Is Google’s Dominance Coming to an End? (Or, How to Get Linkbait with Statistics)

A few weeks ago, Hitwise posted the big news that Bing-powered share of searches in the US had reached 30%.  The data showed that month-over-month, Google’s search share dropped by 3% to 64.42%, while Bing-powered searches increased by 5% to 30.01%.  News pundits and the search industry were quick to jump on the Google-bashing bandwagon, saying it was the fault of Instant, the Panda update, Google’s greed, etc.  On the surface, the news looked like a home run for Bing.

I’m a numbers person – I deal with data and statistics every day managing Fluency Media’s client PPC campaigns.  When I see increases or decreases in the single-digit range (as Google and Bing’s were from February to March), I usually think of them as “essentially flat.”  In other words, the change from month to month is insignificant.

So I decided to dig deeper.  Here are the February-March 2011 stats (courtesy of Experian Hitwise):This data is what caused all the “Google is history, Bing wins” doom and gloom.  But let’s look at the M/M results laid out in a graph:

See any difference between the 2 months?  Me neither.

For grins, I decided to look at last year’s March search share data.  After all, trends are often seasonal, and follow yearly, rather than monthly, trend lines.  We don’t even look at M/M data for many of our clients, because it always looks either really good or really bad.  Year-over-year is what matters.

So, I was able to find March 2010 Hitwise data (hat-tip to Search Engine Land).  Here it is:

The headline on the Hitwise press release (which is no longer available in full on the Hitwise site)? “Ask share of searches increases for fourth straight month.”

Ask?  Are they even a search engine anymore?

That aside, let’s look at March 2011 numbers compared with March 2010.  First of all, it’s important to note that the “Bing-powered search” engine didn’t exist last year.  In early 2011, Bing began powering the Yahoo search results, and also absorbed Yahoo Search Marketing, Yahoo’s PPC platform.

If you look a little closer, you’ll see that “Bing-powered search” is just the sum of bing.com and search.yahoo.com.  Combined, the two are up 22% Y/Y, which is definitely significant.

Let’s check out another graph.  For the purposes of the graph, I left bing.com and search.yahoo.com separated, so the data is apples-to-apples.

What does this look like to you?  Is Google’s dominance out the window?  Sure, they’ve slipped a little bit, but you don’t need to be a statistician to see that they’re still way ahead of the pack.

Bing.com searches are up, for sure – they’re now equal with Yahoo.  But let’s remember that Bing has put heavy advertising firepower behind their brand – just to get to a 14% share.  Anybody seen any ads for Google.com lately?

The bottom line is this:  I don’t know if Google’s dominance will end someday; nothing lasts forever, so chances are it won’t.  But Google’s days are nowhere near numbered, based on this data.

At Fluency Media, we pride ourselves on our ability to move beyond the link bait, and sift through all types of data to get at what’s really going on.  In this case, Google’s still the king of search.