Google provides a service that is not easily rivaled. Its search algorithm is outstanding. The simplicity with which users can search the Web is top-notch. And the company's integration of search into so many other products and services makes it a likely choice for both consumers and enterprise users.
But for the first time in a long time, Google might need to start looking over its shoulder. Microsoft's Bing Search is gaining ground on Google, recently tallying more than 11 percent market share in U.S. search.
This news might not mean much since Google is holding onto a 65 percent share, but it's an important milestone for Microsoft. It means that the company is capable of catching up to a service that many believe will continue to dominate for years. It also means that users are starting to look beyond Google search for their Web needs.
Microsoft is gaining ground on Google not only from a market-share standpoint, but also from a feature-set perspective. Here's how:
1. Market share means something
Google is easily leading the pack in the search space, but Microsoft is gaining some ground. The latest figures peg Microsoft's share at 11.5 percent, up from 11.3 percent in January. On a month-to-month basis that's not much, and Microsoft's gain is mainly at the expense of Yahoo at this point. But cumulatively, since Microsoft launched Bing, its share gain is nothing to scoff at. Microsoft's share was a fraction of that before Bing was released. As more and more people use Bing, some are obviously liking what they see. That could be troublesome for Google in the future.
2. It's simple too
One of the issues that affected Yahoo search in recent years was that its search page had become increasingly cluttered and confusing. This proved to be a major turnoff for users, especially compared with Google, which offered a simple page with just a prominent search box. Users liked it and kept coming back. Bing's search page is also simple. It also presents prominent search box, making it easy for novice Web users to input a query and move on. Simplicity is essential in search.
3. Relevant results
I would argue that Google provides the most relevant results on the market. But Bing is a close second. Anyone who searches for the same topic in both search engines will likely find a relevant results page from Bing. It might not compare to Google, but the more it's updated, the better it's getting at matching Google query for query. Give Bing some time. It might match Google before we know it.
4. Integration is key
Like Google, Microsoft is doing a good job of integrating various services with Bing. Users of Windows Phone 7 Series phones will be able to use Bing for mobile search. Bing is also built into Facebook. It's also integrated into Microsoft software and services. The more places a search engine can be found, the better-and Microsoft knows it.