Bing off to solid start, but not that good

A Web market share company claiming Microsoft's Bing search engine passed Yahoo Search this week appears to be an outlier compared with other observers and CNET's own data.

Tom Krazit Former Staff writer, CNET News
Tom Krazit writes about the ever-expanding world of Google, as the most prominent company on the Internet defends its search juggernaut while expanding into nearly anything it thinks possible. He has previously written about Apple, the traditional PC industry, and chip companies. E-mail Tom.
Tom Krazit
2 min read
People are searching with Microsoft's Bing, but perhaps not as much as one company thinks. Screenshot by Ina Fried/CNET

Ah, statistics.

Microsoft's new Bing search engine has received positive reviews in its first week on the planet, but did that early buzz translate into traffic? A report from Statcounter picked up by TechCrunch suggested that Bing's debut was successful enough to eclipse Yahoo Search during its first week, but subsequent analysis from Search Engine Land as well as data from CNET's network of sites suggests otherwise.

Statcounter, a Web traffic tracking company, reported that as of Thursday, June 4, Bing accounted for 16.28 percent of the U.S. search market, surpassing Yahoo's 10.22 percent just days after going live on Monday. Worldwide, Bing's advantage was said to be slimmer (5.62 percent to Yahoo's 5.13 percent), but that was enough for Statcounter to proclaim "Bing overtakes Yahoo!"

However, it's not quite that simple. Statcounter's data is "based on aggregate data collected by Statcounter on a sample exceeding 4 billion page views per month collected from across the Statcounter network of more than 3 million Web sites. Stats are updated and made available every 4 hours, however are subject to quality assurance testing and revision for 7 days from publication," according to the company.

Therefore, it will be interesting to see if those numbers change next week. Search Engine Land checked in with Comscore, Nielsen, and Hitwise, and found that over the past week in the U.S., Yahoo Search did about three times more traffic than Bing, roughly the same level where it was the week before when Microsoft-branded search consisted of Live Search and MSN Search.

Nielsen figures show that there was indeed a surge in interest among U.S. Web surfers related to Bing on June 1, the first day it went live. But that's not all that surprising given natural curiosity surrounding something new and shiny, and Bing's surge appeared to neatly replace the corresponding drop-off in traffic to Live Search and MSN Search.

CNET data suggests a similar story. For the first four days that Bing was live, the new search engine accounted for 2.2 percent of all session starts across the various CNET sites, including News, Reviews, Download, CNET TV, and CNET Shopper. Yahoo searches accounted for a little more than twice as many session starts, or 4.5 percent. Google, of course, was responsible for the rest. Bing did better than Yahoo on some sites, but worse on others.

Measuring Internet market share is notoriously tricky, and five different companies could very well reach five different conclusions. But even Microsoft has said that its basic goal for Bing over the next year is to pick up 2 percentage points of share, which unless Yahoo goes completely dark will still leave it solidly in third place behind Google and Yahoo.