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Microsoft’s “Bing” Search Engine: Consumers or Advertisers Rejoice?

Microsoft’s new Bing search engine is actually an improved version of its existing “Kumo” search engine, and appears on the surface before it’s unveiling to the world on June 3rd to be vastly improved and a credible competitor to Google and Yahoo. Bing also benefits from Microsoft’s acquisition of the search technology company they acquired last year – Powerset, which is a semantic search technology. Microsoft of course is claiming the search engine will deliver results and content more relevant to consumers. Much of Bing’s focus is on delivering results beyond web pages, and it organizes content based on search histories and associated relevance, and not algorithms that drive most search engines. Its results are intended to more readily aid consumer’s decision making, especially where more localized results are the objective, and is being characterized as being an “information concierge”.

Those lucky enough to have previewed the product are saying the visual presentation is much more satisfying and powerful. There are some features that are like Google’s, the most obvious one being search keyword suggestions as words are being typed. Where Bing may be different and even excel is the collating of both user and product reviews by obtaining information from data “mash-ups”. When clicking on a product review, comprehensive data is then presented in the form of features cited as pros and cons by users and reviewing sites as well. Once the search results are derived, the user can then hover the mouse pointer over given results and see text excerpts that provide the “Quick Preview” feature of the results. Add in pricing comparisons results and some would argue that Bing has moved the bar where online shopping’s concerned. Other features to look for are Bing’s “Best Match”, “Instant Answers, “Deep Links”, “Bing Maps” (taken from Microsoft’s Virtual Earth mapping platform) and “Bing Travel Rate Key” (a hotel’s location, price and amenities represented in a color code fashion).

While Microsoft is getting the most buzz currently, Google, Yahoo and some new entrants like “Wolfram Alpha” are all rapidly developing new capabilities that will challenge Bing. Yahoo is working on mashing up social network based search information into its search engine. Google is expected to address the criticism of them listing the most relevant search based on keywords and not timeline. Bing appears to provide for the most recent and relevant search result and at the top of each search. What is maybe most important to them all is the extent that one or the other is used by everyday consumers versus everyday technology and business professionals searching for results related to their profession. If Bing’s strength is the former, and Google’s strength is the latter – will Google care that Bing may encroach on their consumer success?

They may where advertising revenues are concerned. Current day marketers and advertisers are spending more with Google and Yahoo because Microsoft’s search percentage had been a paltry 8%. With Bing’s results being more focused where search relevance is concerned and listings by sub-category provided, it suggests that there may be changes in the way search engine optimization is approached by marketers keying on sub-categories versus select keywords only. And with search engines having long been viewed as gateways to other web destinations and not stopping points, the new concept of Bing as a “decisioning engine” also suggest that some or even many searchers may have the information they need and won’t move on, causing a disruption of current online advertising thinking and strategies related to landing pages and other web-based activity and behavioral targeting considerations.

As an advertising sector watcher and analyst, this will be fun to track and analyze. A whole other advertising impact that is fodder for a separate blog entry is the anticipated and highly speculated branding plan for Bing by Microsoft. The software giant is expected to launch an ad campaign for Bing by spending between $80-100 million. This is huge compared to the largest consumer product launches spending on average $50 million, and Google spending $25 million in 2008. Bada Bing and Ka-Ching Microsoft!

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Comment by Brian Mahony on May 29, 2009 at 12:41pm
Good analysis Robert. It would be interesting to note how much ad revenue comes from smaller companies (closer to 20% or 80%?). I wonder because I have used Google AdWords as the first stop for ad markeing campaigns, and felt comfort in knowing they were the dominant market share holder. For smaller advertisers, the extra work of learning 3-5 different interfaces for paid search advertising is daunting, so Google makes it easy. Of course this all changes if they lose market share to Bing.

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