Microsoft/Yahoo Deal Makes Google Stronger

August 12, 2009

Bing-Yahoo-search-engineNot 0nly do I not believe the hype that the deal between Microsoft and Yahoo will hurt Google, I actually believe it has positioned Google to grow even stronger. Why?  Well lets take a close look at the deal first.

Under the terms of the agreement, Microsoft’s Bing will power all Yahoo search sites, and in return Yahoo will sell premium advertising for both companies.  This creates a partnership where each company is using one of its strengths to help the other.  It creates an atmonshpere of no competition among these two companies, essentially making them one company in the search industry, and thus the number 2 competitor to Google in the area.

What the deal does not do is add any more ingenuity or creativity to either company.  What the deal does not do is set up a jointly run division with new talent and new ideas.  It takes the Bing search results, puts them on Yahoo’s sites, and allows advertising to flow freely across both companies’ websites.

Google has come out publicly and welcomed the competition when most people expected them to challenge the agreement, much like Microsoft challenged Google’s own search deal with Yahoo last year.  This deal, like that one, must pass scrutiny by anti-trust regulators.

However, if it does pass, as many expect it to, I think Google has made the right choice not to challenge it.  They will still remain the dominant player in the industry, at close to 70% of all search traffic.  And the combination of #2 and #3 in the industry will make the barriers to entry that much higher. Now, instead of a bunch of small competitors chasing Google, you will have a solid #2 player who will hold off some of the competition that Google should have gotten.

In addition, I think that this deal will send some competitive energy Google’s way.  It will keep them on their toes, make them take a few more chances in their search strategy, and maintain that culture of innovation that has taken them so far.

Of course this is only one man’s opinion.  What do you think?  Is Google better off with Bing and Yahoo on the same team or are they in trouble for this first time in years?

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Are You Trying to Sell us a Search Engine?

June 11, 2009

comparisonI read an interesting post by a good friend of mine, Kevin Pruett over at techsoomer.com.  He poses the question, are we more inclined to use a product or service based on word of mouth or consumer advertising?  Using the recent launch of Bing.com and subsequent mass marketing effort by Microsoft as a basis for argument, Kevin asks if we are supposed to be persuaded by ads to use a new search engine.

This is an interesting question.  Up until the release of Bing, close to 70% of US searches were done on Google.  And Google, even at its inception, never advertised their search engine to consumers.  In fact, a majority of the services that we have come to grow familiar with online never advertised to us.  We either read a good review and decided to give it a try, or we found out about it from a friend of ours.

It was much more popular to advertise online services during the dotcom boom.  Yahoo and Ask both spent millions on commercial advertising campaigns to try to dominate the search market, and a lot of good that has done them in the long run.  So why now, does Microsoft think we will be that much more responsive to a $100 million campaign?  Do they believe their product is that much better and that if I use it just once I will be hooked?

You’ve heard of first mover advantage, but what about last mover?  Because although they market Bing as a decision engine (the “evolution” of the search engine), in many ways it is just another Google.  They are so late to the traditional search game that its hard to imagine they can make much noise in the space.

So lets turn our attention to the nature of the ad campaign.

Using the tagline, “Bing and decide”, Microsoft is trying to sell us on the fact that traditional search is too difficult, too time consuming, extremely confusing, and in need of a makeover.  We have “search overload”, and need a “decision engine” to help us find exactly what we are looking for.

Not a bad idea.  Except that the content of their ads, though creative, does not hit on those points very strongly.  They use generic search terms, terms that Google users will most likely say are not confusing, and they exxagerate the type of responses you would get from a traditional search engine.  Instead of highlighting the major differences between Bing and Google, such as the travel and health category searches that seem to be very strong, they basically accuse everyday searches of being broken.  And in fact, if you go to Bing and Google and search the same term, the results are going to be 70-80% the same.

Then, in addition to the television ads, they are advertising on major content sites across the web such as the New York Times homepage.  In my opinion, this is a waste because if people are on these content-type pages, they are not looking to search.

Let’s say the ads are effective enough to draw me in, now the real marketing starts.  Because you are not spending millions of dollars for me to search once or twice, you are spending that money to convert me from a Google user to a Bing user.  But if the product does not live up to the hype, you’ve lost me.  And all the money in the world will not bring me back.

bingad

I just don’t think that you can basically force a new search engine on the masses, which is what this feels like to me.  Especially when most of us don’t think our search engine is broken to begin with.  Why not spend more money in development, create something even more unique and effective, and let the word of mouth start to spread.  That’s how to gain a long term rate of converted users and build a new brand loyalty.

The method they decided to go with will lead to sudden jumps in traffic but I don’t see how they will have any long term effect on the search market.  They have built what I consider to be the 2nd best search engine available today, nothing more and nothing less.  Overall, I give the strategy a low rating, C-.

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Say Hello to BING Today

June 1, 2009

bingMicrosoft’s brand new attempt at building a search engine to compete with Google went live today, it’s BingTry it out.

Clearly there will be much to come on the subject, but initial reports are positive.  The search engine, which was announced last week, did not get the hype that recent search engine “Cuil” got before its release, but it’s already better.

There is nothing that will really blow you away initially, but it is a solid effort all around by Microsoft to get back into the search game.  The results are good for most every search that I tried this morning.  And comparing the results for the same searches in Google varies, sometimes Bing was actually better (more accurate).

Some features that stood out to me include the recent searches tool, a video playback for all video searches, and an enhanced local search with one click map and directions.  In addition, I think the best feature is within specific categories, the sidebar becomes a tool to narrow down your search. For example, if you search local bars in New York City, you can narrow down searches based on price, neighborhood, ratings, style, etc.

Bing is currently a trending topic on Twitter, and most of the comments seem to be pretty positive.  Here is an initial review from TechCrunch, which also discusses how positive the early feedback from users has been.

All of this is before Microsoft has spent a reported $100 Million to advertise the search engine.  We will see what the campaign is all about soon enough, but the word out of the Microsoft camp is that they are going straight at Google.  Time will tell if that is a smart strategy or not, but Microsoft has to be happy by what they have seen already this morning.

Having said all that, Bing is by no means the answer to the question of where is online search headed.  It’s strange that Microsoft would invest so much in what many consider to be the end of the current search era. With companies like Google, Yahoo, and Twitter investing in the future of search (real-time solutions), Microsoft almost seems to be jumping into a game in the 4th quarter.

Nonetheless, give the new service a try.  If you have used it already, let me know what you think in the comments below.

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