An internal investigation at Microsoft that gave GM Mike Nichols additional responsibilities for Bing marketing, after last week's dismissal of top execs Eric Hadley and Sean Carver, leaves open the question of the search engine's direction and what contributed to the decision.
The move follows the exit by Danielle Tiedt, who was Bing's GM of marketing and MSN, earlier this year to join Google's YouTube.
Some reports point to a violation of corporate policies by Hadley and Carver related to "mismanagement of company assets and vendor procurement" as contributing factors to the firing. Every company has a list of preferred business partners. But the decision to fire executives who contribute to what a company considers positive growth doesn't happen overnight; it typically takes repeated offenses.
In the case of Hadley and Carver, working with companies outside an approved vendor procurement list seems to have contributed heavily to the firing.
"We can confirm that as the result of an investigation, Eric Hadley and Sean Carver's employment with Microsoft was terminated for violation of company policies related to mismanagement of company assets and vendor procurement," according to a Microsoft spokesperson.
Yet rarely will the misuse of a company approved vendor lead to dismissal. It could mean that the $5.5 billion reported in November to spend on Bing's ad campaign since the June 2009 launch was too much for a small gain.
Microsoft's corporate policy of fulfilling its goal of Bing outperforming Google in both paid ads and organic search marketing support may result in new execs. But changes in leadership aren't the only alterations afoot at Bing.
The search engine might have a bias to certain brands, whether procurement or ranking in search engine results pages.
In the WebmasterWorld forum, postings point to updates in Bing's organic query results. Forum members call attention to changes in Yahoo search, powered by Bing. "Looks to me in the areas I traverse Bing has had a recent update," according to one post. "If you are not a known brand, you might have taken a licking."
Another agrees, explaining how Bing gives corporate, well-established sites a major advantage, but also likes the fact that small sites still rank better in Bing, compared with Google. One blogger wrote: "I've certainly noticed a change in SERPs, and the terms I just tested look much more relevant."
Marty Weintraub, aimClear founder, confirms seeing engine results page "freshness and brand bias developments in Bing SERPs." He said the changes could be symptomatic of human resource changes that stem from philosophical disagreement. He said Google made the move years ago for brands.