The Battle For Search Supremacy

While the dust has not begun to settle on the “Bing” search engine push by Microsoft or its partnership deal with Yahoo, the search wars remain a lopsided battle. The July 2009 online ratings from comScore show Google with 64.7% of the search market share (a tick lower than its 65.0% share in June), with Yahoo at 19.3% (down from 19.6%) and Microsoft up to 8.9% from 8.4% in June. Despite the continued dominance of Google, the size of the initial gains by Microsoft are mostly being interpreted as significant. As Larry Dignan notes, “these incremental gains don’t signal a huge trend or anything, but they could add up over time.” And from the Washington Post’s Jason Kincaid: “Another month, another report that Bing is chiming slightly louder.” But Kincaid also notes that Bing’s gains may not represent much of an advancement toward helping Microsoft reach its ultimate goal of a strong head-to-head challenge to Google: “Once again, it looks like Bing’s gain comes at Yahoo’s expense, at least to some extent. We saw a similar pattern last month, when we pointed out that Yahoo was losing market share both from below (Bing) and above (Google). ”
With Yahoo soon to be “Powered by Bing,” Microsoft expects to largely co-op Yahoo’s current search market share. And it’s possible that this alone will make the price tag on the deal pay off. But it will take a lot more than the successful cannibalization of Yahoo users to achieve the ultimate goal of becoming a toe-to-toe competitor with Google. The Yahoo deal will make things tighter, but for the moment will leave Microsoft a long way from parity in a Coke vs. Pepsi-style battle with Google. The road to this goal rests on enough dissatisfaction with Google to push users to try Bing. And at the moment the need for something new simply doesn’t exist for most Google users.
The latest data from the American Consumer Satisfaction Index shows Google with an 86 score for user satisfaction, significantly higher than its competitors despite a vastly larger base. With the Bing/Yahoo consolidation, the battle for search supremacy can’t help but become more exciting. But it may take another major shake-up to really make this a race.

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