There are a lot of stories floating around about Microsoft’s latest attempt to out-Google Google with its Bing search engine.  These include stories of product placement on shows like NBC’s Jimmy Fallon Show and the forthcoming The Philanthropist, as well as shows on MTV, and special arrangements with Hulu.  The New York Times’ Stuart Elliot covers them well.

Here are some comments from Microsoft’s Yusuf Mehdi in the story:

“It’s a very tall marketing challenge and a very tall product challenge,” acknowledged Yusuf Mehdi, senior vice president for the online services division of Microsoft in Redmond, Wash.

“It’s going to take multiple steps to get where we want to go,” he added, “and this is the first step.”

Bing has two goals, Mr. Mehdi said: “Win a fan base and start to grow share.” The latter refers to the fact that “every other provider” of search-engine services “has lost market share in the last five years,” he added, “except for the leader” — that being, of course, from Google.

“The key will be whether we deliver a product and connect with people emotionally in the advertising,” Mr. Mehdi said. To achieve the second point, “you have to do something a little bit more surprising,” he added.

I know Yusuf from the way back (we’re talking Windows 98 and the IE 3 days) and he’s a smart and likable guy and in some ways I’m surprised he has stuck around at Microft as long as he has.  I think he still owes me a pizza for saying MSN would be bigger than AOL (and now it may be, but I think the bet was probably “by the year 2000”).  While any entry into the market place is, as Yusuf suggests, a tall marketing challenge and a tall product challenge, those challenges are at least a little less difficult when you have $80 million to $100 million to spend on advertising!

Bing has had some early success, and even the anecdotal data we see in terms of web traffic referals has Bing currently outperforming the regular Microsoft Live/MSN organic search functions, and over the last few days Bing has been our number 10 referrer.  But it is still dwarfed by its rivals.  Over that time period we got ~30K visits from organic Google search, ~3K visits from organic Yahoo search and ~600 visits from Bing  (note to Yusuf should he see this, that’s not to say we wouldn’t completely re-skin our site to promote Bing if you want to throw some of that $80 million to $100 million our way!).

I’d read some stories whining about Microsoft forcing the search within IE 6 to use Bing and my initial thought was “so, who is still using IE 6?”.   More of our traffic still comes from IE than other browsers, and ~20% of our IE traffic is indeed still coming from IE 6.   Unfortunately I couldn’t break the data out to see if all of our Bing traffic was coming from IE 6.

I don’t see converting to Bing from Google, primarily due to force of habit and not seeing enough difference.  Neither search engine allows me to do the one thing I really want to do, filter results by time (allow me to see the most recent items matching the query) and if Bing offers such a feature before Google, I could see switching.  Bing is also trying to simplify task based searching for things like travel and I can see that being useful.

Perhaps the answer for Microsoft is to spend much, much more than $100 million.  But buying Yahoo still might be the cheaper way for it to acquire search traffic volume.

Posted by:TV By The Numbers

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