Microsoft's Bing search engine commanded nearly 11.7 percent of U.S. searches in March, up from 11.5 percent share in February, according to the latest comScore figures.
Google's leading search share slipped to 65.1 percent through March from 65.5 percent in February, the market researcher said.
Yahoo notched 16.89 percent searches in March, up slightly from 16.81 in February. This 0.08 percent growth may seem insignificant, but it marks the first month Yahoo has gained share after 13 consecutive declines of losses since Yahoo held 21 percent of the market in February 2009. Yahoo has lost roughly 3.1 percent market share since last year.
Bing, at exactly 11.68 percent through March, is the real story. Microsoft's Live Search held 8 percent of the market in May 2009. Since Microsoft rolled out Bing June 2009, the service has gradually tacked on 3.5 percent market share gain, gaining more share than Yahoo has lost.
It will be hard to look at Microsoft and Yahoo as separate search engines, even though that is how analysts currently count them. Combined, the companies command roughly 28.6 percent market share, less than half of Google's 65 percent.
If the current growth trend keeps up, Bing may surpass Yahoo's search share by this time next year, possibly nibbling away at Google's market share as it goes.
Reasons for Bing's continued growth vary. Microsoft Bing Director Stefan Weitz told eWEEK Bing's unique approach of enabling the service to divine what users are looking for with fewer clicks is helping it gain share.
Bing's Cashback program, unique user interface and focus on industry verticals, such as travel and shopping, are also rating well with users. Bing just redesigned its shopping service last night.
FBR Capital Markets sees Bing's $100 million advertising and marketing campaign as a big reason for Bing's continued success.
More broadly, comScore said total U.S. Internet search queries in March grew 13.4 percent year over year, down from 16.1 percent in February.
FBR analysts attributed the continued deceleration in the growth rate of search volume to the growth in noncommercial searches during the height of last year's recession news flow.
Google Sites was the most visited property with 176 million unique visitors, followed by Yahoo Sites with 157 million and Microsoft Sites with 156 million.
Facebook.com, which has been soaring in search in the last several months, tallied 116 million, surpassing AOL's 115 million uniques.
The analysts also said online advertising will grow at least 13 percent this year, with search and video among the strongest segments. This means great revenue opportunities for Google, Bing and Google's YouTube video-sharing Website.