.8% in June.

7. tapuz.co.il – Tapuz means Orange in Hebrew, A very veteran web portal with lots of communities and thousands of members, 19.7% / 19.6% .

8. yahoo.com – opposed to Google and MSN, yahoo hadn’t started activity in Israel (Yet) nor in Hebrew , but are very known for their Yahoo! mail and other popular services. 16.7% in December 2005, 16.3% in June 2005.

9. one.co.il – a popular sport portal, Israelis excel in sports narrating and viewing, not quite as good in practicing sports per se, ;-) 15.6% in December 2005, 12.6% in June 2005.

10. d.co.il – Israel’s Yellow Pages and business directory with a weekly exposure of 11.7% in December and 11.2% in June 2005.

These are Israel’s current big ten and as you can see Google, MSN and Yahoo (despite the lack of a Hebrew version) are in it.
Google’s dominancy is very clear and ASK got zero recognition in Israel.

Most of the Google searches are conducted on the Israeli Google.co.il version, mainly due the auto geo-targeting redirect that google uses in order to serve the user a local based version, from my inventory of logs I can say that Hebrew sites get about 90% of google traffic from google.co.il and the rest (10%) from google.com and other TLD’s.

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