Microsoft search share rising on Bing power

In the week since Microsoft launched Bing, its new search engine, the software maker's share of US web searches has crept into double digits for the first time in two years.

But Bing's early gain is no predictor of future success. After all, the last time that happened, Microsoft had resorted to paying people to use Bing's predecessor, known as Live Search.

Bing went live June 3, though some people had access earlier. According to a report from research group comScore Inc., Microsoft snagged 11.1 per cent of US searches from June 2 to June 6. A week earlier, its share was 9.1 per cent.

That still leaves Microsoft a distant third behind Google, which was used for more than 60 per cent of searches in April, and Yahoo, which topped 20 per cent. ComScore did not release more recent figures for those companies.

Search traffic is key because advertisers who place pitches alongside search results will pay more to reach a larger audience. This is the key to Google's profits, while Microsoft's online business is losing money.

Microsoft has tried several tactics to narrow the gap with Google, including the drawn-out but unsuccessful attempt to buy Yahoo.

In June 2007, Microsoft launched the "Live Search Club," a website where people could play games, rack up points and redeem them for prizes.

Every move in an anagram game or a crossword puzzle would kick off a search on Microsoft's site.

That month, Microsoft's US search share jumped to 12.2 per cent, from 9.5 per cent in May 2007, according to comScore. But by October 2007 it had fallen below 10 per cent. And it remained there until Bing's heavily promoted launch last week.

Microsoft had no comment on the new analysis from comScore.