Can Microsoft’s Bing, or Anyone, Seriously Challenge Google?

Google vs BingEvery year, the market-research firm Millward Brown conducts a survey to determine the economic worth of the world’s brands — in other words, to put a dollar value on the many corporate logos that dominate our lives. Lately the firm’s results have been stuck on repeat: Google has claimed the top spot for the past three years. The most recent report values Google’s brand — those six happy letters that herald so many of our jaunts down the Web’s rabbit hole — at more than $100 billion.

What’s astonishing about this stat is how effortlessly Google seems to have earned the public’s affection. Other companies — Microsoft, Coke, IBM, McDonald’s — spend enormous sums to stay in the consciousness. Google, which makes most of its money from ads, rarely advertises itself. Telling the world how well it does what it does just isn’t Google’s way. (See pictures of work and life at Google.)

But Google’s humility is being tested as never before. The firm’s headquarters in Mountain View, Calif., seem besieged by competitors gaining new momentum. Even nominal allies are questioning the company’s motives and long-term plans. In July, Google’s largest competitors, Microsoft and Yahoo!, agreed to work together in an attempt to dethrone it as the world’s dominant search engine. The deal, which awaits government approval, would create a first: a tenacious, well-financed search rival.

Conflicts are beginning to take place in other areas where Google has ventured. That includes e-mail and office programs (Gmail, Google Docs), a cell-phone operating system (Android) and a Web browser (Chrome). Google scans and sells books, runs a phone system and is even working on a desktop operating system to rival Windows. CEO Eric Schmidt recently stepped down from Apple’s board of directors because the two companies now compete in so many areas. The U.S. Justice Department is investigating a legal settlement between Google and the publishing industry over the company’s book-scanning service, and Christine Varney, Justice’s antitrust chief, said she sees Google as a “problem.”

At the moment, Google’s most pressing problem is Microsoft. The software giant is spending $100 million to market its new search engine, Bing — and in the process, to get us all bummed about Google. Bing’s slick ads are unavoidable and blistering. They suggest that Google is broken, that it rarely leads us to what we’re looking for and turns us all into blathering zombies who spew out search keywords in casual conversation. (See the top 10 TV ads of 2008.)

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Can Microsoft’s Bing Take a Bite out of Google?

bing vs google

In the world of online search, there’s Google and there’s everyone else.

The undisputed Sultan of Search, a company whose name has become a verb, Google currently accounts for about 65% of all online searches in the U.S, according to comScore Inc. But Google’s comfortable dominance may be in for its most serious challenge in years with the debut of Bing, Microsoft’s new search engine. Launched in June with a marketing and advertising blitz that reportedly cost Microsoft $80 million, Bing has come out of the gate strong, adding two percentage points to Microsoft’s 8.4% search share in its first week of operation.

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What is Bing?


Detailed info


Company Overview:
Welcome to Bing, a new way to search.

Bing helps you find the information you need faster, and with fewer clicks, so you can make better decisions. It’s different than a typical search engine—it’s your “decision engine.”


Bing helps you make better decisions, and: – get cashback when shopping – find the cheapest airfare -improve your health – pick a good place for dinner

Try Bing. Tell Bing what you think.


Content Over Location > Advertisers Should Focus on!

Content Over Location

There’s a debate going on in the online advertising world. It’s getting tougher and tougher to grab the attention of viewers with so-called banner ads. Yet, some sites are charging more than ever for space.

Online Broadcasts vs. Television
James Kewageshig tipped me off to a piece from PC World that states advertisers are paying more for a slot online than on primetime.

“If a company wants to run ads alongside an episode of The Simpsons on Hulu or, it will cost the advertiser about $60 per thousand viewers, according to Bloomberg. On prime-time TV that same ad will cost somewhere between $20 and $40 per thousand viewers.”

Could it be that they don’t have to worry about fast-forward? Hulu claims their space is “clutter-free” — unlike many sites. So they’re banking on the viewer’s full attention. Plus, the ads are usually a lot shorter than the 30-second-minium television ads. As I viewer myself, the ads can still be annoying. But at least they’re not as frequently annoying as being interrupted every seven minutes during a 30-minute primetime show.

Websites vs. Magazines
So how does this all compare to print? A short FastCompany article that surmises that the reason print is dying is because of online ads being crud. Advertisers are still prepared to pay higher for ad placement in a well curated magazine than your website.

How about simply adding interactivity to your banner? According to, the addition of interactive doodads to banner ads increases click through up to 70%!

Their parting shot:

If Web advertising’s formats were half as clever as all the internet content out there, wouldn’t everyone be better off, and making a lot more money?

It’s All About Relevancy
True. The key is knowing your target and providing them with interesting, informative information. It’s our job to provide the exceptional experience, not the space we buy.

Stephen Murray takes this a step further:
There was a quote this morning in the newspaper that struck me. The author was discussing the Obama administrations recent efforts to overhaul how professionals are paid (Teachers, Doctors, Executives). Essentially, the goal is something that’s closer to a Pay-For-Performance model:

“In executive suites, he says, we rewarded reckless risk-taking and got the worst recession in half a century. In doctors’ offices and hospitals, we pay for more care instead of better care and get a wastefully expensive health-care system. In K-12 classrooms, we pay teachers, good and bad, for showing up instead of successful teaching and perpetuate schools that fail.”

Attempts at progress increase the risk of failure….

“The risks of unintended consequences are large, and there’s a chance we’ll get more of what can be measured — not what we truly want or need.”

These same goals and risks apply to our business as well. We must not fall into the trap of focusing on what can be measured easily. In our role, as Intelligent Marketers, the most important skill we possess is the ability to listen closely and be sure we’re answering the right question. We could all design misleading ads that had tremendously high click rates. But that doesn’t mean we’re doing our job of delivering an exceptional user experience.

Top 10 Don’ts for SEO Copywriting.

internet copywriting

Following in the footsteps of Rand Fishkin and Guy Kawasaki, I decided to come up with my own list of don’ts.

There is no shortage of don’ts when it comes to SEO copywriting. It seems this niche got off to a rough start many years ago when early comers somehow misconstrued the core principles of the trade. Allow me to elaborate on how not to write SEO copy.

1. Don’t shove as many keyphrases into the copy as humanly possible.

It’s not about the sheer volume of search terms you include. Yes, Google and other engines should be able to follow what the page is about. Yes, engines are looking to match a searcher’s query with search engine optimized content on your web pages, but which pages land at the top is decided through a series of calculations far more complex than any simple ratio. When you overload copy with keyphrases you sacrifice quality and user experience.

2. Don’t lose site of balance.

If SEO copywriting isn’t about the percentage of keywords within the copy, then what is it about? Balance. You have two audiences with SEO copywriting: the search engines and your site visitors. But surprisingly, the balance doesn’t come with serving both masters well. The balance comes in how much you cater to the engines. You see, your site visitors always come first.

However, if you write with too little focus on the engines, you won’t see good rankings. If you put too much focus on the engines, you’ll start to lose your target audience. Balance… always balance.

3. Don’t let someone else choose the keywords.

If keyword research isn’t a service you offer, an SEO firm, keyword specialist or some other professional that your client hires will have to conduct the research. Don’t just accept keyphrases these folks toss your way. Ask to see the entire list with recommendations as to which terms would be best strategically. Then you, as the professional writer, can decide which will also work best within the copy.

4. Don’t sacrifice flow for numbers.

This is a follow-up to number three and is a major issue with bad SEO copywriting. SEOs or clients sometimes insist on using hacked-up search phrases that simply don’t work in a normal sentence. An example? “Candies samples free.” Many copywriters will just grin and bear it, sacrificing quality and flow for the sake of competitive values or other numbers. The result is often some obnoxious sentence like, “If you’re looking for candies samples free, you’ve come to the right place!” Forcing a phrase into the copy at all costs never turns out well.

internet-copywriting5. Don’t use keyphrases that don’t apply to the page.

If you operate a site about wedding receptions, don’t try to force a search term about wedding dresses into the copy just because it pulls a lot of traffic. (A) Unless you sell, alter or design wedding dresses, it won’t be applicable. (B) Even if you manage to get the page ranked well for the phrase [wedding dresses], once the visitor clicks to your site and realizes you have nothing to do with wedding dresses, they will leave. It’s a waste of time and effort and it creates a poor user experience.

6. Don’t use misspellings and correct spellings on the same page.

I fully understand that the misspellings of keyphrases can be valuable search terms. However, to mix correct spellings and misspellings within the same page of copy looks like you’ve got a bunch of typos in the content. It’s just not professional. Some writers will go for the old, “We rent limousines (sometimes spelled limosenes) for the most affordable prices in town.” I don’t care for that approach. It’s just not natural. Would you ever see brochure or newspaper copy that reads that way? I think not.

7. Don’t use keyphrases the exact same way every time.

This is how we end up with horrible SEO copy that sounds like a 4th grader wrote it. (See #4.) There are lots of ways to use keywords in copy, not just one. In order to sound natural, you have to get creative with your keyphrase use. One way is to break up phrases using punctuation. Since search engines don’t pay attention to basic punctuation marks, you can easily write something using the search term [real estate Hawaii] that reads like this: “Currently there is an impressive selection of available real estate. Hawaii listings can be…” See? “Real estate” is at the end of the first sentence and “Hawaii” is at the beginning of the second sentence. The engines ignore the period so there’s no problem.

8. Don’t use all types of search phrases for every situation.

There are many ways in which this “don’t” applies. One quick example is that of an ecommerce site. It wouldn’t be advisable to use specific, long-tail keyphrases on the home page of your site. They are much too specific in most cases and are better suited for individual product pages. Broader terms are typically best for an ecommerce home page. If you don’t understand the best applications for the various types of keywords, you’re likely to have lackluster results.

9. Don’t neglect ALT tags/image attributes.

These tags are the ones associated with images on your pages and they carry a good deal of weight especially if the image is used as a link. The ALT text counts the same as anchor text in a text-based link. Depending on a few different factors, ALT text may be a good place for those misspellings mentioned in #6.

10. Don’t forget the chain of protocol.

There’s a method to the SEO copywriting madness. The idea is not to get as many different keyphrases onto a page as possible. Just the opposite, in fact. Rather than having 12 different search terms used only one time each, you need to use two to four keyphrases (depending on the length of your copy) per page. The title, META tags, ALT tags, other coding elements and on-page copy need to support each other as far as keyphrase use goes. Your goal is to let the engines know that you have original, relevant content about a narrow topic.

Unless you have an exceptional number of back links built up, just mentioning [dark chocolate], [chocolate strawberries], [chocolate chip cookies], [chocolate cake], [chocolate desserts], [organic chocolate] and [chocolate cheesecake] once each on a web page isn’t likely to do a lot of good. Instead, pick two or three terms which are closely related and use them several times each along with mentioning them in your tags.

When you avoid making common mistakes, you’ll find your SEO copywriting flows much better, is more natural-sounding and ranks higher, too.




What if the norm is already an exceptional experience?


Or to paraphrase my grandfather, “If it aint broke, don’t fix it.”

Microsoft has been promoting its new search experience, Bing, with an estimated $100-$300M advertising campaign.  Factoring in development costs Billions have been invested in this new product.  Now people are wondering if this was all money well spent.  As you’ve heard from me before, the answer depends on which question you think to ask.

A Good Question: Are people using Bing?

Answer: Yes.  Bing has 50M +/- visitors to the site in June.  As a point of comparison, Google has seen slow and steady growth in 2009 nearing 150M in June.

A Better Question: Do these visitors like Bing?

It appears that the answer here is yes, with some caveats.  People are starting to probe into this by surveying people active on the internet.  One recent study published these results:

“Of the respondents who had tried Bing, 38.3% listed the relevancy of the results as its greatest strength, with the variety of results including web, maps, images, etc. coming in second at 22.1%. Speed, organization of the results page, and the user interface also received positive reviews.”

The New York Times had article about a side-by-side comparison.  Takeaway is that Google isn’t quite the exceptional experience just yet.  Depends on what you’re looking for: quantity or quality of search engine results pages.  Bing is banking on quality.  Microsoft’s POV on Google has been that it’s all branding and perception.  They’d be happy to gain a few points from anyone.

If we stop pushing and asking questions at this point, this seems like a great story for Microsoft.  But for fun, lets take things one step further.

The Best Question:
Is Bing good enough to compel people to switch from Google?

Answer: No.  The same survey suggests that “98% of people won’t switch to Bing and that those who do will be coming from AOL and Ask (folks Microsoft might have gotten eventually, anyway).”

I’m not suggesting that this the end of the story, or that Bing has failed by any stretch.  But I hope this helps illustrate the value of pushing until we can answer the right question.

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