Microsoft Bing's Search Share Is Flat Against Google

Microsoft Bing experienced largely flat growth in July, according to Experian Hitwise. That could mean the Microsoft search engine is holding the line against Google, or else that its features are failing to attract large numbers of new users.

Microsoft Bing saw its percentage of U.S. online searches hold steady between June and July, according to new data from Experian Hitwise. Depending on how one interprets that data, either Microsoft's search engine has staying power in its long-term battle against Google-or else Bing's offerings are losing traction for robust growth among users.

During that month-long period, Bing's market share increased from 9.85 percent to 9.86 percent, said the analysis firm, which estimated that Google dipped marginally from 71.65 percent to 71.43 percent. Yahoo experienced an incremental gain from 14.37 percent to 14.43 percent.

Similar numbers from comScore put Google's July market share at 65.8 percent-down from 66.2 percent in June-and Bing's at 11 percent. That firm placed Yahoo's share that month at 17.1 percent.

Yahoo's transfer of its backend search to Bing is well underway, with the transition of its search infrastructure in the United States and Canada scheduled to take place over the next few days. If that happens as planned, Yahoo users will start seeing "Powered by Bing" tags on all their search-results pages.

Yahoo and Microsoft signed a search-and-advertising deal in summer 2009 that would see Yahoo take over worldwide salesforce duties for both companies' search advertisers, while Bing took over backend search. Microsoft executives have voiced the hope that major parts of the agreement, which includes porting Yahoo's U.S. advertisers and publishers onto Microsoft's AdCenter platform, will be in place by the end-year holidays 2010.

For their part, Yahoo executives have repeatedly claimed that, although their search is now handled by Bing, their Web properties' new features will allow the company to maintain a robust Web presence.

Theoretically, the combination of Yahoo's and Bing's respective market shares-assuming little attrition-will give Microsoft a more powerful competitive position vis-??í-vis Google. But given how Bing's growth seems to have leveled off in recent months, it may take Yahoo's added efforts to inch Bing closer to the 30-percent share mark-something of an irony, considering the occasionally bitter relationship between the two companies.

Perhaps more worrisome for Microsoft, the flattening of Bing's growth comes despite the integration of new features, such as Bing Maps with new color and applications.

"The search share for Bing remained flat month-over-month at 11 percent, and roughly 60 basis points lower than March levels, indicating that Bing's momentum is perhaps slowing down," Youssef Squali, an analyst with Jefferies & Co., wrote in an Aug. 17 research note. "That said, with Yahoo's share added... Bing should become the de-facto No. 2 search engine after Google."

From a governmental point of view, the Microsoft-Yahoo deal seems to be proceeding relatively unimpeded, with both the U.S. Department of Justice and the European Commission having previously cleared the two companies' plans.