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.
Building Up Bings Market Infrastructure
5. Microsoft knows partnerships
Microsoft announced recently that it has inked a deal with Motorola to deliver search services to the company’s upcoming slate of mobile phones in China. And as an investor in Facebook, the company has been able to offer its search service to the social network’s more than 400 million active users. If nothing else, Microsoft understands the value of a strong partnership. And it capitalizes on those partnerships whenever it can.
6. The Yahoo relationship
The Yahoo-Microsoft search pact is extremely important for Microsoft. Although the software giant doesn’t own Yahoo, it finally can control the Web company’s search service, effectively combining its own market share with Yahoo’s. That’s extremely important. The only reason Microsoft is competing in search is to capitalize on the highly profitable Web advertising space. The more market share, the better its chances of generating a big profit on Web advertising. The Yahoo deal will only help.
7. The extras
Microsoft currently offers a wide array of extra search features that compete quite well with Google’s. Users can search for images, news, videos and more with Bing. One of its finer offerings is Bing Maps, which in my experience bests Google Maps on several fronts. And although some view it as more of a gimmick than a valuable search option, Bing’s Visual Search tool is actually quite handy. Bing offers some nice extras that could easily attract more users to the site.
8. Social networking
The Bing platform goes beyond offering search to social networks such as Facebook. Currently, only Bing displays all Facebook status updates in its search results. Twitter teets also show up in Bing search results. Admittedly, Google offers Facebook status updates from Facebook Pages only (an important distinction) and also displays tweets, but Microsoft has done a better job of partnering with popular social networks and more users will likely start noticing this.
9. Don’t forget cash
Aside from features and services, Bing has another important resource that could help it catch up to Google: Microsoft’s cash. Microsoft has the financial resources it needs to take on Google every step of the way. If Google acquires companies to help it improve search, Microsoft can do the same. If Google spends money to improve its search, Microsoft can follow suit. Dollar for dollar, Google has no advantage over Microsoft.
10. Microsoft’s focus
Microsoft’s success in gaining some ground on Google can be directly attributed to the company’s renewed sense of urgency. Gone are the days when Microsoft would rake in the cash without worrying about competition. Today, Microsoft is extremely worried about its future. It’s concerned that Google will corner the Web market and leave Microsoft with scraps. Because of that, Microsoft has done a much better job of delivering viable Web experiences. And its market share is growing because of it.