Analysis Of Bing

Inspired by Fred Wilson , my colleagues and I decided to test Bing, Microsoft's new search engine, for a week and then report our results. In fact, we all installed the Bing add-on for Firefox, the browser most of us prefer, to integrate the engine into our workflow.
 
The bottom line? We were impressed. Bing is interesting and may develop a stronger position, but it's got a long way to go to catch up to Google -- presuming that's its intention. Below is the synthesis of our collective notes. While not a scientific study, this was an immersive evaluation by 15 members of the Clickable  team,  guided by expertise in search technology, Web services, interface and product design, online user experience and online advertising.
 
Overall Response

  •     Bing is interesting and may develop a stronger position, but it's got a long way to go to catch up to Google. However, it doesn't necessarily need to overcome Google to be successful. It may pose the greatest market-share threat to engines other than Google.

  •     As evidenced by the bullet above, most observation and judgment of Bing is inherently relative to the experience of Goosgle. Therefore, there is little independent evaluation of Bing; there's only an evaluation of Bing AND how well it stacks up to Google (and nobody else).

     

  •     Google took a stance by being a search engine that keeps users coming back by efficiently and effectively sending them elsewhere. However, while Bing often sends you away, it often tries to keep people on the site. (Remind you of AOL?).
     
    User Interface & Functionality

  •     An evaluation of Bing by several users reveals that people use Google in many unique, subtle ways -- including its advanced functionality and lesser known shortcuts and functions. Despite the seeming simplicity of Google, there are vast, hidden nuances that people have embraced deeply. This means the friction of switching is potentially a lot greater than people might first realize.

  •     On the other hand, Bing surfaces sophisticated functionality often in friendly ways. For example, Bing has visual stimuli and logical paths that direct users to results that don't require knowledge of hidden functionality, and don't require sophistication in Boolean search logic.

  •     While Bing may be friendlier to the mainstream, it also may be patronizing to more experienced users or hardcore searchers.

  •     In many cases, people's search engine habits have been tightly integrated with other Web services, like Google search within the Chrome or Firefox browsers, or Google search within iGoogle/Google home page, or Gmail -- even mobile. The utility of a given search engine relies not only upon how it performs within its own home page, but in distributed and complementary contexts. 

  •     Bing's use of clean white space is smart, and means less friction when transitioning from Google.
     
    Search Utility

  •     The difference in Bing's search results versus Google's prompted many to question the scale and comprehensiveness of indexed Web content.

  •     In our internal test, people loved the image search.

  •     Many on the team were skeptical of the value and relevance of the paid search results. Sure, the core organic search engine performance is most important, but the sponsored results and ads inherently detract or add value to the overall experience.

  •     People couldn't find enough utility for blogs or other forms of social media, which was a big disruption in transitioning from Google. This includes the inclusion of social media properties in search results.

  •     Search history on the left is interesting -- not used often, but occasionally valuable.

  •     Speed was a problem for some.
     
    Advertising Business

  •     Of course, you first need traffic and searches to begin to think about monetizing.

  •     Microsoft adCenter investments already are going into Bing inventory, but it's too early to see results for advertisers.

  •     Preview boxes may be more likely to garner clicks.
     
    Bing Promotions

  •     Our analysis didn't focus on the promotional aspects of Bing, but the estimated $80 to $100 million campaign warrants mention. While the campaign may end up being a critical component of Bing's success, it isn't enough by itself to make the engine a success. Specifically, the campaign will build awareness and drive trial. At that point, the advertising won't matter much. The engine must perform for its users.

  •     Not long ago, Ask.com launched an impressive new version of its engine amidst a tens-of-millions-of-dollars marketing and advertising campaign. Most agree the campaign prompted a surge in traffic and trials, but users ultimately made clear their preferred search engine: in most cases, Google.
     
    What do you think of Bing?


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    8 comments about "Analysis Of Bing".
    1. Scott Volk from self , June 26, 2009 at 11:29 a.m.

      I don't think Bing can take enough search share away from Google to knock them off the top of the hill, but they may be able to attract a large enough share of the demogaphic that doesn't read articles like this away from them.

    2. Mark Kolter from Kolter Creative , June 26, 2009 at 11:54 a.m.

      The problems I've had with Bing are the same problems I (and many others) had with Microsoft - the Ballmerian obessesion with controlling. And dismal customer support. Microsoft can't develop an OS, its alleged core competency, that functions elegantly or at least without problems - does anyone really like Vista? So, why would a mentality rooted in hubris be succesful in developing a search engine in an environment that calls for transparency... responsiveness... spontaneity, ratehr than hubris. You've touched on how Bing tries to drive people back to.... Bing. That's more annoying and condescending to most users than perhaps you realize.

      In most own tests, I haven't found Bing's results anymore relevant than Live. Which is to say not very relevant at all. Such "results" ultimately inhibit the organic growth of search and seem to reflect the ominous scenario of a Microsoft-controlled world.

      The only real value I see to Bing is that it might nudge Google's own development (though Google seems congenitally disposed toward ongoing progress, rather than cramming prducts down customers throats)

    3. Stephen Shearin from ionBurst Media , June 26, 2009 at 11:58 a.m.

      Great general analysis Max.
      Coming from a Unix background, I could never have been convinced that I would champion Bing over Google, even a year ago. But I can safely say that Bing has replaced Google as my search engine of choice for two reasons.

      First, I am undergoing a test to see if it is possible to live on the Internet without Google. So far, so good.

      Second, from personal experience and no small amount of research, Google occasionally indexes items which are frankly wrong. This combined with their inflexibility to change such indexed items leads to bad information. For example, if one follows all the basic rules of 'Google' SEO and slanders someone and then prints a retraction, the slander could still be the first or second result, and it might never go away. I have found in side by side comparisons that the inappropriate result does not show up in Bing, while all the relevant data does. So how much other bad data does the mighty google serve up? We'll never know, but Bing presents an adequate alternative to provide an option for now.
      I would recommend to anyone that they give it a try.

    4. Guy Powell from ProRelevant Marketing Solutions , June 26, 2009 at 12:40 p.m.

      I guess, what I am missing is the toolbar for Bing in IE7 and eventually IE8. I have enjoyed the tool, but if google goes in the toolbar, so to must Bing. Has Microsoft launched a good toolbar yet?

    5. Mark Kecko from MediaPost Communications , June 26, 2009 at 1:05 p.m.

      I haven't missed Google search at all since transitioning to Bing two weeks ago. I also love the image search, more because of it's interface than the results it returns.

      From an administrative point of view, the Webmaster Tools aren't nearly as comprehensive as Google's, but the Bing Forums are active and answers are easy to find.

      The real advantage Google has over Microsoft is it's usability. From Google's search page I can check my email (Gmail), get to any of my Google Docs, my Calendar, etc. It's also very apparent to Google users that that extra stuff exists. From the Bing homepage I get a link to Microsoft Live, which isn't very transparent.

      Microsoft has a long way to go before it challenges Google and it's ability to let me use the web instead of my desktop, but Bing is a decent start.

    6. Paul Jin from Plummelo , June 26, 2009 at 2:09 p.m.

      Nice analysis, Max.

      I like your comment about the friction of switching. Because Google integrates more than just search functionality (email, calendar, documents, groups, etc.), the energy people put into understanding those features and how to make all of it work together is pretty significant. Unless Bing shows clear advantages in feature integration and significantly easier UI, they will have to settle for a small market share of loyalists.

    7. Andrew Samet from AS Consulting , June 26, 2009 at 5:37 p.m.

      As a public service, the words "its" and "it's" are two different words and are not interchangeable. "Its" is a possessive pronoun, "It's" is a contracted subject and verb. If you're ever unsure about whether or not you're using "it's" incorrectly, just split it into its two separate words. If it still makes sense, then you're using it correctly.

    8. Steven James Burks from AML Media , June 29, 2009 at 3:11 a.m.

      Mark,

      I would have nearly agreed with all of your comments only 12 months ago. However, I'm pleased to say that Microsoft is experiencing what I call, "new light" - despite of its prior, and existing challenges.

      Windows 7 is truly a good operating system. Bing gets better each time you use it (and its integration with directions - 3D mapping inline amongst other impressive features, the UI considerations in its image search, and other smartly detailed touches). Windows Mobile 6.5 runs faster than 6.1 and is finally touch friendly (and Windows Mobile 7 looks to be the perfect companion to Windows 7). Add all this to their notably powerful and growing advertising technology and operative strength, and we are seeing a very new, and promising, consumer, advertiser, and enterprise focused Microsoft.

      P.S. - I haven't been offered any KoolAid, nor would I need it it to have this opinion change of the company as a whole. It is based on a surprisingly massive and synergistic amount of substance.