Bing gains again -- should Google worry?

US market share depends on whose statistics you read. Most likely scenario: Bing gaining, Yahoo draining, Google maintaining

Microsoft's Bing search engine may still be a bit player in the lucrative online search business dominated by Google, but it's slowly and steadily gaining users. And it appears that Bing's share is coming at the expense of both Google and Yahoo, the latter of which recently teamed up with Microsoft to be more competitive in online search.

It all depends on whose search market statistics you read -- Hitwise's or comScore's. The most likely scenario in the U.S. search market: Bing is gaining, Yahoo draining, and Google maintaining.

Bing the Creeper

Analysis firm Experian Hitwise today released its U.S. search market data for February, and the numbers show that Bing's slow push upward isn't running out of stream. Conversely, Yahoo's gradual decline continues. Google's trending downward too, albeit with a still-enviable market share.

Here's a quick January vs. February comparison chart for the big three search engines in the U.S.

December 2009

January 2010

February 2010

Google

72.25%

71.49%

70.95%

Yahoo

14.83%

14.57%

14.57%

Bing

8.92%

9.37%

9.70%

Source: Hitwise

Hitwise's data should give Google execs plenty to ponder. Microsoft's massive marketing push for Bing appears to be paying off. There's no reason to assume that Bing's advance will stall, particularly if Redmond succeeds in its aggressive foray into mobile search.

Rumors earlier this year had Apple in talks to make Bing the default search engine for the iPhone. That scuttlebutt, however, could very well have been part of a strategic Apple bluff to win concessions from Google.

Microsoft has high hopes for its well-received Windows Phone 7 mobile operating system, which, of course, uses Bing as its default search engine. If Win Phone 7 grabs a significant share of the mobile OS market -- a difficult task considering the rising number of Android-based devices, and the ongoing popularity of the iPhone -- Bing could get another market share boost.

Google: Same As It Ever Was?

Meanwhile, comScore just released its February numbers for the U.S. search market. They show Google and Bing with slight gains, while Yahoo is down slightly:

January 2010

February 2010

Google

65.4%

65.5%

Yahoo

17.0%

16.8%

Bing

11.3%

11.5%

Source: comScore

Certainly, both the Hitwise or comScore data give Microsoft a reason to feel cautiously optimistic about Bing's chances. And the Microsoft-Yahoo search partnership allows Redmond to focus its energies on goliath Google, which can't afford to get too cocky, even with its gaudy market share.

Contact Jeff Bertolucci via Twitter (@jbertolucci) or at jbertolucci.blogspot.com.

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