The Thing with Bing – Not Just a Search Engine
So some of you might have seen the commercials recently for Bing, the search engine formerly known as MSN Live? Hang on, did I say search engine? I meant to say ‘decision engine’. That’s what they call it and want us to think of it as. Kind of reminds me of when Prince changed his name. Regardless, why should we pay attention to Bing as search engine optimizers? You can call us search engine optimists, since we like to hear the positives! I have been using Google as my go-to search engine for years and that probably won’t change, certainly until Bing can provide as accurate and fast results as Google. These days, we the web user, want to be in control of the experience and drive the narrative. A couple of my favorite sites out there are Amazon and Netflix, because you can control the experience so much. I can add movies or products to wish lists and queues and be provided with a seemingly intelligent website that knows me and my tastes. It’s a back and forth with the site, almost like a video game, with the Nintendo Wii an example of the ultimate extension of user interaction.
The cues that I think Microsoft has taken from Google and Yahoo are to find that middle ground between simplicity (Google) and providing easy decisions for you (Yahoo). Those two search engines represent for me the two ends of the online generational spectrum. Yahoo was the first major search engine, and many of its early adopters never left. They tend to be the older demographic now, who find Google to be too much of a blank canvas. Bing has cut the relative clutter of Yahoo, but still provides a structure and organization that people like and the semantic ‘related searches’ popular with Amazon and Netflix users like me. It also tries to prevent the kind of glazed, search overload that sometimes I feel with Google. In real estate, Yahoo does not bring in the most visitors to many of our sites but it does often bring in the best; i.e. the most engaged, who submit a form through the website. Visitors to real estate sites, statistically, are from the older generation who don’t ‘search’ as much. Google engages the younger crowd since it is more customizable with docs, RSS readers and Calendars; ultimately it demands some more web-savvy. If these conversion-crazy Yahoo users gravitate to Bing, then it’s game on.
A Sleeping Giant?
Internet Explorer has been the default search engine for all Windows users, which at the time of writing is 50% of all web surfers. That means that a lot of people have the shiny Bing logo sitting on their desktop. This provides Bing with a large market share opportunity – no wonder they’re aggressively advertising at the moment! Hedging my bets, I predict that for search engine marketers and you, it will be important to get your presence into their text, images, directories and paid search.