Thursday, July 2, 2009

Inching Along: Bing up a Fraction

Inching Along
New data released today by NetApplications shows Bing increased it's market share by 0.5% in June. MediaPost picked up the story and asked me to weigh in on the implications for marketers.

My post, "A Bing in Google's Armor" on the Connectual blog has more context for my quote and my expanded POV. The quick and dirty is that half a percentage point is virtually meaningless and unlikely to cause marketers to do anything differently.

That said, I don't put a lot of stock in research from a company I've never heard of. Let's just wait until comScore puts out its June search numbers, shall we?

Update 7/15: comScore's June data is in. In terms of share of search queries, Bing only captured an incremental 0.4% of share month-over-month. It did, however, show an increase of 20% in share of search results pages. Unfortunately for MSFT (but fortunately for consumers), the number of searches per repeat sessions was down. This likely means searchers are finding what they want faster with Bing, which, of course, means less queries to be monetized.
Update 8/18: comScore July data shows Bing up another 0.5% share at the expense of Google (-0.3%) and Yahoo (-0.3%). So Microsoft is up almost 1 full point in 2 months. Not too shabby. At this rate, Bing will eclipse Google in ~5 1/2 years -- even less if the Yahoo deal goes thru (as long as Yahoo doesn't lose any more share, that is)!

Update 9/23: comScore August data has up Bing another 0.4% with Google down 0.1% and Yahoo flat. Inch by inch and row by row, gonna make that Bing share grow.

Update 10/14: comScore Sept. data shows Bing leveling off -- up just 0.1% month-over-month with Google up 0.3% and Yahoo down 0.5%. So much for Yahoo's big ad campaign, aye? Yahoo is now down nearly 1.5 points in share since the Bing launch. As I said in my post, "Will the Microsoft-Yahoo deal be good for Google?" it's unlikely that Yahoo will continue to invest in improving its search assets over the next 24-36 months while the deal is approved and implemented. And, as I told the New York Times when the deal was announced, by the time Bing is fully powering Yahoo search, we may be looking at a 80/20 game instead of a 70/30 in terms of market share.

Update 11/17: OK, comScore Oct. data is in. The envelope please... Bing is up 0.5% but so is Google (up 0.5%) at the expense of Yahoo (down 0.8%). So the Bingoo combination is actually down 0.2% net since the Bing launch. In May, Yahoo had 20.1% share and Microsoft 8%. In Oct., Yahoo had 18% and Microsoft 9.9%. So everything that Bing has gained, Yahoo has lost. Geez, who could have seen this coming? And, mind you, these numbers are with the support of a combined $200mm in ad spending touting the Bing and Yahoo properties. What will happen when that money dries up?

Update 12/16: Per comScore's Nov. data, Microsoft now has double-digit search share, checking in at 10.3% -- up another 0.4% month-over-month. But Yahoo's down 0.5% to 17.5% so, once again, everything that Bing gained, Yahoo lost. Meanwhile, Google eeked out another 0.2%, rising to 65.6%.

Update 1/15/10: comScore's Dec. data shows Bing as the big winner again -- up 0.4% -- with Google up 0.1% and Yahoo down 0.2%.

Update 2/15/10: Is the tide turning? Per comScore's Jan. data, Bing just had its biggest month yet in terms of net share gain -- up 0.6% -- and this time, half of it came at Google's expense with the other half coming from Yahoo. Could slow and steady win this race? Still a ways to go but Bing's numbers continue to impress. Maybe this is what compelled Google to plunk down a couple million for a Super Bowl ad.

Update 3/30/10: Minor increase for Bing last month -- 0.2% per comScore Feb. data -- but it was the biggest gainer of all the major engines. Once again, Bing's gain was Yahoo's loss, so the Bingoo net was nil. Bing does sit at a nice round 11.5%, though.

Got some other good stats from Microsoft Director of Search Agency Sales, Patrick Harris, in preparation for my book. He shared that, Bing's user base climb is up 30% since launch. Additionally, unaided awareness has increased 41% and perception has improved by 14%. '

Also, keep in mind that I've only been tracking the U.S. search market share here. In another interview conducted for my book, Lawrence Wan, General Manager of Digital for Omnicom Media Group in China, speculates that Google's recent decision to provide uncensored results by redirecting China.cn to China.com.hk will cause the Chinese government to block access to Google which will, in turn, benefit not only Baidu -- the leading search engine in China -- but Bing and Yahoo as well.

Update 5/24/10: I'm a bit delinquent on updating this post. March numbers and April numbers have been published by comScore. March had Bing up 0.02% with Google down 0.04% and April showed Bing up 0.01% with Google down 0.07% and, shockingly, Yahoo up 0.8%. So, through April, Bing sits at 11.8%, Google at 64.4% and Yahoo at17.7%.

It's times like these that we must remember that comScore's data is panel-based and must be used directionally. That said, it appears Bing has continued in its upwardly direction. As for Yahoo, experts are attributing the April bump to a new News slideshow feature that automatically triggers search queries. Meanwhile, Google's UI changes are supposedly the reason for Google's declining share in that a refined vertical query (eg, news or maps) after an initial search only counts as 1 total query now.

Personally, I think the April data for Yahoo and Google are an anomaly and we'll see things swing back next month. My guess is April was just a big month for comScore panel users looking at Yahoo slideshows. Meanwhile, I suspect the counting methodology for Google queries will be fixed in short order if previous comScore/Google dust-ups are any indication.

Update 6/17/10: Waddya know? The trend continues. ComScore's May numbers have Bing up another 0.3% and Yahoo up a whopping 0.6%. Once again, Google was the big loser, down 0.7%.

In an effort to keep Google investors from panicking, comScore proactively addressed the issue of counting "context-driven" search queries in a blog post last week and indicated that it would adjust its methodology starting in Q3. Here's the rationale...

"Some context-driven search experiences also meet comScore’s current criteria for qualifying as a search and are therefore counted in qSearch market share reporting. At the same time, comScore recognizes that these are inherently different experiences compared to traditional web search queries. And because context-driven searches are sometimes monetized at different rates than traditional searches, we believe it is important to provide the marketplace with visibility into how they are contributing to search share."

Bottom line, these searches are not nearly as valuable to advertisers as pure search and, therefore, should not have material impact on search revenues. It'll certainly be interesting to see how the pie shakes out in July when comScore recenters things. Look for Google to reclaim its 65%+ throne.

Update 8/18/10: comScore's July numbers are in and, as promised, they included a breakout between "Explicit Core Search" and "Total Core Search." Explanations and definitions can be found here but the short story is explicit means user-initiated (read: what advertisers and investors should care about) and total includes contextual.

As I predicted, the re-centering has pushed Google back north of 65% to 66.2% with Yahoo at 16.7% and Bing at 11%. That's for explicit. Total core search has Google at 62.6%, Yahoo at 18.9% and Bing at 12.7%.

Bottom line for the search market share game? Same shit, different data.

Update 8/30/10: I'm quoted in MediaWeek today sharing thoughts on Bing one-year post launch...

"Per Aaron Goldman, principal at the digital marketing firm Connectual, Bing is now Google’s equal in usability. 'But just as good is not going to win,' he said."


Update 9/25/10: The comScore August numbers are in. For explicit search (which is the only type I'll be tracking as it's the only type that really matters), Bing is up one-tenth 10 11.1%. Yahoo (surprise!) is up 0.3% to 17.4%. And Google is down 0.4% to 65.4%.

It'll be interesting to see what impact Google Instant has in September.

Update 10/23/10: per comScore's September data, Google is up 0.7%, it's biggest gain since the Bing launch in June of 2009. Yahoo was the big loser, down 0.7%. Bing was up a fraction (0.1%). Looks like Google has instantly found a way to jack up query volume!

Update 11/30/10: comScore October numbers show Google up another 0.2% to 66.3% total. Bing was up 0.3% with Yahoo down 0.2%.

So the Microsoft/Yahoo Search Alliance is still a net wash. The combo had 28% search share in June 2009 when Bing launched and it has 28% now. Meanwhile Google is up from 65% to 66.3% during that same time period. To be sure, this is still quite the feat for Microsoft in that it was able to hold ground in the overall rankings even with Yahoo seemingly giving up on search.

The real test will come over the next 18 months and search and social collide. And Bing seems to have the leg up on Google in that area... for now.

Update 12/15/10: comScore's November numbers have Bing up 0.3% and Google and Yahoo down 0.1% each. While this past month was a bit of a yawner, it's worth noting that Bing is closing in on 12% overall share, representing 40% growth since launch in June of last year. At this pace, Bing will be close to 20% by the end of 2011!

Update 1/15/11: comScore's Dec. numbers are in and Google made devilish gains... up 0.4% to 66.6%, all at Yahoo's expense. Meanwhile, Bing kept inching along... up 0.2% to that 12% mentioned in my last update.

Update 2/17/11: comScore's Jan. numbers show Bing taking a bite from the Big G to the tune of 1% share. Plus Bing snatched 0.1% from Ask putting it up to 13.1% overall. So much for the post-holiday hangover in Redmond!

Update 3/13/11: comScore's Feb. numbers have Bing up another 0.5%. with Google down 0.2% and Yahoo flat. Once again it was Ask giving ground to the tune of 0.2%. So Bing now sits at 13.6% and Google's at 65.4%. Those inches are adding up!

Update 4/13/11: comScore's March numbers put Bing and Google up another 0.3% each with Yahoo shedding 0.4%. MSFT and YHOO are now about 1.5% apart and still sitting on roughly 30% combined, about the same as when Bing launched.

Update 5/12/11: comScore's April numbers have Bing and Yahoo up 0.2% with Google *gasp* losing 0.3%. Did the release of Yahoo Search Direct manufacture more queries? And just when does a query become a query? When the drop down occurs?

Update 6/10/11: comScore's May numbers show Bing flat for the first time since launch. Meanwhile Yahoo was flat too and Google shed 0.1%. Pretty boring month. What were people doing? Searching on Facebook, maybe?

Update 7/13/11: comScore's June numbers have Bing up 0.3% and Google and Yahoo flat. Nice rebound.

Update 8/10/11: comScore's July data has Google down 0.4% and Bing flat. Yahoo's up 0.2%.

Update 9/8/11: I've been using comScore as my True North for tracking the share race here but interestingly Hitwise shows the combination of Bing and Yahoo gaining 4% from Google since the launch of Bing. I suspect that this is because Hitwise does not filter out contextually-driven searches like slideshows and the like.

Update 9/13/11: comScore's August numbers show Google down 0.3%, Bing up 0.3% and Yahoo up 0.2%. So Bing's closing in on 15% and Google's under 65% for the first time since Sept. 2009. I wonder if Google's fall spring-clean had anything to do with this?

Update 9/24/11: Good recap in TechCrunch of Bing's progress (and lack thereof) to date -- As Bing Bleeds Billions, Microsoft Applies Tourniquet

Update 10/16/11: comScore's September data has Bing flat, Google up 0.5% and Yahoo down nearly a point (0.8%)... yikes! And here I'd have thought Carol Bartz's firing would've had people searching, without the SafeSearch filter of course!

Update 11/11/11: Make a wish! comScore's October data puts Google up another 0.3% all at Yahoo's expense and Bing up a scant 0.1%.

Update 12/16/11: comScore's November data has Bing at 15% for the first time (up 0.2%) now just 0.1% behind Yahoo (down 0.1%). Google's holding strong at 65.4% despite a drop of 0.2% this month. Doesn't look like Bing will eclipse the 20% mark it was on pace for per my December 2010 update but a 3%+ gain over the past 12 months is nothing to sneeze at. Although, gaining it all from Yahoo is also nothing to yodel about.

Update 1/13/12: What a difference a month makes! And a pretty important month at that, at least in terms of e-commerce. Per comScore's December data, Bing has surpassed Yahoo for the first time at 15.1% (up 0.1%) with Yahoo down to 14.5% (down 0.6%). As if we already didn't know that new Yahoo CEO, Scott Thompson, had his work cut out for him! Meanwhile, Google gained 0.5% to close 2011 at 65.9%, nearly a full point higher than when Bing first launched and just 0.7% lower than its standing as of this time last year.
Update 2/14/12: comScore's January numbers have Yahoo shedding fourth-tenths, one to Bing (15.2%) and three to Google (66.2%). What, G Worry?

Update 3/13/12: Different month, same story. ComScore's Feb. data has Yahoo down another 3/10 with Bing picking up 1 (15.3%) and Google picking up 2 (66.4%).

Update 4/12/12: comScore's March report is a snoozer. Google and Microsoft flat with Yahoo giving one tenth to AOL. Boooring.

Update 5/13/12: Well, the numbers sure don't lie. Aye, Scott? Yahoo now has 8 months in a row of declining US search share with comScore's April data showing a loss of 0.2% with Bing and Google each picking up 0.1%. Hopfully Ross Levinsohn will figure out that this search thing really does matter even if you have Microsoft guaranteeing you revenue. My hunch is he will given that he's a media guy, the first in a while to take the helm at Yahoo.

Update 6/15/12: comScore's May numbers make it 9 red months in a row for Yahoo, down 0.1% with MSFT flat and Google up 0.2%.


Update 7/20/12: per comScore's June data, Yahoo is down another 0.4% to 13% flat with Google up 0.1% and Bing up 0.2%. Fortunately for Yahoo, its new CEO knows a thing or two about search!
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