Though recent reports of search market share imply Bing may have peaked, the Microsoft search engine posted quarter-over-quarter gains in paid clicks and spending share, according to Efficient Frontier, which published its search engine performance report for the third quarter on Oct. 13.
Efficient Frontier President and CEO David Karnstedt, who worked as senior vice president of Yahoo's North American sales, told the New York Times that Bing's share of spending grew to 5.3 percent in the third quarter, up from 4.3 percent in the second quarter. Bing, which boasted gains in travel, finance, auto and retail search, saw click share rise to 4.8 percent from 4.1 percent.
Moreover, those gains appear to be coming at the expense of Google, which saw its share of search spending fall to 73.7 percent from 75.5 percent in the second quarter, according to Efficient Frontier.
Bing's paid search momentum is muted by a few factors. Google commands about 70 percent of search advertising spending, making Bing's numbers relatively minor. Also, at 65 percent in the United States and 67.5 percent worldwide (based on ComScore estimates), Google's search market share appears as insurmountable as its search ad spending share.
Paid search experts at SearchIgnite said while Bing's share of search marketer spending grew 15 percent year-over-year compared with Google's 5 percent gain, Bing still hasn't moved the needle much.
"Microsoft is headed in the right direction with Bing and attracting more advertiser dollars," SearchIgnite President Roger Barnette said. "That said, it's an uphill battle against Google and there's still a long way to go before Bing garners a significant amount of the search ad revenue pie."
Moreover, while spending on Bing-hosted ads is up, the search engine posted its first drop in market share gains since its June launch, according to data from Hitwise and StatCounter. Without counting referrals, Bing's share is paltry, at 3.4 percent.
The dips could hint that users are drifting back to Google or Yahoo after sampling Bing, but the search world is anxiously awaiting search market statistics from ComScore and Nielsen. Google will report third-quarter earnings Oct. 15, and the company is expected to surpass consensus estimates.
Google CEO Eric Schmidt has been telling anyone who asks that the impact of the recession seems to be fading from search a bit. Similarly, Efficient Frontier's Karnstedt said the results from his company's third-quarter report underline a stabilization in search marketing, with "some encouraging signs" for the fourth quarter. These include an increase in retail spending heading into the holidays.
Efficient Frontier found search spending was up slightly at 5 percent from the second quarter, and said its clients, comprising large U.S. search engine advertisers across the finance, travel, retail and automotive sectors, will be more aggressive about search spending in the fourth quarter. Efficient Frontier said:
""While the company does not expect a return to the frenzied state of past years, the efficiency gains that resulted from lower competition and prices have left experienced search marketers ready to capitalize on an opportunity for cost-effective sales in the critical holiday season. The net result is a potential for double-digit quarter-over-quarter and year-over-year growth in Q4 2009.""
Efficient Frontier's complete report can be downloaded here.