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The Search Market Isn’t Always What it Seems to Be

No Matter How You Slice it, Bing's Future is Looking Bright

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Like most studies, surveys, and stat counts related to Internet user behavior, search market stats should generally be taken with a grain of salt. While they can give us a general idea of which search engines users flock to, there are too many variables to paint a completely accurate picture.

What’s your search engine of choice? Why? Let us know.

comScore has added an "explicit core search" metric to its search market reporting. The firm defines this as user engagement with a search service with the intent to retrieve search results. In other words – a user searching for something from the search box.

While some may have assumed that was always the case, reports haven’t always reflected actual searches by users only. As Search Engine Land’s Danny Sullivan points out, "Companies such as Yahoo and Microsoft have inflated traditional metrics through the use of ‘slideshows’ and other ‘contextual search’ activities."

"Since March, Yahoo in particular has been gaining notable share by generating searches that many probably wouldn’t consider an actual search," he writes. "For example, someone might be viewing a photo slideshow. Clicking to advance the slide causes a page reload in a way that is counted as a ‘search’ under comScore’s traditional metrics." Sullivan has written several articles related to this, which he lists here.

One interesting piece of information that Sullivan gleaned from an interview with comScore is that they do not take into account map searches across any of the search engines in their core search numbers. This is a significant part of search marketing, particularly for local businesses, and is something to think about. News searches are counted.

comScore’s July numbers for explicit core search (according to JP Morgan, who obtained an early copy) indicate that Google’s share dropped slightly in July from 66.2% to 65.8%. Yahoo’s share increased 17.1% in July from 16.7% in June, and Microsoft’s share stayed flat at 11%. Again, that’s Google down, Yahoo up, and Microsoft flat. That means good things for Bing.

Reasons Why Things Are Looking Up for Bing

Xbox Comes to Windows Phone 7

Windows Phone 7 is on its way to the smartphone market. While it remains to be seen if it can really be a contender, particularly with Google’s Android taking off, it will put Bing front and center for its users. In fact, the company will be making games a big part of the Windows Phone 7 experience, with direct connections to Xbox, which could provide a nice boost in usage. In case you haven’t heard, Xbox is pretty popular. More Windows Phone 7 users mean potentially more Bing users.

There’s also a little site called Facebook. It’s got over half a billion users (and counting), and a search function. While that search function may leave a bit to be desired, the web search results are coming from Bing. People are spending more time on Facebook, which puts that search box pretty close by during a significant part of their online experience. Facebook is moving up the charts as an online video destination as well, which means even more time spent. That doesn’t even take into account the fact that Facebook is practically connecting the entire web to itself.

A recent report from Chitika indicated that Firefox-based Google searches accounted for searches than total Bing or Yahoo searches. Google’s contract with Mozilla is due to expire next year. Expect Microsoft to make a bid to become Firefox’s default search option. That could be a significant booster.

Search Market Breakdown according to Chitika

Chitika also released a report this week indicating that Bing had surpassed Yahoo in search market share, based on the search traffic going into the Chitika ad network. While that’s not reflective of as big a picture as comScore’s numbers, it’s still an up arrow for Bing.

Search Market in July

Let’s not forget the big Yahoo-Microsoft Search Alliance, which will effectively mash Yahoo’s and Bing’s shares together, complete with adCenter ads. This is set to go down any day now (late August).

Then there’s Microsoft’s massive marketing budget for Bing. You’ll continue to see Bing commercials on television, increasingly implanting that Bing brand into the minds of the masses, while Google does little to advertise its bread and butter. I’m not saying Google is in danger of losing out to Bing anytime soon, but it stands to reason that more people will continue to search with Bing one way or another.

With all of this in mind, webmasters and business owners should check out Bing’s newly refreshed webmaster tools. As more use Bing, the need for a search presence (organic and/or paid) there becomes more vital.

Update: Microsoft just announced that the Yahoo organic search transition has started. From the announcement:

In the upcoming days we will begin the organic (algorithmic) transition, which means that soon Bing will begin to power the English language organic search results on Yahoo! Search in the U.S. and Canada. Once this organic transition is complete, Bing will power 5.2 billion monthly searches… that’s 31.6% of the search market share in the U.S. (290 million monthly searches and 8.6% share in Canada).

Should Google be worried? Tell us what you think.

The Search Market Isn’t Always What it Seems to Be
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  • http://www.medlawplus.com medlaw

    I know it matters to Microsoft and their shareholders but I could care less about very small percentage point gains by Bing or even Yahoo. From my standpoint as an online publisher, it’s google versus the rest of the pack. As long as google continues to hold around 2/3rds of the market, I expend all of my SEO efforts on google. I’m a small guy with limited resources. Also, the differences in algorithms between google and yahoo have narrowed over the years. The result: it makes no sense expending limited resources and time on anything but google. Perhaps other publishes have a different perspective.

    • Chris Crum

      The Yahoo deal will make a significant impact, effectively making Bing nearly “the rest”.

  • http://www.connecticutplastics.com Michele L

    Yes I still use Google, and the major portion of our advertising budget and our advertising efforts go to Google. I wouldn’t mind though if they got knocked out of first place. Then they’ll try harder. Just means better search tools for all of us.

  • http://www.cheapseeds.com Jeff

    Google is way ahead of the rest of the pack. I try and use the others after they say they have improved their search but it always turns out to be the same old thing. When I search in google I find what I want. Not true with the rest. Idon’t care who is on top as long as I find what I need easily.

  • Guest

    Google – Hands Down is the Best, the other search engines are years behind what Google can do.

  • http://www.cisaz.net Tony

    Even though Google is consistently changing the way PR’s work, they always seem to be ahead of the rest of search engines, always surprising us with new tools, and features to keep us web developers on our toes. Always giving us reasons to look into the new features they are developing for us to utilize. So by after Google is always 10 steps ahead of the competition.

  • Guest

    Google is in big trouble. The love affair is over with Google. Watch this video: http://www.cnbc.com/id/38738761/

  • http://www.frames.uk.com moonshine-framing

    As a small business owner who blunders along with his own seo I notice increasing business (real sales) coming from Bing lately, but by far the biggest slice of new business comes from google search, and always has, but I am certainly not taking my eye of Bing or Yahoo, because they still bring in some trade. I prefer to concentrate a couple of main sites on Google, and tailor a cople of other sites for experimenting with Bing.
    Im lucky, I’m in a fairly niche business, but the competition in search for this small slice of a specialised market is fierce, and I’ve found that what works well in Bing, doesn’t always go so well in Google.
    Personally I always use Google to search.

  • http://www.michaelghurston.com Michael G. Hurston

    I use Google as my default search of choice and from the SEO tactics I’ve used for sites I’ve worked on like www.SanJose.org they continue to rank extremely well in Google, and over the last year have gone up considerably within Bing. Which leads me to believe that Bing is using some very similar algorithms to Google and could overtime become as popular. Especially for those people who still use IE as their default browser and then by default Bing as their search.

    However, these same SEO tactics for some reason or another have killed our rankings in Yahoo. Which is something that baffles me, but overall as many visits as we’ve lost from Yahoo, we’ve gained at least 10x’s that amount from Google and Bing.

    So Yahoo is now my least favorite search engine.

  • http://www.oink.co.za Craig Nuttley

    As developers from across the scope think up new ideas and new babes are born into the world and into these ideas, they develop ideas of there own.

    Google is BIG, losing a percentage here and there, gaining a little here and there. New ideas will slowly deplete that massive dominance, but it’s going to take a looong while.

    Agreed, the Yahoo! deal is a biggie for Bing, but I reckon the race is for larger or lessened dominance in the mobile trade, whichever way that particular cookie crumbles. Having the net in ones pocket is the way the world is going. It depends on those App’s. Search engine preference is going to be influenced through those App’s and in this Google needs to keep a close watch on Bing’s backing and superior technical support …

  • KyanWan

    Literally, the site is burned into my memory. Years and years of google google google google – It’s not “preference” to me, it’s instinct.

    When Google changed their news – It drove me absolutely nuts, and I was angry. So – I broke tradition and moved off the google dog food. Went to Yahoo —–

    “wai … wha? I’ve been missing out on THIS for Google news?”

    So I decide I want to use something different. The next day – go to check my news … *type type type* Google. Ack! I Wanted to see Yahoo – so I have an instant bounce from Google to Yahoo.

    And, yes – I do like Bing as well – it’s just my brain and browsers are already wired nicely to pick the dog food pellets I’ve been eating for years … uh, I mean Google.

    So there you go. That’s my take on why people pick Google as the “best”. Because they were for a while, and that while … where all others dropped the ball … lasted a little too long.

    Instinct is a hard beast to tame. 20-30% of us, have tamed it.

    Right now, there are better brands of “dog food” out there – maybe it’s time to go try something new.

    And try to use it for a few days in a row. :)

  • http://www.searchonionoptimisation.com Optimised Onion

    I’m a google fanboy. some people dig their apples; i dig my googles.

  • http://jimmydoremi.blogspot.com Jimmy Ng

    One of my website got sandbox by Google and until today still not index yet. Fortunately I got Bing as my lifeline. Not only I’m index but got on the first page of Bing for some of the keywords as well. Thank you very much BING!

  • Monica

    Looks like I am SO out of the loop! I have been using Yahoo for 12 years, it’s just habit for me, but I’ve been using Google a little more often.

    I downloaded Google Chrome, but haven’t worked with it a lot yet.

  • Chris Crum

    This comment came in via email:

    Yes. The Search market seems to be losing steam and going down the drain! WHY spend MONEY with search marketing just to get traffic, when there is Craiglist that I get quality, targeted Traffic from for FREE! It make no cents to me to WASTE Money with Search Marketing!

  • Guest

    It wasn’t long ago when I used to swap between Google and MSN when conducting online searches. If one didn’t provide what I was looking for then I could count on the other to do so.
    Good times until Bing replaced MSN.
    Today, despite the countless times I’ve tried to use Bing with hopes of getting what I want, I simply type G O O G L E in the Bing bar and voila! I get what I want.

    A friend of mine is one of the Bing testers in WA and I’ve expressed my frustrations.
    He explained that Bing is being groomed to provide more precise and relevant information.

    So far, it doesn’t get a passing grade from me. To use a poor analogy, using Google is like using a shotgun. It gets you what you want and even more relevant information. Bing’s BB gun approach just doesn’t cut it .. I’m almost better off throwing darts.

  • http://www.eantics.co.uk Ollie Phillips

    Great article, for so many of the reasons stated I have no clue who wll win the search war – or if there ever will be a winner. Google, Bing and Yahoo have a lot to offer, and plenty of capital backing.

    It’s not a market I’d devote my time to and most ‘sane’ developers will stay well clear, which makes it interesting…..say, if someone less sane comes up with a new search platform – something new and effective, with most of us on the fence or not favouring either Google, Bing or Yahoo, there could be plenty of takers.

    Bit like Firefox and IE I suppose.

  • Guest

    Bing & Yahoo!

  • http://www.artofstorytellingshow.com Storytelling

    No one will – it’s all about company culture – soon as Google starts to get too restricted and stuck then they are doomed – till then we will see….

  • http://www.sunera.com/ Guest

    Bing and Yahoo are just not reliable from both a search and an SEO standpoint. One week several of my site’s pages were ranking well, first page and even #1 in some cases, but then a few weeks later, the pages were completely gone yet still showing as being indexed. Then all of a sudden a few weeks after that, they were back and then gone again. Now we have been doing some work on the site, but to go from page 1 to not showing at all seems a bit extreme. With Google the results have stayed more consistent.

  • http://www.ur-news.com/ ‘D news

    What youre saying is completely true. I know that everybody must say the same thing, but Ijust think that you put it in a way that everyone can understand. I also love the images you put in here. They fit so well with what youre trying to say. I am sure youll reach so many people with what youve got to say.

  • http://www.hongyingstone.com hongying stone

    Yeah, I think so , sometimes there will be a false.

    Hongying stone