Bing! Generates Buzz but Doesn’t Deliver

Last Wednesday, Microsoft launched its new search engine, Bing.com, with an aggressive advertising campaign rumored to cost between $80 and $100 million.  In just five days, the “decision engine,” as Microsoft calls it, surpassed Yahoo! as the number two search engine in the U.S.  As of today, according to VNU Net, Bing! owns 16 percent market share, much of which has come at Google’s expense. 

Personally, I believe growth in market share has more to do with the hype from launch and its creative ad campaign rather than the search engine experience itself.

First, let’s look at the ads:

Microsoft launched Bing! with this ad, associating the financial crisis with inefficient searches.  In this creative spot, Bing positions itself as “the cure for search overload”—a way to filter out those irrelevant results. 

In a non-traditional move, Microsoft is sponsoring a “bing-a-thon” today on Hulu with a live sketch comedy show featuring members of Saturday Night Live.  Users can watch all shows and movies today with no commercial interruptions.  In a similar move, according to this New York Times article:


The MTV Networks shows will carry a Bing spot, created by JWT, called “Fast Forward,” which looks like viewers are using the fast-forward feature on a DVR or VCR to zip through 2 1/2 minutes of commercials in 30 seconds. The intended message is that bing.com is about “getting what you want.”

Now, the engine: Is it better than the Goog? 

For now, all signs point to “no.”  A Microsoft executive even admitted in Ad Age that Bing’s search results are almost identical to Google’s, but that it would differentiate itself through “travel, local, health and shopping, as well as a new user experience for organizing results.”  But these features really don’t offer us anything new. 

I only found two real innovations on Bing!  The first comes from the Shopping section.  Users can search for a product, which links to another shopping site like Buy.com, but Bing! will give cash back on their site, usually between about 2 and 12 percent of the purchase price.  Google doesn’t send its users checks.  Second, when users perform a search, a “Related Searches” column appears to the left of the results.  These suggestions can be pretty helpful, but might make companies who have optimized their SEO squirm, since the “Related Searches” often include the names of their competitors. 

The travel section differs from Google only in that the user can search for flights directly on Bing’s page.  I found basically no difference with Health or Local, and only small differences in the organization of results.  (For example, you get a little more information about schedules and scores when searching for a sports team.) 

My conclusion: I predict Bing! will fall down the same path as its predecessors, Live Search and MSN Search.  For its unique points—Shopping and Travel—users already have options like Amazon, Expedia, and Travelocity—and many people may not even turn to a search engine for these needs.  Any search engine that plans on competing with Google must do so in the search results themselves, and although Bing! makes this claim, it falls short. 

It’s not a good sign when a website’s biggest differentiator is its advertising.  And when the ads die, I wouldn’t be surprised if Bing! goes along with them. 

What do you think?  Have you found anything on Bing! that revolutionized the way you search?

Paul is a senior digital analyst, where he works with clients such as Stanley Black & Decker, the University of Virginia, Lenovo, and the Wildlife Conservation Society. He believes in using data to prove the value of creativity, cut out digital clutter, and resolve disputes.

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