It’s been almost a month since Microsoft launched their new search/decision engine, Bing. Initial reviews have been pretty positive, and traffic data seems to indicate that it’s a close contender for the #2 search engine spot currently occupied by Yahoo. But is it really possible to get people to start using a new search engine in a world where the word “Google” is synonymous with the term “search the internet?”
According to this article on TechCrunch, probably not. Here’s the rundown: according to a study by the Catalyst Group (a usability and design consulting firm), users prefer the layout and organization of Bing, and eye-tracking studies indicate that users spent 150% more time viewing the top-result ad on a test search on the Bing interface. However, users in their focus group indicated that both search engines delivered equally relevant results.
So is Bing really going to make people switch with their more appealing design? Probably not. The problem is that Google is so ingrained in our collective search engine psyche, that user’s won’t be changing their habits for a marginal advantage. Furthermore, Google has embedded their search bar on so many of our software solutions and web sites that actually going to a webpage to enter a search query seems somewhat antiquated. I have my Firefox search bar permanently tuned to the Google option, and it seems like I hardly ever go to Google.com anymore. I’m sure I’m not alone on this one.
The eye-tracking study does seem promising to advertisers, though. The difficulty of competing on the Google network seems to be increasing with each passing year, and Bing/MSN has been an increasingly appealing option to a lot of advertisers for ROI reasons alone. The problem is that no one can match the volume of Google’s lead-generating capacity, so all serious marketers are stuck using the platform for now. However, if Bing takes off as an e-commerce portal in the way Microsoft is branding it, you might see a major exodus of advertising dollars as sellers migrate to where their buyers are going. Then, Google might be the one playing catch-up.