The push is coming, or has it already begun? The push from Microsoft and Yahoo (but considering Yahoo’s recent issues, let’s concentrate on Microsoft and it’s Bing search engine) to stand up to Google and offer formidable competition has been in the works for some time. Now, Microsoft is not backing from the challenge, instead fully pressing on continuing to invest in their online services division, that which guides its search platform Bing, and trying to differentiate themselves from other search engines, namely Google.

This means that the decision-makers at Microsoft are confident they can eventually tip the scales and draw web searchers to their platform. This is serious confidence considering the online services division reported operating losses of $2.6 billion for its last fiscal year, according to a recent New York Times article by Nick Wingfield. Part of their plan in mounting a surge was announced just at the beginning of the month in that they are going to integrate social media data into their search results. This information is not just any social data, however, it is social data from yes, a range of sites, but namely from Facebook. Sound familiar?

Google introduced its “Google Search, Plus Your World” functionality as Google Search began integrating social data into its search results (primarily from Google+) causing a stir for several reasons among them being a significant change to the user experience and the issues associated with potentially privileging its own social platform over others in search results (considering it is the dominant engine used). In this process, Google and Facebook are pitted against each other as Google is ramping up its Google+ to compete with Facebook to amass social/personal data. So, now it appears Microsoft and Facebook are teaming up to add an additional functionality to Bing that mirrors Google’s latest search functionality.

According to experts cited in the NYT article, Microsoft has integrated in the social data quite well. They have been very concerned with integrating the data without cluttering the search results pages, making multiple changes through various tests. The apparent result: a crisp-looking search engine results page (SERP) that has a neatly organized sidebar of social media results where users can post questions to the friends who have posted relevant information without leaving the results page.

Business Implications
The move to integrate social data into Bing search results from Facebook and others and the similar steps from Google previously have clear implications for those conducting online marketing and SEO campaigns:

  • Businesses must get a social presence and optimize it. The longer businesses lack a presence on social media, the longer they will miss out on opportunities to engage with customers online, widen their audience through greater exposure, and push greater business and conversion.
  • Marketers need to leverage social media with the other marketing operations of the company. Linking promotions to their social presence, bridging traditional media to this social presence, and coordinating the different accounts themselves to strengthen each other, along with optimizing it with SEO- friendly practices will bring the return businesses are looking for.

The apparent alliance between Microsoft and Facebook is intriguing and will be something to track as the way it plays out, and the way that Bing performs going forward, will greatly impact the future search landscape.

 

The search engine landscape is dominated by Google throughout the US and European markets, and has been the case for some time. However, those at Microsoft’s Bing have been working hard to position the site as a favorable alternative to Google and just recently moved out of beta in Germany launching the full version of their German site. As such, Bing is eagerly trying to gain market share, even if gains do prove to be modest. Such goals would have to be small, at first anyway, considering their current position in the US and across Europe. Although the launch of Bing’s German page occurred at the end of January, it is worth circling back to and discussing its relevance for search engine optimization in the German market.

Google is at the top with roughly 95% of the search market share in Europe, but Bing does sit in second position above Yahoo!, Yandex RU, and Ask Jeeves, and is available now in just under 40 countries worldwide. Most promising for Bing is that according to Microsoft, Bing has 10 million users which is 20 percent of all German internet users. These numbers created a bit of confusion when released because they were compared to StatCounter’s figures of search engine market share. However, the 20 million user figure released by Microsoft reflects the number of users, whereas StatCounter shows the raw number of searches per search engine; apples and oranges, the figures are obviously related but do not represent the same metric. With that said, having 20 million people using Bing not necessarily for every search but at least to some degree provides a solid foundation from which to grow further.

It appears Bing is realistic, but still sees opportunity to gain a foothold and grow, and the rate at which Bing is launching the full-scale versions of its local sites is quite telling. They aren’t exactly rolling them out one after the other indicating they are making sure the sites are up to their exact specifications before they go fully live. This makes the most sense and is exactly what Bing should be doing given their position. There is no rush or time constraint for them to go live with their full sites because the search landscape will largely be the same in 6 months or 1 year from now. As a result, they might as well take the time and get it exactly the way they want it before they launch it, especially since they can use the beta version in the meantime.

SEO experts cater to all search engines, but it is no secret that high rankings on Google trump those of other search engines, and thus more effort in the industry is spent on those practices that get results for Google. SEO experts do acknowledge the differences and optimize accordingly however Google simply dominates. Thus, SEO companies offering international SEO services specifically in the German market will be keeping track of Bing in the years to come to see how much Bing can gain on Google, and by extension, how much the companies should optimize for Bing.