Bing is Here!

Since the end of May, there has been quite a lot of chatter regarding a new product being released by Microsoft.  No it’s not Windows 7 or a high tech Zune player, but it turns out that something called Bing is Microsoft’s newest search engine.  As anyone who has followed Microsoft over the last couple of years knows there have been several search engines that have come to market. 

The first was MSN Search, which tried to keep the millions with dial up internet access using the Microsoft Network for search.  A couple of years ago Microsoft renamed this search engine and called it Windows Live Search which over the next couple of years was renamed again to simply Live Search.  While definitely a quality search engine, Microsoft didn’t exactly set the industry on fire and now Live is ultimately being updated and again renamed to what is now being called Bing.

On June 3, 2009 Bing finally went live.  This search engine is definitely different than its predecessor and with an $80 to $100 million dollar ad campaign, Microsoft is very eager to get the word out.  So for us in the SEO and/or SEM industry, how does Bing stack up to their earlier releases and how will it affect the search environment now and in the near future, here are just some of the possibilities.  While, it is obviously a new product and its implications won’t be known for some time, here is some insight into Bing and how it might ultimately affect our industry.

What’s New in Bing?

There are plenty of features that make Bing not only a powerful search engine, but also stand apart from both Google and Yahoo.  While earlier versions of Live Search were modeled after Google with a plain white background with minimal text, Bing offers a background image that changes daily.  In fact, when you roll over your mouse on this image, you can read and learn more about it.  Besides a background image, searching in Bing is not only easy, but made to be convenient and logical.  Bing is extremely quick in responding to the user’s queries, but the search results are definitely a high quality and after several searches, I found it either on par or close to the quality that one would find at Google.

In addition to its high quality search results Bing offers a few surprises that are quite useful including its video thumbnail preview.  When you do a search and results come back that include videos, it is easy to preview the thumbnail of the video simply by hovering your mouse pointer over it.  It’s also easy to find all your content neatly organized, which is classified by sections including map, local weather, fan-sites, wall paper and much more.  When results are shown to the viewer, instead of the normal two column format we are used to in Google where the results are shown on the left and paid contextual ads are on the right- Microsoft uses a three column format with your normal results in the center, paid results to the right and relevant links to the left.  Other features include an easy way to scroll through images with a variety of ways to adjust the settings of the images for the size, layout, color, etc.  It also makes it easy to search for videos depending on length, resolution, source, etc.

Bing For SEO and SEM
With Microsoft being one of the big 3 when it comes to search, many SEO’s and SEM’s obviously need to keep a close watch on how Bing will affect their campaigns.  There has been a lot of chatter and since Bing has only been out for less than a month, it is still way too early to tell, if there will be any big changes in how Microsoft conducts search. 

However, it is clear, that with its roll out, Microsoft is making sure to update its search as often as possible and it is extremely likely that with its roll out Microsoft has been tweaking its search algorithm.  For instance in the beginning of June, there was plenty of chatter going on that the search results were in flux and that every day results for first page rankings were changing- obviously this is to be expected, and it will take at least a few months to see how everything settles.  While this can be frustrating for SEO and SEM professionals, there are plenty of things that are surely to stay the same with little if any disruption.

Optimizing for Bing
It should be noted that with all the fanfare of Bing’s launch and the expected state of flux due to possibly a new algorithm and constant updates, those optimizing or marketing for the long term shouldn’t switch any of their strategies just yet.  In fact, throughout all the evolutions of Microsoft’s search products, they have always relied on the many aspects of optimization that has made Google and Yahoo continually return quality, relevant results.  Best practices such as freshly updated content that for the most part is unique, quality link backs- especially when receiving quality link backs from an authority site, on page optimization utilizing meta tags, errorless coding- making it easy for their crawlers to read and decent keyword density to ensure crawlers realize quickly keywords that are targeted on page. 

In addition, Microsoft has always put a tad more emphasis on specific keywords located in a URL.  So whether you are creating a new blog or domain name, choose its name wisely trying to include a keyword or keyword phrase in its URL.

Possible Advertising Benefits on Bing
Microsoft has stated that it would like to move into second place behind Google within 5 years and while this goal is feasible, it is also making a big push in helping advertisers get a better ROI.  Instead of simple search text ads, it is trying to maximize a web searcher’s intent to buy by utilizing richer and more relevant results.  For instance, Microsoft will be focusing heavily on geographical and demographic ad targeting and will be putting in place an easy way to search and purchase a product directly from search (think Amazon’s one click, except on Bing). 

Google vs. Bing
It is natural to match up Bing against its competitors and obviously there is a lot of talk about Bing trying to be a “Google Killer”.  However, most would agree that Microsoft is well too realistic to think they can steal enough market share away from Google to be #1.  As far as search goes, Google does a great job and there hasn’t been any kind of product that is so revolutionary to drive users away from it.  So even with plenty of bloggers typing away on their sites (remember Wolfram Alpha) trying to create a juicy buzz that Bing is the next Google Killer- don’t believe the hype.

Bing vs. Yahoo
While Bing definitely is not a Google killer, Yahoo was surely on Microsoft’s radar.  In fact, since the Yahoo and MS search merger went bust, Microsoft has been trying to come up with a way to achieve its goals by circumventing Yahoo.  Bing may finally be the product to do the trick.  In the first few days, it was reported that market share for Bing topped Yahoo.  And while Yahoo is now back in the second place spot, I can guarantee you the folks at Yahoo are quite concerned. 

So for the most part, while Bing is a solid performer, it will definitely take some time to see if Bing is here to stay, if it will continue to grow in market share, if Microsoft is extremely serious about having a world class search engine and how well they innovate it so that Bing becomes a top draw for advertisers- which is what ultimately all search is about to Google, Yahoo and MS.