Experian Hitwise published results of a study last week showing data that Bing’s search increased 7% from last year, while Google decreased 5%. As a percentage of 2.6 trillion annual searches small deviance in share of market has some pretty huge implications, but that said the numbers may not have been as stark as Experian indicates.
The 7% number (as well as the -5% number) are year-over-year percentages (rounded up), meaning that Bing increased 7% of their own market share last year. In actuality Bing gained less than one percentage of total market from 12.29% of the search market in May 2011 to 13.17% in May 2012. Yahoo search increased .5%, which means that “Bing-powered” search gained 1.3% of market in the study, while Google lost about 3%.
So what does all of this mean?
First, dismiss the Yahoo increase. Yahoo hasn’t proactively done anything to increase it’s search – Axis was released at the end of May and wouldn’t have been a factor, so I assume this increase is noise.
Second, consider that up until the end of last year Microsoft was running a deficit of $1 billion per quarter on Bing (rumor has it that Microsoft cut its budget for Bing, though you’d never know it from watching Mad Men). Although AdAge reported last week that Google spent $1.5 billion on advertising in 2011 much of that was spent promoting Google Plus, leaving one to assume that Bing has more ad dollars behind it. One would expect some shift towards the bigger spender – and the fact that they are spending so much for so little should probably be a concern.
Finally, consider margin of error for a study like this. Experian doesn’t discuss this in their press release but the margin of error for a study like this exceeds percentage gained by Bing. By the numbers:
Experian tracked 10 million users for four weeks, who on average do about 11 searches per day. 10 million users x 28 days x 11 searches per day = 3.1 billion searches
Google has 65% of the market and there are 4.7 billion searches per day on Google. 1/.65 percent of the market x 28 days x 4.7 billion searched = 202 billion searches
3.1 billion / 202 billion = about 1.5% of searches
Yet as impressive and sweeping as this study is, the margin of error is likely about 2%. Which could explain the deviance for Bing this year, or last year, or at the six-month mark. It’s interesting to note however that Google probably legitimately lost some share of market, though – as their three percent decline is outside of the margin of error.
Point being, you probably can’t discern too much from this study except that Google is still the dominant engine for search. That said, Bing just went through a redesign and social integration so it will be interesting to see if they show any definitive gains in the next study.