Google DefenseGoogle has been the dominant search engine in the US for many years, but is the mighty giant in danger of losing its leadership status?  Though it may sound far-fetched today, technology develops rapidly and Google has been losing market share over the past 6 months.

A recent Mashable article by Christina Warren points out that, “Google might still be the leading search engine in the U.S. by a large margin, but over the last six months, searches powered by Microsoft Bing are increasing at an impressive rate.”

The latest data from Experian Hitwise indicates that Google supplied 64% of searches in the U.S. in March, 2011 while Bing-powered search, which includes both Yahoo and Bing.com, accounted for 30% of U.S. searches.  Just 6 months ago, Experian Hitwise reported that Google controlled 72% of the U.S. search market while Bing powered search accounted for 23%. In the past six months, Bing’s market share in the U.S. increased fairly significantly to 30%.  Additionally, Hitwise reported that Bing and Yahoo achieved the highest success rates during the month, meaning that for both search engines, more than 80% of searches executed resulted in a visit to a website while Google’s rate was about 66%.  I am not suggesting that Bing powered searches will overtake Google anytime soon, or ever, but it does appear to be evolving as a potentially serious threat to Google’s search empire.

Perhaps Google has taken its eye off the ball by getting distracted with so many other initiatives?  For example, just last week Google invested $168 million into BrightSource Solar Project.  This sounds like a great cause, which I applaud, but does co-founder and new-CEO again Larry Page have the experience, time & knowledge to guide a company that has branched out into so many things?  There has to be consequences.  Perhaps Google search is getting somewhat neglected, which would not be a wise move since just about all of Google’s revenue is generated by their search ads.

In Google’s defense, they have been launching many new search related initiatives and they have greatly improved Google search and the Google AdWords advertising platform.  The AdWords platform has evolved quite a bit over the past year and now provides a suite of valuable new tools for advertisers.  Additionally, Bing recently launched an $80 million ad campaign that seems to be working.

Google faces threats from multiple fronts as social media continues to emerge as a popular and potentially valuable platform for advertising.  According to Nielsen Web Traffic, Facebook has about 135 million U.S. users compared to 152 million that use Google.  However Facebook’s users stay on Facebook 3 times longer than users stay on Google.  What happens when Facebook develops their own search that integrates all of their valuable social info?  Hmmm???  Google is certainly aware of the threat and has even tried to combat it with social media efforts of its own, but so far with little success.  Google’s recent launch of the +1 feature is an example of a social media initiative.  As Google gets increasingly larger, can they remain nimble enough to successfully evolve with the rapidly changing search environment?  Only time will tell.