Analysts report search market performance gains from unexpected sources -- Ask and Yahoo -- this week. This represents the first time for Yahoo in more than a year.
Ask.com's market share in search rose from 3.7% in February to 3.8% in March, remaining stable for the past year, according to comScore. Core search volume rose by 8.5% from the prior year, up from 0.7% year-on-year growth in February. The network's U.S. search volume rose 8.0% year-on-year in 1Q versus 8.8% growth in the fourth quarter.
Market share varies slightly depending on the data firm. Experian Hitwise reports that Ask.com had the highest gains, rising 21% to 3.44% in March, sequentially. Yahoo Search and Bing received 15.04% and 9.62%, respectively. Yahoo rose 3% and Bing declined 1%, compared with the prior month.
Still, Ask isn't the only search engine to capture new growth. Although Barclays Capital's Douglas Anmuth says it's too early to confirm that Yahoo's share has "stabilized," the analyst remains "encouraged." Data firm comScore delivered the positive news that Yahoo inched up 0.08% in February to 16.89% of searches in March. Yahoo lost roughly 3.1% market share since last year.
Meanwhile, Yahoo did experience a setback. The Sunnyvale, Calif. company confirmed Thursday that Ari Balogh, chief technology officer and executive vice president of products, will leave the company for personal reasons. Broadpoint AmTech Analyst Ben Schachter believes Balogh, who drove product initiatives and restructuring Yahoo's infrastructure, remains instrumental in the potential turnaround for the company.
Although Balogh would not return from sabbatical in June for personal reasons, "the loss of his leadership is likely to be a blow as he was highly regarded both internally and externally," Schachter writes in a research note. "His loss is a negative for Yahoo."
Schachter has concerns about the recent loss of Yahoo employees, such as ad sales exec Joanne Bradford. He says high turnover throughout the organization makes Yahoo's turnaround more challenging.
The exodus of Yahoo execs aside, Microsoft Bing's market share rose from 11.5% to 11.7%, but the pace of its share gains have slowed, according to Schachter, citing comScore numbers. Bing's March share gain represented its lowest basis point increase since Bing was launched in June, 2009, but the bottom line is that Microsoft continues to take share, pointing to its marketing and cashback programs as having a positive impact.
It appears that Ask, Bing and Yahoo gained in March at the expense of Google. Google domestic core search market share fell slightly to 65.1% in March from 65.5% in February, according to comScore. Google grew March core search volume by 10.1% year-on-year, slightly below 14.3% growth in February. Google domestic core search volume growth of 13.6% year-on-year in 1Q is below 4Q's 19.9% year-on-year increase.