2012 looks set to be a big year for the search engine Bing. The year couldn’t have started better for them, with news that they managed to maintain second place in terms of total market share generated for search in both the UK and US during February [See: Search Engine Market Share Statistics – February 2012].
As they look towards building on this success, news has emerged they have started to test how their local search results are displayed online. As local search because a more prominent focus this year, this could be a shrewd move by Microsoft’s search engine.
Bing’s previous local search results would show a list of businesses in a group and a map on the left hand side before the rest of the page’s organic links. Now however, Bing is showing local results in a mix of different ways. In relation to an article by Matt McGee from Search Engine Land, one of these changes has been noted as featuring the local search results lower down in the SERPs. Along with the results, the map is included within the pack of results, rather than only showing this at the top of the page. A quick local search, as shown below, highlights this in relation to searching for restaurants and shops in Southampton:
New testing visual:
In addition to the above, a further change is apparently being tested whereby the local search results are found among the organic results as standard listings. Here, the map features in the top right hand corner, but moves down the page as the viewer scrolls through the results.
So, Bing appears to be adapting as a search engine through trying to come up with new and improved visuals in their results for their users, although one obvious point to observe is the similarities that these pages have in relation to how Google produce their results for local search.
It’s not yet clear if this is these changes will definitely take effect, although it’s certainly fair to say that the visuals are very similar to those of Google and in this respect it raises the question, how do you compete with the top dog? Essentially, Google is number one when it comes to market share because of the results that they produce, and therefore its users value the function of their search engine through trust and reliability.
For a search engine like Bing, who are top of the list of the smaller search engines outside of Google’s dominance, they are looking forward to what will be an important year for them. They know that the current 87.25% market share gap in the UK and the 51% share in the US can be closed even further. An increase of only a few percent in this instance can generate a large amount of money when we are talking about the world of search engines and this alone will act as a strong incentive for Bing to push forward and work on decreasing the gap.
However, arguably imitations will only get you so far and Bing has to try and stand out from the crowd by adapting their software and providing alternatives to Google – possibly through niche solutions to search. Overall, the attention to local search has been heightened over recent years and SEO professionals have had to adapt to changing technologies and the way in which search is delivered; the mobile device being one great example.
What is clear though is that Bing has a vision for the future and moving forward they know their responsibilities within search. Speaking about the proposed changes, a spokesperson at Microsoft stated: “We’re constantly updating and refining the Bing search experience, and before any changes are implemented they undergo intensive testing and experimentation to ensure the best possible user experience. We have nothing further to share at this time.”
Bings challenge now, more so in the UK, is to try and create a greater awareness of their service and show people what they can offer as an alternative so that they can improve on their market share in the coming months. I personally believe that the digital divide also plays a part in Google’s popularity in relation to older generations using Google because they know that it is a key source of information and they might not even know that Bing exists. The tech savvy among us on the other hand will understand everything about all of the operating search engines and have the knowledge to make informed decisions about which one they want to use.
However you decide to look at it, Bing are clearly focussed on reducing the market share gap, and local search seems to be one way in which they want to achieve this.