At last week's local working group meeting of SEMPO here in San Francisco, an impressive delegation from both Yahoo Search and Microsoft joined us to provide a comprehensive update on the Yahoo and Microsoft Search Alliance. Organized by DataPop's Chris Gale and moderated by Gap Inc.'s Mark Fiske, it was a hugely informative meeting, and impressed upon me the need for search marketers to get ahead of the changes that are already under way.
(For those who were not able to attend the update in person, there will be a free Webinar on Aug. 4 at 9 a.m. PDT hosted by Gale (chairman of SEMPO-SF), covering all the information from the meeting in detail.)
First and foremost, Bing has already begun to power results in Yahoo Search pages. At present, about 25% of natural search results and about 3% of paid search results in Yahoo SRPs are generated by Bing.
Both teams are hugely cognizant of the looming holiday season and the attendant pressures on search marketers, so they've made completion of U.S. integration by early October a priority. While full integration of natural search results will happen regardless, if for any reason the joint team feels they won't get to a satisfactory integration on the paid search side by October, they say they'll push it off until after the holiday season.
Nevertheless, they urged all search marketers to begin staging their Panama-powered PPC campaigns in Yahoo Search over in the Microsoft adCenter system beginning this month. My sense is it will be very important to maintain parallel administration of campaigns until we're absolutely clear the integration on the paid search side will be completed on schedule.
Which means there's an even greater urgency for folks on the SEO side of the equation. Natural search results integration will happen in 2010.
If you presently rank lower for your keywords in Bing than you do in Yahoo Search, when the transition is done you will have the lower rank position across both search engines (happily, the opposite is also true). Which means you should get to work now optimizing your site for Bing (as well as Google, of course.) The presenters at the SEMPO-SF Bay Area Meet-Up recommended becoming intimately acquainted with the Bing Webmaster Tools. Because change in rank can occur slowly, there's no time to waste if you haven't already begun.
One other factor to keep in mind when preparing for the switchover: each search engine will continue to manage separate user interfaces and experiences. It's an instance (among several) where Yahoo and Bing will continue to compete. Why this is important has to do with where your organic results will be viewed on a Yahoo Search SRP versus a Bing SRP. Check out this screen shot to see what I mean:
The grayed-out area is real estate that will continue to be managed by Yahoo. Because Bing organizes its search pages differently, the first natural search may appear higher or lower on the Yahoo SRP than what you may see in Bing. Depending upon how search pages compose for your most important keywords given your keyword rank, you may want to adjust your PPC advertising strategy to account for any actual or visual changes to your organic rankings.
Bottom line: It's not too early to get to work!