July 10, 2009, 12:00 AM

Microsoft’s Bing is attracting searchers, but are they buyers?

Data from Hitwise and Compete show that a growing number of web users are trying out Microsoft’s new search engine, Bing. But paid search ads on Bing did not perform well in June compared to Google ads, according to search marketing firm Apogee Search.

Backed by ads on popular TV shows, Microsoft Corp.’s new Bing search engine is attracting consumers and gaining market share-although not against Google. But it may not be attracting consumers ready to make purchases, suggests data from search marketing firm Apogee Search.

Bing’s share of searches by U.S. web users grew from 3.43% in the week ended June 6 to 6.63% in the week ended June 27, a weekly growth rate of 25%, says Hitwise, a unit of Experian that tracks web traffic. But Bing’s market share for the month as a whole was 5.25%, down from 5.64% in May for Microsoft’s previous Live Search engine. Google’s share grew from 73.66% in May to 74.04% in June and Yahoo’s share grew from 15.55% in May to 16.19%. No. 4 search engine, Ask.com, declined to 3.15% in June from 3.81% in May, Hitwise says.

Compete Inc., another web measurement firm, puts Bing’s search market share at 6.5% for June, up from 6.2% for Microsoft in May. While that may not seem like much, Compete notes that much of Bing’s gain came at the end of the month, suggesting Microsoft’s TV ads were beginning to have an effect. Google’s market share for the month increased to 73.9% from 73.3%, while Yahoo slipped to 16.6% from 17.0% and Ask to 2.1% from 2.5%. Compete also noted that Bing generated 80% more clicks on paid search ads in June than Microsoft’s Live Search engine did in May.

But searchers trying out Bing, even those clicking on search page ads, may not be buying much, according to Apogee’s study. The search marketing firm analyzed data from 10 e-commerce clients, comparing key paid search ROI metrics for Bing in June against Microsoft’s May results, then comparing that data to how Google performed for those retailers from one month to the next, in order to correct for seasonal fluctuations. In only one case did Bing’s results improve more than Google’s month to month, while Google bested Bing for seven of the retailers and in two cases the results were about the same, says Bill Leake, CEO of Apogee.

“For Bing to work, at least in e-commerce, they need to do more than attract searchers,” Leake says. “They have to build loyalty and attract more buyers.”

Microsoft has been advertising Bing as a “decision engine,” as opposed to a search engine, a tool that provides the information web users need instead of just a list of links. An ad for Bing that ran on the popular late-night comedy program The Daily Show moves quickly through ads for a variety of products then shows a screen with text that says: “Getting to what you want faster. It’s what we’re all about.” Microsoft bought three minutes of ad time on The Daily Show, but only ran a 30-second spot, and told viewers they were getting “two more minutes of The Daily Show because of Bing.”

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