It's a search party that never ends.

Internet traffic tracker comScore is out with fresh data on the search engine market. Yes, Google's (NASDAQ:GOOGL) still the top dog, but it's becoming an interesting race globally after that.

Let's take a look at the five top search engines worldwide in terms of search queries fulfilled through December according to a new comScore qSearch report, as retold last night by Search Engine Watch.

  • Google -- 114.73 billion search queries
  • Baidu (NASDAQ:BIDU)-- 14.5 billion
  • Yahoo! (NASDAQ: YHOO) -- 8.63 billion
  • Yandex (NASDAQ:YNDX)-- 4.844 billion
  • Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT)-- 4.477 billion

Searching for clues
Baidu is China's leading player, and serving up the majority of search requests in the world's most populous nation -- and now, the world's largest nation in terms of Internet users -- is huge. It's enough to be make Baidu the undisputed silver medalist.

Yahoo! may not seem to be much of a force. Microsoft's Bing serves up the site's search results domestically. However, Yahoo! is still a force in many overseas markets, including Japan, where it's the leading player.

Yandex has now passed up Bing for fourth place, and that's understandable. Yandex, like Baidu, is a company growing faster than the search market, as its Eastern European stronghold is still early in the cyberspace migrating cycle.

Don't expect the positions to change for some time. Yandex will gain ground on Yahoo!, and Baidu will gain ground on Google, but the leads are substantial at this point.

Paying attention to the search market is important for investors. This remains the juiciest online niche. Paid search offers an easy model for monetization, and the margins are chunky. Microsoft is the only company of the five that is currently not profitable with its online business, but that's only because Mr. Softy is investing in several different growth areas.

Search matters. You don't need to look that up.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.