On the heels of Microsoft's Bing redesign announcement Thursday, Experian Hitwise and comScore released U.S. search numbers. Hitwise estimates that Bing-powered searches in April 2012 rose 11% to 30.01%, compared with the year-ago month.
Yahoo Search and Bing received 15.69% and 14.32%, respectively, of the search market in April 2012. Google retains the largest overall share of U.S. searches, at 64% in April 2012.
comScore reported that Google and Bing made incremental gains in April. Google sites led the U.S. explicit core search market in April with 66.5% -- up 0.1 percentage points -- followed by Microsoft sites with 15.4%, up 0.1 percentage points. Yahoo sites took 13.5% market share.
For me, the question becomes: will Bing's redesign give Microsoft a fair chance to close the gap with Google? During the MediaPost Search Insider Summit in Captiva, Fla., it became clear that college students want a social-search engine. Frankly, I'm not interested in the combination, and I don't consider my friends' opinions when making a purchase. I don't think social signals tied to search will lure a bigger audience to Bing, which has access to much more sophisticated back-end technology to prompt that instead.
"If it turns into a game-changer, it probably won't be sustainable unless Bing has access to feeds other search engines don't have," according to Young-Bean Song, founder of AnalyticsDNA, and former longtime Microsoft employee.
He doesn't think social will be a huge differentiator for Bing in the near term. "It doesn't seem that commerce in search will increase by adding casual observations of social commentary from social media," he said. "When you look at social media campaigns and the amount of success of advertising, especially direct-response, they're pretty dismal."
Song said when companies run traditional campaigns in social media, they are almost always disappointed because it's not a channel for buying and selling products. Facebook will not become a great engine for commerce or direct-response, but rather, branding.
"The click-through rates in social media are a tenth of what you find in display and other traditional media," Song said.
Meanwhile, engines experienced a slight fluctuation in the number of words per search. Longer search queries averaging five to eight words or more rose 2% from March 2012 to April 2012. One-word searches led with 28.6% of all queries -- up 19% in April 2011 compared with the year-ago month. Queries between one and four words were flat from March 2012 to April 2012. One-word search queries have increased 19 percent from April 2011 to April 2012, according to Experian Hitwise.
To use the analogy drawn from astrophysics:
Social media sites and their users are like a giant Oort cloud of asteroids, each moving at their own random pace and trajectory, some concentrated into groups (SM sites) and the rest (us) aimlessly wandering around.
Occasionally, the gravitation pull of a planet (major web presence) will pull them closer but not for long.
As for social media CTR numbers, they are abysmal and not going to impress advertisers for long.
Yes, Bing can mine these asteroids for useful stuff but frankly, one asteroid looks just like another - boring, sterile, gray, IOW a chunk of rock.