Microsoft announced several new additions to its Bing search engine today in San Francisco at its “Bing Search Summit.” Bing’s market share, 11.8% according to comScore for November, is still far smaller than Google’s 66.2% share. As a result, Bing is exploring a number of new features in an effort to entice searchers to switch search engines. While some changes are more strategic social media integrations, most of the new features are small time-savers.
According to TechCrunch:
“The overarching theme here has been to highlight numerous minor enhancements the Bing team has been making to help improve its search experience. The goal: boil search down to the tasks that most people are typically conducting on Bing.”
To improve efficiency, Microsoft analyzed how people searched: identifying classes of queries around segments like music, electronics, travel and movies. Now, movie-related queries will generate results with show times and trailers in addition to reviews from movie sites. Travel-related queries will generate results with fares and leave/return dates.
Some of the announced changes:
- New “visual experience” for results: photos, images, and links are arranged differently in the search results based on the query entered
- Incorporation of Facebook “Likes” into search results
- Image results no longer include white space around images: image results are more compact
- Maps will include interior layouts of shopping malls and other places so users can more easily find store locations (Google maps does not have indoor maps)
- Bing Local will include inside views of restaurants, hotels, and stores: as a result of Microsoft’s partnership with EveryScape
- New version of Bing’s iPhone app that integrates with Grubhub and OpenTable
These changes reflect Microsoft’s willingness to test new variations in search result presentation in an effort to improve the utility of search results. While Google is testing similar features, historically Google has focused on improving the speed and accuracy of search results.
With Bing/Yahoo’s share of search still below 30%, Microsoft will continue to test innovations and improvements to try to build market share. Many of the changes unveiled at Microsoft’s Bing Search Summit are aimed at trying to save time for searchers and increasingly incorporate Facebook “Likes” into results. If users begin to shift from Google to Bing, advertisers should adjust budget allocations accordingly.
Advertisers should also note the basis for many of these changes. Microsoft identified user patterns, including verbs in queries, as means to determine intent. Similarly, advertisers should consider which verbs users are likely to use in searching for a brand or product, and whether they have adequate coverage on those queries. Furthermore, advertisers should also note the increasing social component to algorithmic search results. Advertisers who engage their social communities will likely reap big rewards in organic listings for both Google and Bing as those engines begin to factor Facebook and Twitter into their results. Finally, the emphasis on making local results more appealing to searchers should also be noted. Advertisers with retail locations are encouraged to develop strategies for maintaining accurate and updated feeds of store locations, as local listings become more prominently displayed in search rankings.