Experts on Bing

Includes: AABA, GOOG, MSFT
by: TMT Analyst

Susquehanna Financial Group analyst Marianne Wolk had a great report on Bing, in which she summarized the opinions of several industry pundits on Microsoft's (NASDAQ:MSFT) Bing search engine.

It looks like most are generally positive on Bing, and that should be of concern to Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) management. I have long thought Microsoft had a fighting chance at search. See my earlier write up, Closing the 3% to 65% Gap.

If anything, the point is that with will, determination, intellect, and access to tons of cash, anything is possible.

Here are a summary of the opinions:

1. Eric Schmidt, Google CEO, said:

They [Microsoft] do this about once a year . . . I don’t think Bing’s arrival has changed what we’re doing. We are about search, we’re about making things enormously successful, by virtue of innovation.

The New York Post had a different take, as its sources indicated that the two founders are more worried about Bing than previous Microsoft search updates.

2. Carol Bartz seemed unconcerned about the early data from StatCounter, which pointed to Yahoo! (YHOO) share losses in Bing’s first two weeks: she was quoted as saying “One day does not a trend make.” Yahoo! has been expected to make major upgrades to its homepage (incorporating personalization, social networking, reducing multiple code bases), and may enhance the search functionality for a more integrated user experience.

3. Danny Sullivan (Search Engine Land) is skeptical that Bing will change search behavior, but explains the most significant change as the organization of search results into categories (visible in a left-hand pane), which he says has not caught on with users historically (in other versions of Microsoft’s and other search engines).

4. Charlene Li (formerly with Forrester) said “Microsoft Bing’s focus on decisions is smart – but not a Google killer.” She applauded Microsoft’s focused strategy on four categories – shopping, travel, local, and health – that garner significant ad dollars.

5. John Battelle said the

Left nav bar is a big change . . . this is an important new approach. I like this – the idea of seeing search as a core dataset upon which a more sophisticated navigation interface is overlaid.

6. Efficient Frontier (a leading US SEM) commented on new features of Bing that may add to relevancy (drill-down categories on the top left of the results page, etc.), and the company said “If Bing’s click share gains hold, we expect advertisers to allocate additional budget to Microsoft.”

7. Kevin Lee of Did-It comments that:

Because Microsoft wants more commercial searches, it’s actually put far more development effort into some of the more important industry segments where results could be improved, [including travel, local search, movies, and popular products in shopping.]

8. All Things D’s writers said,

This search engine really did retrieve on-target, useful information on the first try. But what I like best about it is that it does so in a user-friendly manner that looks and feels more inviting than Google.

9. “It is too early to say what the long-term result will be, but this is a creditable performance by Bing,” commented Aodhan Cullen, CEO StatCounter. “It remains to be seen what happens to Bing after user curiosity and the reported $100 mln advertising budget runs out.”

10. On TechCrunch, writers were mostly positive on Bing, writing that Bing is better than expected, but is unlikely to change user habits significantly; MG Seigler said, “When it comes to search trends, Google is lagging behind Bing,”, while Michael Arrington said, “I like it. And I’d consider using it as my search engine.”

11. On GigaOM, they said

Bing’s ‘decision engine’ does provide better search results than Google when it comes to its ability to help searchers narrow down what they are actually looking for.

12. Dolores Labs (crowd sourcing site) found that Mechanical Turk users of Google and Bing preferred Google results to Bing’s on 55% of the queries, although the same users preferred Bing results to older Live search results 55% of the time.

13. A small study of 12 users by Catalyst Group (a usability research and design firm) showed that users rate Bing’s design, organization, filtering, and relevance functionality higher than Google’s, although indicating that they would not switch to Bing, mostly because of the familiarity associated with Google. Catalyst Group also did an eye-tracking study on these participants that showed they spent >150% more time looking at Bing ads compared to Google ads during the search process.