Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Search Insider: 10 Things Bing Must Do To Catch Google

10 Things Bing Must Do To Catch Google

I must say, I've been having a lot of fun with Microsoft's new search, er... decision engine, Bing. From the name (see " Top 20 Bing Puns" and " Bada Bing: Will Microsoft Make Search Sexy?") to the platform itself (see " The More I Bing, The More I Like"), Bing has given me plenty of writing fodder.

And, while I've already spewed nearly 3,000 words about Bing on my digital marketing blog, I've been saving the most important 1,000 for this column. As I said in my review of Bing, "Bing is far and away the most serious challenge to Google that anyone's ever posed... [but] it's going to take more than some nifty 'one-box' results and refinement tools for Bing to overtake Google and just showing the best of Bing does not tell the whole story of what this launch means for the search world."

So here's what the Bing launch means to the search world...

My prediction is that, in five years, the search engine query share rankings will look nothing like they do today. Bing has proven that Microsoft is serious about search. Ballmer has placed his bet and backed it with a stack of $100 mil. in advertising. Bing will either propel Microsoft to a 30%-40% share of the search universe or flame out completely, leaving Google with 90%+. For what it's worth, my money's on the former.

Here's what it will take...

1. Have a catchy slogan. I pride myself on being a slogan slob. In fact, I created an entire blog for rating good and bad slogans. To date, I've heard two slogans batted around for Bing -- "Bing and decide" and "The sound of found." I like them both -- quick and to the point. I like how the first reinforces that Bing can be a verb, as opposed to Google , who doesn't want people Googling. And I'm a sucker for rhymes, so the second one works for me too.

2. Create memorable advertising. With a catchy slogan in tow, Microsoft can embark on its blockbuster ad campaign. Per Ad Age, "The ads won't go after Google, or Yahoo for that matter, by name. Instead, they'll focus on planting the idea that today's search engines don't work as well as consumers previously thought by asking them whether search (aka Google) really solves their problems." Hmm, perhaps we'll see a page from Apple's book ala PC vs. Mac? Let's just hope they don't feature the algorithm.

3. Don't change the name. There's been no worse thorn in the side of Microsoft's search efforts than its revolving door of brands. From MSN Search to Live Search to Kumo -- the confusion resulted in low consumer recognition and ammo for industry critics. So, to Microsoft, when it comes to choosing a name for your brand, I say, "Bing and decide" once and for all!

4. Tighten up the relevancy filter. All that marketing will be meaningless unless the product works reliably. And, while Bing competes and, dare I say, beats Google for many head queries (travel, shopping, entertainment, etc.) it fails on the tail. For a search engine to achieve default status, it needs to perform against the most obscure queries. Bing is getting there -- but there are still some spammy results as, surprise surprise, @MattCutts was quick to point out (see also the update I posted to my Bing review).

5. Buy Yahoo's search assets. There's no two ways around this. In order to have a fighting chance at catching Google, Microsoft needs the shot in the arm that Yahoo's 20% share would provide. After all, as I lamented to @DBerkowitz on Twitter, " If a search engine shows relevant results but no one uses it, are they really relevant?"

6. Buy Twitter. As Steve Rubel points out, measured Twitter search traffic is up 5x over the past six months. And John Battelle has long hailed the potential of real-time, conversational search. So, if for no other reason, Microsoft needs to buy Twitter to keep it away from Google.

7. Get more distribution. Yahoo and Twitter aren't enough. Microsoft needs to wage battle on every potential syndication deal to win this war. There are other large chunks of search inventory out there. Perhaps it can strong-arm Amstrong and AOL away from Google. Bing also needs the long tail of bloggers/content developers that use AdSense. Microsoft needs to find a way to get to those folks, whether it's through Office Live Small Business, Xbox or some other point of distribution.

8. Incorporate the social graph. I've speculated that the perfect search engine would be one that allows you to "toggle between SERPs customized based on your past history/prefs and SERPs based on those results selected by others." Microsoft, through its relationship with Facebook, is in a unique position to activate this feature on Bing.

9. Run display ads. I've already spotted one display ad on Bing (granted, it's a house ad for Farecast) and am hoping it's the first of many to come. Marketers have long been clamoring for richer ad opportunities on the SERP and, as far as I'm concerned, it ain't the blue links that made Google popular, so I'm not sure what the Big 3 are waiting for here.

10. Continue lobbying against Google. Say what you will about the pot calling the kettle black -- but the Microsoft-backed lobby effectively killed the Google/Yahoo deal, and it's brought heavy scrutiny on Google's data collection practices. Keeping Google in the courtroom is as good a way as any to keep it from innovating.

So will Bing turn out to be the "sound of found" or, " the sound of one-hand googling" after, I presume, Microsoft failed to help its owner make a decision? Only time will tell, but one thing's for certain -- that Bing you heard last week was the sound of Microsoft coming out swinging.


Gord Hotchkiss is the president of Enquiro, a search engine marketing firm. He loves to explore the strategic side of search and is programming chair of the Search Insider Summits, as well as a frequent speaker at Search Engine Strategies and Ad:Tech.

Search Insider for Wednesday, June 3, 2009:

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