I know I’m a little late to the game on Bing commentary, but it’s been an exciting last couple of weeks in the world of search engine marketing. Microsoft seems to be aiming pretty high with their hopes for Bing, and rightly so. With Google holding a near-monopoly on the PPC market and Yahoo failing to innovate quickly enough to present any serious competition against Google, Microsoft has a real opportunity to take market share away from its competitors in the PPC sphere and shoot for the #2 spot in search engine usage.
The only problem is with the users. Microsoft has a huge hill to climb in an era where the word “Google” is synonymous with searching the internet. So far, Microsoft has been wise in trying to differentiate Bing from other search engines, labeling it as a “decision” engine and offering better ways to sift through the volumes of information contained online. Initial reviews of the service have been good, and Bing even surpassed Yahoo temporarily as the #2 search engine of choice. The upcoming marketing and PR blitz Microsoft has planned for Bing will likely increase users as well. Fortunately, Microsoft has deep enough pockets to spend a fortune on advertising their new service – a tactic that Google and Yahoo have never really needed to do.
But what does this mean for PPC? Despite the sweeping change in the actual search engine, MSN’s ad platform hasn’t changed much aside from a few minor updates a few weeks ago. MSN has a decent system for advertisers (and it will get better once they take their desktop client out of beta!), and experienced advertisers can usually coax a good ROI out of an MSN AdCenter account. The problem is one of volume – the user’s just aren’t there. With Microsoft’s search offerings being used by only about 10% of total online searchers, you’re never going to get the results you will see out of Google. Bing could change that if it brings more users into the Microsoft fold. While I highly doubt that Bing is going to displace Google as the #1 search engine, it’s beginning to look like it has a shot at taking Yahoo out of #2. More users will result in more conversions for advertisers, which will result in more advertising and revenue for Microsoft. Time will tell if Microsoft’s Bing gamble will pay off, and I’m certainly interested to see if internet search patterns will change over the next few weeks.