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by Stephen Logan on 13th July 2009
The jostling between Bing and Yahoo for the coveted role of the world’s second favourite search engine appears to be gaining pace. After early reports that Bing had already pegged back its far more established rival, it appears that conflict is really growing over the accuracy of these initial reports.
Statcounter and Hitwise are sending out different messages about who really is in the ascendency. Hitwise appear to suggest that while searches are up considerably, Bing’s market share is way down on Yahoo’s. However, Statcounter still shows that it is getting some good daily results, well ahead of Yahoo. Pandia provide a decent overview of the ups and downs in a recent blog.
The one thing that all the statistics do point to however is that it is growing. Bing as a brand is becoming far more known and respected in online circles. Its search results too are hugely advanced and are really challenging the dominant platform of Google; particularly with the recent real-time Twitter integration. In Bing, Microsoft have taken a huge leap forward, there can be no arguments about that, but is it really enough to topple Yahoo permanently?
Microsoft’s advertising machine has been working overtime to get the name of Bing out there. They’ve even snuck it onto Internet Explorer as the default search bar. Whilst search professionals and those who make a living off working on the Internet are fully aware of its existence, is it getting through to the wider world?
Google is a name we have come to know and trust. It has become an industry by-word; just as Hoover is for vacuum cleaners, Sellotape for sticky tape and Bic is to biros, Google is the noun for search. Many won’t search for it, they’ll Google it; that’s how engrained the brand is.
Even Yahoo have the notoriety that comes from being a longstanding Titan of the search world. Many still use it for the wide range of services they offer, most notably the Yahoo Mail facility, which helps keep people using their search facilities. Heritage may well be the saving grace of Yahoo for some time to come.
By rebranding the failing Live Search to create Bing, Microsoft have undoubtedly made unprecedented improvements. But is it all a little too late? The everyday user isn’t overly concerned with hunting around to find the search engine that provides the nicest aesthetics or even the best results. If they can find what they want conveniently, the way in which they search for it is almost irrelevant. From conversations I’ve had, many are simply unaware that it exists; not ideal for short-term gains.
Microsoft do now have the advantage of having a decent platform. But the years of damage caused by the frail Bing predecessors will do little to encourage people to hunt down Bing. By integrating it into Internet Explorer and the default MSN homepage, they will gain huge swathes of traffic, but they need to do more if they are going to catch Google.
For now it looks like Bing will have to content itself with gradual growth and hope its name will seep into the general public’s lexicon almost by osmosis. It’s not a brand that everyone is aware of. Microsoft have one of the most dominant names in IT, however their search has always been seen as inferior. Changing wider opinion could take time. But it may be time well spent, as Bing really is a search platform that appears to offer something new and interesting, providing the most genuine challenge to Google’s SERP supremacy in some time.