Searching for Investing Clues

Microsoft's (NAS: MSFT) Bing will probably never catch up to Google (NAS: GOOG) in search, but the spunky engine is doing everything that it can to gradually close the gap.

Fresh data out of comScore on Friday reveals that Google and Bing continue to gain market share at the expense of Yahoo! (NAS: YHOO) , AOL (NYS: AOL) , and IAC's (NAS: IACI)

It's hard to grasp the gravity of the data from comScore's press release because it really only pits February to January. Sequentially speaking, the moves aren't much. Google and Bing took baby steps forward. Yahoo! and AOL took baby steps back. held its own, and it was actually the only portal of the five to grow its query volume in February (compared to the slightly longer month of January).

However, if we go back to comScore's data from February of last year -- and the year before -- you begin to see how this is becoming a two-horse race with Big G firmly in the lead.

Feb. 12

Feb. 11

Feb. 10




















Source: comScore.

According to comScore, there were nearly 17.6 billion search queries performed in this country last month. Google continues to watch over roughly two-thirds of that volume. Bing continues to grow in popularity, and it becomes clear with every passing year that Yahoo! agreeing to let Mr. Softy pay to take over its search business isn't worth the proceeds.

Yahoo! is losing search traffic to Bing -- just as it lost it to Google a decade earlier when it outsourced its search through Google. A year ago, Yahoo! was clinging to the silver medal, but now it's settling for bronze.

This doesn't mean that this is good news for Microsoft. Manning the search queries and serving up the paid search for both Bing and Yahoo! is great, but Yahoo! is losing ground quicker than Bing is taking it. Bing and Yahoo! combined for 29.7% of the search market a year ago and now they grab just 29.1%.

I may be stating the obvious, but now wouldn't be a bad time for Microsoft to consider a play for either or AOL. Either an outright purchase of striking a Yahoo!-esque deal makes sense at the right price.

Bing matters, but it's going to have to do a lot more than it's doing now.

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At the time thisarticle was published The Motley Fool owns shares of Microsoft, Google, and Yahoo. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Microsoft, Google, and Yahoo. Motley Fool newsletter services have also recommended creating a bull call spread position in Microsoft. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz calls them as he sees them. He does not own shares in any of the stocks in this story. Rick is also part of theRule Breakersnewsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early.

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