Is it time to start taking Bing seriously?

Something big could be brewing in the world of search.

At SMX Melbourne on Wednesday, a panel of the world’s leading experts (deftly facilitated by Mark Armstrong of FirstClick) talked about the future of search.

The Panel consisted of Greg Boser, Jim Sterne, Gillian Muessig and Allen Hammock.

It was insightful and fascinating to get a strategic perspective from true thought leaders on what ‘search’ might look like in the next few years and who would be influencing how and where we all search.

There was a LOT of discussion around the titanic battle going on between Facebook and Google.

Greg Boser made the observation that in spite of its dominance, Google could in fact be facing a real contender in the not so distant future. With Bing’s help, Facebook could completely ‘wall the garden’ and cut Google’s share of search.

He observed that people use Facebook to socialise and Google to search for stuff. Basically people flick between the two, with the occasional visit to eBay.

Putting it simply, Google’s been blindsided by the exponential growth of the Facebook community. It’s not easy to build a community that big; but it is very easy to build, buy or integrate a search engine into Facebook. Frankly speaking, Google has no hope of building a community as big as Facebook’s.

Facebook’s fairly recent deal with Microsoft makes sense. In spite of the occasional bagging some people have given Bing in terms of market share (not mentioning any names), Bing is actually a pretty good search engine, especially in the United States.

The other thing that’s raising eyebrows is the mass exodus of employees from Google to Facebook. Could it be a case of the rats leaving the sinking ship?

Many of those employees also happen to know a thing or two about search engines. They, along with Microsoft and Facebook people, know quite a bit about serving ads alongside search results.

I asked the question, “Will Facebook start showing ads on its own content network?” The answer was ‘probably not’. I tend to disagree though. I think that it’s an obvious extension for Facebook to gain more reach for its advertising. They already have ‘like’ buttons showing up all over the web. It won’t be too hard to start showing Facebook Ads as well. Google’s making 30% of its revenue from contextually placed ads through its AdSense partners.

That’s pretty compelling.

More recently, Google’s made the well known changes to its search results in the form of Suggested Search, Instant Search, Google Places Results being more prominent and Google Quick View.

A cynic might argue it’s a case of attention seeking at the expense of end user experience. There are ever increasing grumblings about the quality of search results, especially when you have businesses that rank number one for highly competitive locally based search terms and they haven’t even bothered to claim their Google Places listing. What’s with that Google?

Google has said its mission is to ‘organise the world’s information…’ but what we’re actually seeing is Google buying all sorts of verticals to feed its search engine results and protect its market share.

Of course to be fair, Microsoft is too.

I guess the key takeaway is that it’s quite logical that Bing will be the final missing piece of Facebook’s puzzle. With 500 million users ‘possibly’ starting to use Bing, (9.5 million here in Australia) it’s probably time to start taking it a lot more seriously.

For more Online Sales expert advice, click here.

Chris Thomas heads up Reseo, a search engine optimisation  company which specialises in creating and maintaining Google AdWords campaigns and Search Engine Optimisation campaigns for a range of corporate clients.

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