Bing bounces back, racking up a Wolfram|Alpha deal and rising traffic

Bing is, apparently, still alive and kicking. On Nov. 11, Microsoft (MSFT) announced a deal with Wolfram|Alpha, the search engine created by Mathematica founder and math genius Stephen Wolfram. Microsoft will be Wolfram|Alpha's first partner and will incorporate results from the search engine, which aims to provide actual answers to questions asked in natural language.

This follows on the heels of Microsoft inking deals to pull in real-time update data from Twitter and Facebook. But perhaps best for Microsoft was Bing's very strong traffic growth numbers for October.

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer's big hope to take on Google (GOOG) showed a surprising 7% month-over-month growth in search queries during October, according to search traffic tracker HitWise. In that same month both Google and Yahoo's (YHOO) search property showed nominal declines. Most notably, Bing didn't deploy a big advertising campaign to goose traffic as it had during the three-month post-launch period when the Internet was quite literally one giant Bing banner ad.

I called into question whether Bing minus the blanket ad campaign would have any real staying power. It looks like I may have been premature and that, as Microsoft search gurus claimed when Bing launched, the Redmond search property is differentiated enough from Google in key ways to sway potential users. True, Yahoo and Google both lost only 1% for October, according to the Hitwise numbers.

Video and Social Networking Lead the Way

So where is Bing making its inroads? Pretty much across all search categories except health, where traffic was flat. Bing showed a 13% increase in automotive searches, a 12% increase in shopping and sports categories, and an 11% increase in the news and entertainment.

But the most promising numbers were big increases in online video viewing and social-networking searches, two of the fastest-growing search areas. Bing showed an 18% increase online video search and a 21% increase in social networking topics and posts. Google's numbers also rose for both of these categories, but it was low single-digit growth off a much bigger base.

Microsoft has also invested heavily in Bing's travel search capabilities, and it's pushing hard in shopping, an area where advertisers pony up big dollars and it's possible to run affiliate deals that award search engines a percentage of transactions resulting from clicks. Previously, it looked like Bing was taking share from Yahoo in shopping -- hardly the result Yahoo CEO Carol Bartz intended when she inked a deal to outsource search-engine technology to Microsoft and adopt Bing as her primary back-end search engine. Bing has also unveiled a visual search tool that's probably the best effort to date.

A Statistical Anomaly?

Even with Bing's October surprise, Google still holds 70% of all search traffic, with Yahoo and Bing trailing as a distant second and third, respectively. Yahoo has 16.1% of all traffic, and Bing has 9.5%. Google's decline was so small that it could have been a statistical anomaly. And one month's numbers do not a horse race make. But the trend leads into the holiday shopping season when search yields big profits and high click-throughs.

In addition, the Wolfram deal could give Bing capabilities that Google lacks and isn't planning to build. The propeller-heads in Redmond can pat themselves on the back and put their Bing t-shirts back on in public for work well done.

Alex Salkever is Senior Writer at AOL Daily Finance covering technology and greentech. Follow him on twitter @alexsalkever, read his articles, or email him at

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