A year after Microsoft officially re-launched its search product under the Bing brand, the search engine has made progress in terms of both market share and its share of marketers’ paid search spend. However, the majority of that shift has come at Yahoo’s expense, as opposed to that of search giant and market leader Google.
April data from measurement firms comScore, The Nielsen Company, and Hitwise suggest Microsoft has enjoyed clear, if modest, gains in the share of U.S. searches its search properties have attracted since it relaunched the Bing brand at the beginning of June 2009.
According to comScore, Microsoft sites accounted for 11.8 percent of searches in April 2010, up from 8 percent in May 2009. According to Nielsen, that figure was slightly higher, with Microsoft’s search products reaching a 12.9 percent share of searches versus 9.4 percent during the same period. Nielsen and comScore’s data include searches conducted on Microsoft’s MSN and Windows Live properties in addition to Bing.
Hitwise, meanwhile, tracks numbers for Bing specifically, and estimates the engine accounted for 9.43 percent of U.S. searches in April 2010, compared with a 5.68 percent share of searches for Microsoft’s MSN and Live properties in April 2009.
On average, therefore, all three data providers concur that Microsoft grew its share of U.S. searches by around four percentage points over the past twelve months. However, it’s interesting to note the majority of that growth appears to have come at the expense of Yahoo’s search product, as opposed to that of market leader Google. Over the same period, comScore, Nielsen, and Hitwise reported losses in search share for Yahoo’s engine of 2.4 percentage points, 3.7 percentage points, and 1.31 percentage points, respectively, whereas Google’s share remained relatively stable.
Search spending estimates tell a similar story. According to data from search marketing management provider Efficient Frontier, Bing’s share of its clients’ paid search spend has risen from 3.8 percent in Q2 2009, to 7 percent in the second quarter of 2010. By contrast, Yahoo has seen its share of spend drop from 21.3 percent to 17.8 percent in the same period. Google, meanwhile, has seen its own share of spend remain consistent, growing slightly from 74.9 percent to 75.3 percent.
*Data is for Q2 to date.
On the other hand, some might credit Microsoft with a victory for simply preventing Google from gaining more share, which it had been doing steadily prior to Bing’s launch. Google was growing slowly but steadily until May 2009, when it accounted for 65 percent of U.S. searches, according to comScore. That number remained flat into June 2009, and remained just shy of the 65 percent mark nine months later in April 2010.
Coming as it does at Yahoo’s expense, Bing’s success is a bittersweet victory for Microsoft. The two companies announced a partnership in July 2009 that will see Microsoft provide algorithmic and paid search services for Yahoo properties for a ten-year period. Under the terms of the deal, self-serve advertising for search campaigns on both Web sites will be handled by Microsoft’s AdCenter platform, with Yahoo retaining control for premium, human-sold campaigns on both Microsoft and Yahoo-owned Web sites.
Yahoo announced at an investors’ day last week that it hopes to switch to Microsoft’s back-end by the end of the year.
Despite Bing’s inability to wrestle any serious market share from Google, however, some smaller businesses have reported increased ROI from both Bing and Yahoo. According to a report issued in March by local online advertising firm WebVisible, click-throughs on small business ads rose significantly between Q4 2008 and Q4 2009 across the two engines.
The report found click-through-rates (CTR) on Google ads rose 32 percent for the 12,000 advertisers observed in Q4 2009, while Bing click-through rates climbed 109 percent and Yahoo 123 percent, compared to fourth quarter 2008. “Bing’s higher CTR shows how the soon-to-be implemented Microsoft-Yahoo! search deal will benefit small business advertisers,” the company stated in its report.
Follow Jack Marshall on Twitter at @JackMarshall.
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