By Chris Watson-Shaw

Bing & Yahoo have been the plucky underdogs to the mammoth that is Google search for years. Their search market share had been falling - down for the last quarter of 2013. But after a robust 2014 Bing/Yahoo has been clawing it back from Google, having their best performance in Q4 2014 since 2008.

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So What Has Happened?

It was October 2010 when we heralded the official launch of the Yahoo Microsoft Search Alliance. The potent combination of the Yahoo Bing Network and corporate backers have been slowly chipping away at Google's search market share for years. It's safe to say it has been a slow process so far, but with persistence comes reward and Bing/Yahoo have certainly taken this to heart.

Bing search engine

(Image source: Bing.com)

The battle has been compared in the media to David and Goliath, but really brings to mind that iconic film The Shawshank Redemption, with Andy Dufresne slowly scratching away at the wall between imprisonment and freedom – fortunately Bing/Yahoo don't run the risk of solitary confinement or prison uniform. That said, a break out could potentially be imminent.

Bing/Yahoo currently holds the highest market share and largest growth over consecutive quarters since their partnership began and compares to a 25.8% jump. This is no mean feat considering the opposition.

It is important to understand that Bing/Yahoo, whilst not taking that coveted Google search crown anytime soon, have made significant moves to help expand their market share against sizeable challenges and have been succeeding.

The most recent shift has been Firefox's decision to replace Google with Yahoo as the default browser. Whilst this may not change the search world overnight do bear in mind that last year the Bing/Yahoo global search market share was down. So far this has signalled a shift in the right direction for Bing/Yahoo. Figures vary as to the exact market share which Google now holds – with StatCounter and ComScore putting Google's desktop US share at 77.3% and 67% respectively. Despite the discrepancy what this does tell us all is that Google is slowly but surely losing out. This is not just confined to the US alone, this is a worldwide phenomenon.

What Does This Mean For The UK Search Market?

In terms of how we perceive things to be in the UK, this will continue to signal gradual changes. Needless to say, this is a shift that could have long-term consequences for the search market.

What's most interesting is the mobile drop-off for Google – in 2010 they held a dominating 99.6% of the UK mobile search engine market – as we head into 2015 that's at 93.7% (-5.85%). Significantly, the reduction outpaces all other platforms (-4.27%). If Bing/Yahoo were able to capitalise on this decrease for mobile we could see them becoming much stronger contenders in the battle for the mobile market share.

It has been argued that whilst the Firefox 34 switch-over from Google to Yahoo as search default may look like a great move, the switch back rate to Google (which has already reduced Yahoo's share on the engine from 43% to 36%) would mean the potential result could be a rather muted one.

But We've Heard This All Before, What's Different This Time?

The most significant deal comes from Apple as they renegotiate their default search provider for Safari and potentially sever ties with Google for good. Competition between the two companies has grown since Google began working on Android – now the main competitor to Apple's iOS.

The battle for mobile

(Image source: knowyourmobile.com)

Whilst this may not have a significant effect on Google's desktop search market share (Safari holds only 5%), the most striking changes will be with mobile. Currently Safari holds 45% of the mobile browser market share and this will be an opportunity for anyone wanting to get ahead of Google in the drive to future device dominance. Bear in mind that 2014 was 'The Year of Mobile' with triple digit growth in the search market. It was also the year where Mobile usage overtook Desktop and this shift is only going to accelerate going into 2015.

Google have held this contract since 2010 and with Bing being Siri's default search engine along with integration within OS X Yosemite Apple's desktop and server operating system, and as a result this could have a huge impact on the mobile search engine market as we know it.

Another recent development is Yahoo's testing of a search engine format that almost mirrors Google's current design. The logic there seems sound - It does make sense to make people feel comfortable with the design format they are used to with Google if Safari switches to Yahoo. Another cunning move? Well if this was the intention it could potentially undercut the issues they have been having with switchback rates.

Looking To The Future

Significant changes have then signalled a retreat the following quarter so it will be interesting to see how the Safari deal turns out. This could have a major impact on mobile search market shares if it were to go in Bing/Yahoo's favour.

Certainly the Firefox deal could be a catalyst for things to come. With the exponential growth of the mobile platform in the past year, and chance of having Apple on side, Bing/Yahoo cannot miss an opportunity to step in and exploit a potential opening. Persistence has always been key. This will be a really interesting move if they do pull it off and one which could have far reaching effects on where you put your budget for mobile search advertising.

So if you are looking to expand your advertising streams into mobile or for future market predictions – this deal may be one to watch. Bing Ads have always provided a cheaper and effective alternative from Google AdWords at Periscopix and if mobile is to be the future, you may be considering using Bing Ads faster than you think. After all, keeping ahead of the competition is half of the battle and Bing may finally have the upper hand.

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