Bing One Month On: Surprising Findings
In Part 2 of our review of Bing [read Part 1], we'll consider the impact of Bing on the search landscape. Bing launched on May 28, 2009. While Bing's traffic jumped dramatically after its launch, any conclusions drawn from that information so soon after the hype surrounding its launch would have been misleading. Now over a month, there are some surprising trends that are emerging.
To the surprise of most, after the novelty users defected back to their existing search engines, Bing has slowly continued to gain market share. Per StatCounter, two weeks after launch there was an exodus of users, but since then Bing's market share has been climbing week-after-week. Into July, it has challenged and briefly eclipsed Yahoo, with both claiming between 11-12% market share. Admittedly, part of this change is the 1-3% residual share of Live/MSN in June has now been folded into Bing, but a large part of the increase is likely due to a preference for the features and search experience Bing offers. Of course, Google still dominates the market with over 75% of market share, but it appears from this analysis of the StatCounter data that the gains Bing is making are coming almost solely at Google's expense.
Microsoft itself says it had an 8% jump in search traffic during the month of June, with the rebranded Bing Shopping seeing a nearly 200% jump in visits and Bing Travel, rebranded from Farecast, seeing a 90% increase. HitWise reported more modest but steady gains for Bing, also showing week-over-week market share increases in the month of June.
Microsoft's $100 million advertising campaign has resulted in a stratospheric growth in name recognition for its new decision engine. According to this YouGov Polimetrix BrandIndex's study, 8% of U.S. adults had heard something about Bing on June 8. By June 22, that number had grown to 25%. Also according to the study, 81% of users say that while they have a favorite search engine, they are willing to consider other options. Google's dominance in brand awareness tempers this data somewhat. Though 25% of study's participants had heard some news about Bing by mid-June, over twice that many had heard news about Google.
According to search marketing firm Didit, paid search ads are performing 170% better on Bing than comparable ads on Live Search a year ago.
Much of the increase is attributed to how Bing devotes a larger percentage of the page to paid search listings. In a separate eye tracking study comparing Google and Bing, more users were drawn to Bing's right side sponsored links, and they looked over them longer, than comparable results from Google. Highlighted as one of the best features in part one of this series, highlighting related searches in the Explorer Pane drew 31% of the users interest. In contrast, Google's inclusion of related searches at the bottom of the search page drew only 5%.
Some advertisers have observed these trends, as reported on Searchengineland, as click share and spend share for Bing increased in June. Advertisers have reason for concern though over Bing's obnoxious Quick Preview feature obscuring their ads. Another article suggests that, unless you can budget to be one of the top paid listings, it may be better to aim for a much lower placement so that the quick preview pane does not 'fly out' over your ad.
While all of these are positive for Microsoft and the future of Bing, in order for Bing to truly gain traction, people have to be willing to switch away from using Google or Yahoo as their primary search engine. This Catalyst Group study found that though participants preferred Bing's features, they were unwilling to switch from Google because of familiarity with Google and that they used or expressed a preference for other Google apps, such as the Google Toolbar, Google Maps, and Gmail. In another study, J.P. Morgan polled a group of adults, and under half had tried Bing and only 2 percent of the participants intended to switch to it.
On the other hand, Bing has only been released for over a month. Google might have heard the same comments in a showdown between itself in its infancy and Yahoo. Yahoo offered similar free services, including probably the best free e-mail solution at the time, and it didn't prevent people from switching to Google. Even the most optimistic observers don’t expect a serious challenge to Google’s market dominance any time soon, much less a mass exodus of users switching from Google to Bing. Bing's best strategy right now is continue to improve its user interface and innovate in search, either forcing Google to match its innovations or risk losing market share.
Google is already stepping up a PR offensive to convince users its features can be as useful as Bing. To that end, Google has launched an "Explore the World of Google Search" page touting many of the same features Bing is winning plaudits for. In addition, to compete with Bing's universally acclaimed graphical backdrops, Google is promoting its own National Geographic style backdrops for iGoogle.
Author: Chris Pantages, WebMama Team