There's a report from comScore that Microsoft remains third in search a month after the launch of its new service, Bing, and the onset of a $100 million advertising campaign. But there's another interesting view from Compete, another web metrics company. Not only has Microsoft had a huge uptick in clickthrough on search ads, but apparently, in the U.S. at least, Yahoo leads the traditional search triumverate in paid clickthrough, with Google in second place.
For service providers such as Microsoft, Yahoo, and Google, search is about selling ads and making money, no matter what high toned rhetoric consumers might hear about making the world of information available to them. That's a sales point meant to keep and grow the audience, because reach is one of the two big factors for the advertisers. The other is effectiveness, and this is where Microsoft's results start looking more interesting. Look at this data, paying particular attention to percentage of sponsored ad referrals, otherwise known as clickthrough:
As Jeremy Crane, managing director of online media search at Compete, told me, "What we've seen is huge uptick, 80 percent increase, with the switchover to Bing. It looks like the way it's being packaged and presented to consumers, they're more likely to click on links. It's right out of the Google playbook."
Note that these numbers are just for the U.S. What is interesting here is not just the explosive growth of Microsoft's clickthroughs, but the relative success of clickthroughs as a percentage of all referrals compared to the search share. In June, Google got 73.9 percent of all search, but only 6.1 percent of those were sponsored referrals. Yahoo brought in 6.4 percent and Microsoft has grown from 2 percent to 5.4 percent.
You'll also notice one table includes "Club Live/Bing" while the other doesn't. This is the search game that Microsoft runs, with people performing searches to get points and eventually trade them in for prizes. It's essentially a form of bribing consumers to use a search engine. The ones who do perform hundreds of queries a month, "whereas a normal searcher might perform 30, 40 searches on average," according to Crane. But apparently they don't click on ads.
This data offers a new view on the effectiveness of search engine marketing. There's no way to know with certainty whether the Microsoft customers are more prone to clicking on ads or whether people who are casually trying the site are clicking on the first thing they see, which would be sponsored listing.
Another interesting bit of data: although search volume at Bing is growing, there isn't a drop in volume at either Google or Yahoo, indicating that people are trying Bing in addition to what they customarily use. Also, the number of queries per user is flat, so there isn't yet a sign of growing dependence on the site.
Image via stock.xchng user ba1969, site standard license.