This is interesting for those who work in digital advertising. The Bing search engine is running a PPC campaign on Google search tonight bidding on the term “999 plan” — sure to be hot during tonight’s GOP debate telecast on CNN — throwing the Google searcher to a Bing search results page. I hit it myself trying to find details on Google for Cain’s 9-9-9 tax plan and … yes … was impressed with Bing’s comprehensive results.
Well played, Bing. Microsoft, like Herman Cain, tonight you are showing balls.
Ben Kunz is vice president of strategic planning at Mediassociates, an advertising media planning and buying agency, and co-founder of its digital trading desk eEffective.
Web stats go up and down, but it’s noteworthy that Google’s share of total U.S. search volume has plummeted since it redesigned its main page back in May. In April, just before adding bells and whistles to its search venue, Google led U.S. search volume with 71.4% share. In June, its share had fallen to 62.6%. Third-place chaser Bing is gaining fast, up from 9.4% to 12.7% of all U.S. searches in the same period.
(Update: Bloomberg tells us this data is based on two monitoring sources, Hitwise and comScore, and the shift may be a function of their different methodologies rather than a decrease in Google share over time. However, we’ll continue with this little post to let you see where it could go…)
Google received a lot of press for its redesign, a bold and risky move we believe was meant to make its search functionality “stickier” and thus increase Google’s ad inventory, sponsored link clicks, and corresponding revenue. Google is under immense threat from both mobile smart phones (whose users love push-button apps that avoid Google search altogether) and social media (Facebook crossed 500 million users this week and has become an entirely new ecosystem for users to share information, again without Google search). Search remains an incredibly powerful tool for consumers, but it seems the days of Google being the single portal to find information are waning as consumers tap new search engines, apps, and social media recommendations to find what they want.
The Bing rollout since June 3 has been a masterstroke of finesse. After years of Vista fumbles that culminated with Jerry Seinfeld making a TV spot even he looked uncomfortable in, Microsoft rebuilt its Google competitor into a sophisticated search engine with elegant design, user competitions, celebrity trending, and a customer service presence on Twitter. Punch in “the answer to life the universe and everything” and Bing will respond “42,” showing Redmond has a sense of humor.
So now Bing has melded with Twitter in a new BingTweets microsite, most useful for tracking urgent updates about chocolate, and one has to wonder — when did Microsoft get so light on its feet?
Sure, there was juice behind this. A massive $100 million ad campaign helped Microsoft boost its share of the search market from 7.8% in May to 8.5% in June. But perhaps the most intriguing finding is that focus groups show users spending 150% more time viewing ads at the top of Bing search results; if Microsoft can maintain that once the novelty wears off, advertisers on Bing could see a lift. Bing has combined design usability with a fragmented, multipronged presence on the web.
The lesson for marketers is if you still have only one static web site, tweaked every 12 months after debates with the Planning Committee, you are missing out on how people use the internet. Conversations, microsites, segmentation, hub-and-spoke points of entry, search, even dedicated human response … you need many online doorways to attract many different viewers. Even Bing needed a few Bings.