Search Tech

More Search Features for Google, Less Market Share for Bing

Despite a multi-million-dollar ad campaign, interest in Microsoft’s new Bing search engine may be leveling off, according to new market share findings this week from two Web tracking services. However, the competition from Bing may still be weighing heavily on Google, if this week’s addition of new search features and Web site gadgets is any indication.

Some of Google’s new Search Options tools have been seen before in test runs. Thursday, Google announced that anybody inputting search terms and clicking on the “show options” link near the top of the results page can now see new filters for past hour, specific date range, more shopping sites, fewer shopping sites, visited pages, not yet visited, books, blogs and news.

On Wednesday — which just happened to be International Translation Day — Google released a new service that provides instant translations for individual Web sites into 51 different languages. The gadget installs a banner at the top of the page. “Now, when people visit your page, if their language — as determined by their browser settings — is different than the language of your page, they’ll be prompted to automatically translate the page into their own language. If the visitor’s language is the same as the language of your page, no translation banner will appear,” wrote product manager Jeff Chin on the Official Google Blog.

While Google was laying all this out to users, Web trackers StatCounter and NetApplications showed Bing third-quarter market share falling to the 4 percent range, hinting that consumer sampling of Microsoft’s new “decision engine” may be slowing down.

Key Market Share Data on the Horizon

Market share figures from more established Web survey companies like ComScore and Nielsen continue to show Bing with higher market share numbers, according to Jim McGregor, senor technology strategiest for In-Stat. Still, “I would at least let it go through the fourth quarter” and the holiday shopping season before analyzing Bing’s staying power, McGregor told TechNewsWorld. “The fourth quarter is obviously important for e-commerce, especially for consumers. You typically want to see one or two quarters (of activity), but the most important ones come in the last half of the year. That’s when you’re going to see consumer trends, as we get through the fourth quarter. That’s going to be a better judge of how well Bing is doing.”

Another analyst thinks three months is an adequate amount of time to determine if users are liking Bing’s take on search. “That’s plenty of time for it to shake out and let people try it,” Ken Saunders, president of Search Engine Experts told TechNewsWorld. “It’s one thing to get people to try something. It’s very different to get them to change their habits and change their preferences. When someone has essentially locked in their preference by selecting that Google toolbar with the search capability in the corner (of a Web page), it’s very difficult to get them to change that.”

The Evolution of Search

Certain bloggers and some search industry analysts were quick to point out that Google’s new Search Options look an awful lot like those already employed by e-commerce companies like Amazon and in terms of being able to refine results. Yet McGregor says that’s a good thing and part of a long tradition in the tech industry of competitors taking features and services developed by other companies and adding their own twists.

“I think it’s great. What we’re finally seeing with this competition is an evolution of search engines from being just basic Web crawlers to actually being intelligent agents, where they are going out and trying to come up with intelligent solutions based on what you’re looking for,” McGregor said. “You’ve got two very aggressive companies that are not going to stand still. It’s not just a matter of copying the others.”

As search develops, the real test will come as more players figure out how to keep users coming back. “If you’re searching for a word or company, all of them do the same thing. The future is in what they’re tying to it — premium content, do you use it for a landing or home page, maybe you’ve got all your social network information bundled in there somewhere. Does it give you an advantage to go through that search engine to get to your content?”

There is an advantage to being the best at certain search options, Saunders maintained, and Google is keeping focused on that particular target. “I think anything that makes the search result more valuable to the searcher is a good thing and making the options for search more sophisticated will help searchers find what they want easier, which will then align them with Google. The date range feature is certainly very useful to filter out information that I would consider to be old.”

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