More fun with numbers (is Bing losing share?)

There isn’t any question that since launching the new Bing brand in June, Microsoft has gained lots of attention (if not more market share) for its shiny “new” search engine.  In fact, it’s becoming quite the game to get out a new set of numbers that breathlessly announce that Bing is “the fastest growing”, or that “Bing is slowing down”.  The latest of these announcements comes from StatCounter.

This month it’s “Bing Records First Monthly Decline Since Launch”, while last month, the stats showed “Bing Gains Another 1% of Search Market” (well before Hitwise reported an 18% increase for Bing).  Indeed, reporting US search engine share stats seems to be more of a crap shoot than a scientific endeavor, at least when you look at the differences between reporting services.  Just for fun, we took all the reported numbers from StatCounter, Hitwise, comScore, and Nielsen since the Bing launch, and slapped them all in Excel:

5355.binggraph_thumb_3e35e53e Bing

(click to enlarge)  For reference, here’s the raw numbers:

  StatCounter Hitwise comScore Nielsen
Date Google Yahoo! Bing Google Yahoo! Bing Google Yahoo! Bing Google Yahoo! Bing
June 78.48 11.04 8.17 74.04 16.19 5.25 65 19.6 8.4 66.1 16.2 8.8
July 77.54 10.95 9.41 71.42 17.18 8.02 64.7 19.3 8.9 64.8 17.1 9
Aug 77.83 10.5 9.64 70.24 16.96 9.48 64.6 19.3 9.3 64.6 16 10.7
Sept 80.08 9.4 8.51                  

So which reporting service is right (or at least closest)?  The truth is, we have no way of knowing.  StatCounter looks to be reporting significantly higher numbers for Google, and lower numbers for both Yahoo! and Bing, but who knows, maybe they’re right and everyone else is wrong.  However like many services that depend on an opt in method of tracking (ie: inserting a piece of code on your site in order to track statistics), StatCounter stats are dependent on their users, and whether or not they are skewed to use the web in a particular way.  Here’s how StatCounter describes what they do:

What is STATCOUNTER?

A free yet reliable invisible web tracker, highly configurable hit counter and real-time detailed web stats. Insert a simple piece of our code on your web page or blog and you will be able to analyse and monitor all the visitors to your website in real-time!

The truth is, before we have a real idea of how Bing fared in August, we’ll have to wait for the rest of the reporting services to announce their numbers (in the same breathless fashion, no doubt).  Even then,  we’ll still be rolling the dice, and the only ones with real data will be Bing (and Google and Yahoo!).  Of course they’re not talking, and so it continues, and bloggers all over will jump at the chance to report the latest numbers, no matter what they are.