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.
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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