Can Bing Take Over Google Search?

Only if it plays its cards right. If there ever was a time when Bing actually could take over search from Google, this is it. But it’s not going to be easy to convince people to switch from something they are so familiar with.

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One of the reasons why Google is so powerful is force of habit. People are used to “google” something, and they will not switch to “binging” – not so fast, not so easily, and not just for search. When Bing launched, Microsoft pumped $80 million in a PR and advertising campaign of monumental proportions. Back then, I didn’t think “Bing” was a very inspired name for the search engine, but it somehow worked. If you repeat it long enough, it finally sticks.

So Bing has the brand, and the time is finally right to “go the internet.” Because Google is making some powerful enemies, making a harsh transition from a search engine to a content destination. If you read Danny Sullivan’s linked article, you’ll learn just how Google changed focus, becoming a feared empire. I find this particularly interesting:

Paranoia, ambition, whatever you want to put the blame on, I feel like Google has been walking through a forest, chopping down individual trees that have been in the way. No tree is chopped for a “bad” reason. There’s always some user interest that the company feels is being defended. “We’ve got to remove this tree. Everyone will benefit!” But after all this chopping, Google doesn’t just lose sight of the forest for the trees. It doesn’t see the forest at all, because it has chopped down all the trees.

When Google couldn’t partner with a company, or buy it, it simply copied its service and launched its own. Some were successful, some (like Google Offers, the direct competitor to Groupon in the US) still struggle. Chrome is a strong competitor to Internet Explorer, Android is a strong competitor to Apple’s iOS, and the list could go on. The problem is that Google is trying to compete in all niches, against all businesses, and many times not through innovation, but through imitation. I bet Groupon, Expedia, Facebook, and a wealth of others, are not really flattered. If Google plays dirty, how can online businesses cope and thrive, especially when Google is pushing all its services in search ahead of competition?

That’s where Bing could come in, capitalizing on this momentum, when so many businesses complain against Google. Although it says to be impartial in search results, and to be focused on users, Google is, in fact, trying to take over in many niches: travel, shopping, social media, etc. Bing needs to take over search, by making it fair and useful again. But it also needs to offer users incentives to make the switch.

Google’s AdSense determined publishers to feature “ads by Google” on their sites – a powerful way to stick the brand on some of the world’s most popular sites, and a great way for Google to capitalize on content. But the problem with AdSense is that it encouraged web spam, and site that were only “made for AdSense” (MFA) that infringed upon copyrights, and populated the internet with duplicate content, or low value content, crafted with SEO in mind: content for pennies. Clearly, AdSense is not the way, and Bing stays away from a practice that almost killed search.

Bing could sponsor publishers to use Bing as the default search engine on their sites. It already partnered with the likes of Facebook, foursquare, Twitter, LinkedIn and Quora to deliver better, more reliable results, and these partnerships should go forward. This is a smarter, and fairer, strategy, than copying their business model in an attempt to take away their users. This is a positive aspect, that will create good will among users of these social networks, but is not enough.

Already Bing’s search results are better, more relevant than Google’s. But this is not enough to determine users to make the switch, because not many people know it. In July, Google Sites still led the U.S. explicit core search market with 66.8 percent market share, followed by Microsoft Sites with 15.7, according to comScore. It’s hard to predict what happens in August, but I don’t expect a huge change, although the number of searches performed on Bing last month were up 4 percent compared to June, 2012.

So while the timing is right, does Bing have the marketing tools and PR intelligence to capitalize on this momentum? The jury remains out on whether Shift Communications and Rogers & Cowan, Bing’s PR firms can generate more buzz.

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Comments

  1. brad says

    hmm good point :^) I would normally use bing (say) onsite at a client’s office looking for printer drivers, where bing was the default search provider…

    I just did a few identical searches now for various printers and both bing and google showed equally good results….

    the other type of search I would do on site would be to trouble shoot things like “slow file transfer windows 7″… This search shows the same top result on both bing and google :^)

    so clearly my gut feeling is not correct!!! I still have to overcome “habit” though… .
    my “go to ” home page is google (not “personalised”) which loads super fast and without eye candy. As a nerd I’m genetically predisposed against bing’s clever moving background, but that’s just me!!

    also I tend to forget that I use adblocking plugins on firefox, so I very rarely see any “paid ads” on google – they are too annoying :^)

    I’ll have to make the effort to try bing again… (overcoming intertia!!)

    • Mihaela Butler says

      I suppose Google shows different results in Chrome, where I don’t have any adblocking plugins installed. Results will also vary by location – even with Bing. But generally, if you are looking for products where Google doesn’t want a piece of the market, then yeah, Google is still relatively relevant.

      My issues come when I look for more general topics, when both Bing and Google seem to fail to grasp that Wikipedia is not the most relevant and authoritative source. For example, a search for London, do you see the big elephant in this picture? Twice? No bone to pick with Wikipedia, just saying:

      Google search for London.

      At least Bing thinks that London Ontario Canada Tourism Web Site is more relevant than Wikipedia, but it ranks it ahead of the site of London UK.

      Honestly, I’d like to see the official Visit London site first instead. Same happens if you look for, let’s say, the Taj Mahal. Here both Bing and Google like Wikipedia more.

      Both need to refine results, at least for such instances. The original publisher of an article should always rank first. Official sites of a country, should rank before Wikipedia entries, and so on.

      But my purpose here was not to say whose results are better – obviously there are pros and cons for both search engines. I just wanted to point out that Bing has a good chance to grab more market share now. :) Because Google is making some mistakes that may go unnoticed by search users, but will not go unnoticed by the FTC, law courts, and others.

  2. brad says

    i occasionally use bing for search (say from a client’s PC or public PC), but I have found it’s search results to be less helpful than google for any given search. Maybe it’s just my search terms :^) But there’s no incentive for me to keep checking on “bing betterments” while google is delivering on search results….

    • Mihaela Butler says

      Just curious, how exactly is Google delivering better results? Do you have any concrete examples? Because from where I am looking, more often than not, especially since Panda and Penguin, Google’s SERPs seem to fluctuate between quality and spam.

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