The internet of Bings: how Microsoft reached 45% of UK searchers

Stephen Kenwright, director of search at Branded3, rounds up the big developments in SEO, PPC and display to help you plan your search strategy.

In a blog post on Thursday last week Microsoft’s GM of Search and Cortana Ryan Gavin announced:

“Starting today, to ensure we can deliver the integrated search experience designed for Windows 10, Microsoft Edge will be the only browser that will launch when you search from the Cortana box.”

…and Bing will be the only search engine.

Cortana hasn’t quite reached the popularity that Siri enjoys just yet, but Microsoft’s latest announcement is yet another small step in the march towards Bing domination.

“Of course, you can continue to use your search engine and browser of choice on Windows 10. They can be accessed and used as you always have… you can configure the search default setting in Microsoft Edge and Internet Explorer, which are available when you directly access those programs.”

We know from Bing’s sessions at Advertising Week that more than 90 per cent of Microsoft Edge users retain Bing as their default search engine…but Edge is a tiny fraction of this story.

45 per cent of UK searchers don’t use Microsoft Edge – not even Google’s all-conquering Chrome is the browser of choice for that many people – but 45 per cent of UK searchers do use Bing. Just not on purpose.

What is Bing’s market share?

The search industry usually relies on comScore’s Explicit Core Search Share report to gauge how the search engines are performing against each other. The US report from February (the most up-to-date report at present) centred around this table:

The table explains that 21 per cent of US searchers on desktop computers went to a Microsoft site (Bing.com, MSN.com) and entered their search in the box there instead of on Google.com (which is still the dominant search engine).

Beneath the table comScore gives an explicit breakdown of the search engines: in February 64 per cent of US desktop searches were powered by Google and 32.8% were powered by Bing.

The numbers have been consistent for years. Since the first available comScore report release in April 2014, Bing has been around the 20 per cent mark. Listening to Bing’s Axel Steinman at Advertising Week though – and since Microsoft introduced us to the Bing network in February this year – it’s obvious that Microsoft is telling a different story.

What’s changed? Across all devices, Bing has surpassed 18 per cent market share in the UK. We’re used to quoting figures barely more than a third of this. It’s the result of a change in tact by Microsoft that the search industry hasn’t quite caught up with yet. When it comes to the users in the comScore report – the people who fire up a browser and type in the URL of their favourite search engine – Google will continue to dominate. Bing’s strides have come in its integration into other devices.

Microsoft Edge and Internet Explorer contribute to this – as does the Cortana search box in the taskbar – but Bing is intrinsic to Windows 10.

Right clicking in Word gives you the option to Search with Bing. You can search with Bing in Outlook. And Skype.

Bing is integrated into Windows Phones and Microsoft Surface. Searches on Xbox are powered by Bing.

Google still has the advantage of preference. When a consumer chooses to purchase an iPhone she will probably choose to use Google as her default search engine. But Bing is disrupting that cycle too. Cortana is nowhere near as popular as Siri – but Siri’s searches are powered by Bing too (as is Apple’s Spotlight Search). Microsoft has its own wearables; couple this with Siri on the Apple Watch and Bing powers more search on wearable devices than Google does.

Voice search is ramping up. Apart from Gavin’s blog post, Thursday saw Amazon announce its results, hot on the heels of the information that Amazon’s Echo devices are now outselling Kindles.

Stephen Kenwright is director of search at Branded3. You can follow him on Twitter at @stekenwright.

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