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War on Error

John E. Dunn

Bing is still a poor second to Google

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Google needs competition but Bing is not yet a serious challenger

The comScore monthly search stats are in and Bing has supposedly risen 0.6 percent while Google fell 1.1 points. But look carefully and this is no Mozilla Firefox surge. Microsoft is miles behind and destined to remain so even as the Internet cries out for some real search engine competition.

On the face of it, a monthly rise of around 0.6, assuming it is all taken from Google, would see Bing supplant Google as the Internet's biggest search engine inside four years, but it's not going to happen and Microsoft knows it. Why? Because Microsoft is buying its search traffic at some expense to itself, and that in a market that is growing anyway.

In June 2010, Google accounted for 62.6 percent of US-based searches (notice that these figures aren't global), Yahoo 18.9, and Microsoft's Bing 12.7. The rest - ASK, AOL, are on small percentages.

As the comScore qSearch analysis itself admits,  Bing and Yahoo's search (which is powered by Bing) have risen partly because contextual search where the search is tied to content within a third-party affiliate or network such as MSN. Convenient to users but not much of an endorsement for Bing per se.

The comScore figures also include slideshows, a device Yahoo has been accused of using to artificially bolster its search traffic. There is plenty of evidence that Yahoo branded search is actually on a slow downward path. Meanwhile, overall search volumes grow, and Google is still doing well here, rising 1 percent.  

The numbers also exclude mobile search and that could account for another 10 percent on Google's numbers alone. Microsoft's presence there is pitiful.

Conclusion. Bing is doing moderately well within the context of being a newish search engine, but the market is growing, a portion of its rise comes from contextual search. Google remains utterly dominant. Some of Bing's heft comes from mere deal-making such as the tie-up with the faltering Yahoo, where much of the revenue goes to the partner.

Microsoft, meanwhile, has spent serious money promoting Bing using conventional media such as newspaper and TV adverts. Ever seen a TV advert for Google? Me neither. They don't have to and would laugh at the very idea of handing money to grey-haired men in suits to tell people about something the world already agrees is number one.

People don't know much about Bing, hence the obvious need to tell them about it.

You can bet than in a year Bing will appear to be doing slightly better again, and so will Google. All the evidence compels the conclusion that when people choose a search engine, as opposed to having one served to them contextually, they choose Google.

The world needs a challenger to Google, but let's hope that it can find one that doesn't need to be held aloft with ad dollars, tie-ups and clever embedding.

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