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Has Microsoft got the Budda-BING?

When I first heard that Microsoft was yet again attempting to launch a search service to rival Google, my initial reaction was ‘why bother?’ Google dominate search, always have and probably always will, and they deserve it. They’ve earned it over the last 10 years through developing increasingly complex algorithms and adapting the search engine to respond well to the increasing amount of multimedia content available on the web.

Now Microsoft unveil Bing, their ‘decision’ engine and plough the field of marketing with a $100 million campaign, in the hope that money and semantics might challenge Google for the top spot in search. But have they considered the consequences of delivering more accurate results through the categorisation for generic search terms, such as hiking up the cost of keywords? Or perhaps it means that all us lowly search engine optimizers will have to adapt our analysis and implementation skills.

Bing!

But I wouldn’t worry, the only reported merit of Bing so far is its cosmetics and the ad revenue opportunities the design might open up to Microsoft. The Guardian recently published some interesting data from user experience research agency User Centric who used eye-tracking software to monitor where people looked on the page when using Bing and Google. The results showed that users searching with Bing paid more attention to the ads on the search engine results page. In the study they conducted, on average 42% of Bing users looked at the sponsored links, compared to only 25% with those using Google.

However this didn’t translate to the actual click-through rates on the ads, as this number was actually similar for both search engines. And there are further discrepancies, Bing’s three column design may be more ad-friendly but the nature of these results from User Centric could only be down to the fact that Bing is new, therefore the users were more likely to take a general look around the search engine results page.

I don’t imagine people will be Binging over Googling any time soon, but what do you think? Is it high time for an alternative to Google?

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3 Comments
  • Mike Berry on June 11, 2009

    Agree catching Google may well be impossible but Microsoft can’t afford not to try; even a few more percentage points share of the Search market is worth fighting for; Bing already looks like a better contender than Live Search and if it encourages Google to up its game further, giving users a better search experience, then we all win – even SEOs!

  • Zac on June 11, 2009

    True that Mike, it doesn’t hurt to keep Google on the binary toes!

  • Mark on June 11, 2009

    I’d love to see a decent Google competitor out there, but I don’t think it’s 1) going to be any time soon or 2) be Microsoft.

    An almost unmentioned yet massive advantage Google has is that some form of Analytics / Adsense is present on a huge % of sites (saw a study suggesting as high as 70%), giving them the edge with data.

    I had a very quick play on bing and my end thoughts were “oh that’s a bit pretty”, which wears off. Wasted venture imo. Either bring something new in, or stay out.

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