Bing vs. Google: What's better for advertisers?

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Microsoft launched Bing a few months ago with the obvious, but unspoken, aim of breaking Google's dominance of the search engine market -- and the astronomical advertising income that goes with it. I'm not interested in whether Bing is a better search engine than Google -- if you want to compare search performance, there's a very nice system from Blackdog. Instead, this article will look at whether Bing is a better search engine for advertisers.

The fight for market share
CrunchBase has an informative set of video interviews with Stefan Weitz, director of Bing. In these, Weitz states that the key difference between the Bing and Google is not the search results -- he implies Bing doesn't need to be a better search engine than Google; it only needs to be as good, which is almost a given with today's technical knowledge. What differentiates the two, according to Weitz, is the presentation of that material:

"What makes Bing unique is organization of results... and tools for insight which help you make key decisions," Weitz says. "We are adapting the interface based on the intent of the user. Engines should be smart enough to take the question and adapt the way we display the results to the consumer in a way which is actually logical for that task."

Weitz doesn't expect people to switch from Google to Bing quickly. According to Weitz, Microsoft conducted extensive studies into how people used search engines, and what would make them switch, before it even started to design Bing. In other words, Bing was specifically designed to encourage people to switch. The challenge for Microsoft is that its research revealed that the choice of which search engine to use is subconscious. So even though studies show people might prefer Bing, most would stay with what they're used to.

Weitz states that the key to Microsoft's strategy lies in OEM deals. What he means by this is that when people buy new computers, Bing will be the default search engine on that computer, just as it is with Internet Explorer 8. Thus, Microsoft is relying on the fact that people won't change search engines. They'll simply put Bing in front of them first, knowing that -- as long as Bing is at least as good as Google -- most people won't make the effort to shift back to Google.

And it's working.

Bing has gained around 1 percent market share each month since launch -- that's roughly about the same rate of growth as Internet Explorer 8. This share is coming mainly from Google -- which is losing market share at the same rate as Bing is growing, while the other search engines like Yahoo are holding steady.

Bing is also growing faster than Google did. According to TechCrunch, in August, Bing grew faster than Google for the first time, with a 31.9 percent annual increase in search queries compared to 21.6 percent growth for Google and 16.8 percent for Yahoo.

Ad performance
The Catalyst Group has conducted an eye-tracking study comparing how people view ads in Bing and Google. The study showed that people spent more than twice as long looking at Bing ads than Google AdWords. It is clear from the eye-tracking heat maps that user attention is more focused in Bing and less diffused across the whole page. In other words, the information is arranged better. While the study was small (only 12 people), it looks like an ad in Bing will get more attention than an ad in Google.

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Comments

Jim White
Jim White May 13, 2011 at 3:03 AM

My name is Jim White. I've been with MSN and Yahoo for about 8 years and I went with the BING merger in November, 2010.
In going with the merger I lost around $8,000. to BING adCenter over a 4 month period. Maybe some of you lost money in the same situation.

As you already know in 2010 Yahoo ppc advertising and MSN ppc advertising merged. Prior to this merge I was using both services individually and had both of their tracking codes on my website.

For about 6 months Yahoo and MSN were gearing up their advertisers for this merger into BING. They gave us lots of information to get us ready for the merge but there was one important thing they DIDN'T tell us.

They didn't tell us to replace our conversion codes with a new BING conversion code.

After I went along with the merge the new company, BING, seemed too good to be true. I thought that BING was now the best thing in the world. Once I went with the merge my conversions doubled!!! My costs, as seen in the BING stats, were cut nearly in half. The first thing I did was start increasing my bids to move into 1st place to take advantage of the cheap business. As the months rolled by I started to see disturbing things in my company's business stats. My sales were costing me about 25% more than before the merge.

After calling BING to try and find out what was going on it occured to me that both of those old codes (Yahoo and MSN) were each reporting to me a sale. So I was being presented with 2 conversions in my BING stats for every 1 conversion I had. This was verified over the phone by the BING representative. They knew that those old codes were giving false reports and didn't say a thing about it to their advertisers.

After I suspected this was happening I went to BING, got the new code and placed it on my site while deleting the 2 old codes. Instantly my conversions were cut in half. Over all, I had a period of about 4 months that I was being overcharged.

My costs more than doubled during this time as I increased my bids using this false information from BING. I lost around $8,000 as I stated above and BING, after careful study, has determined there was nothing wrong with all this. They offered me a $1,000 credit.

What happened to me had to have happened to many, many others too.

If you believe you had a spike in costs and false reports you can email me at: eljeffe@candidasupport.org

My intention at this point is to look into a class action suit against BING. If you know other BING advertisers please forward this text to them.

Brandt Dainow
Brandt Dainow October 9, 2009 at 5:10 AM

Vinod makes an interesting argument, but I have to disagree. It's not the size of your total budget that matters in Adwords, it's the price paid per click. Big companies do have the budgets to run Google Ads at a loss, but I know plenty of small businesses spending $100 - $500 per month on Google Ads, and running their entire business off the leads generated from them.

Vinod Tonangi
Vinod Tonangi October 8, 2009 at 4:27 PM

Google definitely is the winner when it comes to market share - there is no doubt about it, however Google AdWords is no longer a cost effective way for most small businesses to get their message across simply because there are too many large companies that are able to spend $50,000 a month or more on AdWords alone. Most small businesses have budgets under $5,000 an under.

I wrote an article for a blog about this very subject: http://blog.tonangi.com/journal/2009/9/21/google-adwords-is-expensive-how-can-i-use-social-networking.html

It's just not possible for small businesses to compete with large companies on AdWords. If small businesses utilize local television advertising their advertising efforts can be more cost effective then Google AdWords.

For more information about advertising in local television or with video on the internet please visit http://www.tonangi.com