Yahoo saw its search share rise in April to 17.7, up from 16.9 percent in March and 16.8 percent in February, marking the second consecutive month of growth for a search engine that many industry watchers wrote off for losing market share.
ComScore's April search engine stats show that Microsoft Bing gained a basis point, growing to 11.8 percent from 11.7 percent in March and 11.5 percent in February.
Yahoo and Bing's gains came at Google's expense, as the dominant search engine notched 64.4 percent for the month, down from 65.1 percent in March and 65.5 percent in February.
Yahoo's rise from the doldrums is the real story here. The company, which is in the process of letting Bing take over as its search engine infrastructure and ad platform, has gained share after 13 months in a row of declines dating back to February 2009, when the company garnered 21 percent share.
Financial analysts took a sober approach to the news, attributing the gains to this Yahoo News slide show feature. Each time users click the arrow to see the next slide, comScore counts the click as a new search query.
Broadpoint AmTech's Ben Schachter said Yahoo worked with comScore to make sure this is tracked, he said. Accordingly, he advised investors will view Yahoo as stabilizing, not growing search share.
"If we back out those 158 million queries, we estimate Yahoo's April share was closer to 16.9 percent or flat vs. March," Schachter wrote in a May 10 note.
He also said Bing's reported query volumes were also impacted by its use of slide show image searches across its Autos, Health and Real Estate categories in April.
"That being said, Yahoo's search volume should be viewed positively for the company," Jefferies and Co analyst Youssef Squali wrote in a research note May 11. "We expect that Yahoo's query volume will continue to stabilize/grow slightly due to a lower negative impact from the roll-over of tool bar partnership deals, and management's aggressive focus on blending search with site UI/content."
Squali attributed Bing's continued growth to aggressive marketing, the Bing Cashback program, vertical focus and user interface.
Google, meanwhile, continues to command the lion's share of search. The incumbent has hovered between 64 percent and 65 percent and a little more since Bing launched last June and saw its share grow from 8 percent to 11.8 percent in less than a year.
Squali wonders whether this means desktop search is getting saturated.
"The moderation in Google's growth rate over time (from 22 percent Y/Y in November 2009 to 10 percent in March 2010 and 6 percent in April 2010) indicates that desktop searchmay be approaching a point of saturation for Google, at least in the US."
It's hard to tell for sure. comScore excludes international searches, searches on mobile devices and those made on the YouTube video site, all three of which are becoming material and growing materially faster than the US desktop search, Squali argued.
Overall, Yahoo and Bing's combined market share of 29.5 percent puts them close to the 30 percent mark analysts such as Squali want to see before proclaiming Bing a viable competitor to Google.
For April, Google Sites was the most visited property with 176 million unique visitors, followed by Yahoo Sites with 156 million, Microsoft Sites with 153M, Facebook.com with 122 million and AOL with 115 million.