For the last three years or so, Microsoft has invested a lot of resources to promote and to develop its search engine Bing that is designated to compete Google. But even though the search engine was backed by one of the largest tech companies in the world, the search ecosystem remained almost unchanged.
Now, Microsoft is taking another shot at trying to push Bing to break Google’s search monopoly in what just might be, its last chance.
The State Before Bing and Today
But before I will elaborate on Bing’s recent changes, it is important to comprehend what impact Bing had since its launch on June 2009. Let’s examine how the search industry looked like before Bing arrived into this world and compare it to the industry today.
Microsoft has introduced Bing at All Things Digital conference in May 2009 and two months after, the company also announced on a search alliance with Yahoo in which Bing will power Yahoo’s search. The search alliance had one obvious goal: To take on Google.
According to comScore, on June 2009 Microsoft and Yahoo held collectively 28% of the U.S. search market (Yahoo 19.6%, Microsoft 8.4%) while Google held 65%. According to the most recent data (March 2012), Bing has indeed significantly grown, however, not on the expense of Google but on the expense of its search partner Yahoo…
Bing now has 15.3% and Yahoo has 13.7% which takes the alliance to 29%, essentially UNCHANGED from the pre-Bing era. Google also kept its old share and even rose a bit to 66.4%. This is certainly NOT the effect the folks at Microsoft have been expected Bing would make.
Redesigning and Rebranding Bing
In the last few days Microsoft has made new rebranding moves to Bing search results appearance and to Microsoft Advertising. If you made a search in Bing recently (c’mon, at least 15% of you have), you probably noticed some pretty prominent interface changes in the results page.
After few months of testing several designs, Microsoft announced yesterday on the new look of Bing results page. The main idea behind the new design- Make the page cleaner and minimal which will put in the center the results themselves and almost nothing else around. Here’s a screenshot of the new Bing (on the left side) vs the old Bing (on the right side):
I have to admit that personally I like new design. My personal opinion is that search results appearance should be minimal and not overwhelming so I could easily find what I was searching for and the new Bing Manages to deliver that. Bing also stating that the speed and relevance have improved but I haven’t seen anything significantly different in those areas.
Another change that I liked, is that the social integration became less obvious. Since Google’s Search Plus Your World has made the search experience an absolute nightmare (which forced me to opt it out), I am all up for minimal social integration.
The one problem I do have with the new look, is that the sponsored results aren’t distinguished clearly from the organic listings which makes them look like a natural part of the organic results. This is a pretty stinky move that may even violates the FTC recommendations and hopefully Microsoft will change that.
But besides that, I thing the new design is definitely an improvement that make the search experience better.
In addition to Bing search results page redesign, Microsoft is also rebranding Microsoft Advertising into simply “Bing”. The change is targeted especially for small and medium businesses that may now understand better what ads exactly they are buying and be less confusing with all the brand names around it.
It isn’t the first effort Microsoft is making to rebrand Bing. Back on January, the company launched a new campaign with the slogan “Bing is for doing” which included a series of videos with winter sports athletes few weeks after Google released its Search Plus Your World fiasco.
The Timing May Be Perfect
About a week ago, Google released its new anti-spam algorithm known as Penguin. It had a giant affect on Google’s search results and not always for the better. In fact, it appears that alongside hitting spam sites, many legitimate business owners were hit too in the collateral damage.
In a recent poll on Search Engine Roundtable (which mostly attracts savvy webmasters), nearly 65% of the almost 1,000 participants have stated that they are now receiving less traffic from Google. By the way, currently the poll is still running so you can contribute your vote as well.
Although I believe that we are yet to fully understand this update completely and Google would probably soon alter it one way or the other, this can be the perfect timing for Bing to enter a confused industry of many frustrated business owners and discontent searchers, at least until the dust from the Penguin will settle.
It may be also Bing last chance to take some significant so-needed market share from Google, because Microsoft is keep losing a lot of money on it and there are already rumors about the future of Bing.