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Microsoft's latest search engine - BingMicrosoft officially launched their new search product, Bing,  last week and if nothing else, it has certainly received a lot of attention. This is due in no small part to the reportedly 80 to 100 million dollar marketing campaign that has been used to launch it (kudos to JWT, by the way, for some excellent spots.) I for one, while an admitted fan of Google, am really glad to see competition ratcheting up in the search engine market. I am excited at the prospect of the innovation I am sure it will create for marketers.

Thanks in part to their marketing campaign, the overdrive online news cycle, and general curiosity, it looks like Bing may have even passed up Yahoo search withing the first day of its launch. But, for now at least, Bing has settled back into 3rd place in market share.

As a user, I must admit that at first blush, I actually like the design and functionality of the user interface.  Particularly interesting, but seemingly not fully fleshed out yet, is the shopping recommendation engine. In my use, it seemed pretty robust when searching for a wrist watch, but provided no help at all when looking for a new computer desk.

As far as relevant search results go, In my testing I found Bing to comparable to Google on searches for information that is over a couple of weeks old, but it failed miserably compared to Google when searching for information newer than two weeks.  In a humorous twist, Google is providing more up to date news and blog content on Bing than Bing is.  You can test this for yourself here.

As a business marketer however, it really isn’t about what I like or I want. It is about how effective a tool Bing can be in helping me reach enough of the right searchers at the right point in their buy cycle so that I can move them closer to taking valuable actions for my clients. 

So what objective criteria can I use to evaluate Bing for my clients?  First  is positive post-click behavior. This metric looks at the search prospect’s behavior after having clicked into my client’s site. This one will take a month or so to start providing insight on whether the Bing launch was positive or not. Historically, I have seen that for high involvement purchase decisions (most of my clients fall into this category) Yahoo tends to give me the strongest post-click behavior, followed closely by Google and trailed significantly by Microsoft Live Search. I’m not sure why this is, but MS just seems to send me looky-loos. I don’t know how the Bing launch will effect this, but I am a little sceptical going in.

Next is just sheer volume. I know that only a certain percentage (between 2 and 6 percent, depending on the client) of my client’s prospect searchers are going to click  on a search ad to engage with my client. In order to meet volume goals, I need to see enough relevant searches and searchers to meet my marketing needs. Right now, Bing is pulling in only a slightly higher search volume than they were as Microsoft Live Search. So unless they can make some headway here, it doesn’t look like they are going to merit much higher budget percentage based on volume.

Finally is the actual cost per click. So far, the prices I am seeing on Bing are slightly lower but comparable in the key words and phrases to what I am seeing on both Yahoo and Google and I don’t see this a real differentiator to a business marketer.

So really, it comes down to volume and on-site results. To make any headway, Bing is going to have to not just steal market share from Yahoo, which is what it seemed to do in its first few days after launch. Bing needs to go after Google to make any real headway into a business marketer’s budget. The problem is, Google is more than a search engine, Google is a habit.  Google has become noun, verb, adjective and adverb in our popular lexicon.  To go after Google, I think they are going to have to do more than just “pretty up” their engine. The shopping decision support that they are promoting doesn’t really look that differentiated in function from what Google shopping already provides. Taking away the snazzy look, the image and video search results don’t impress me as being that differentiated. 

The bottom line is that I just don’t see any clear differentiator that is going to change searcher habits.  But I am really glad to see that someone is trying.

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