In recent years Microsoft has made search a priority, and it shows. Across the web and during commercial breaks on TV, Microsoft is running ads extolling the virtues of its Bing search engine as an alternative to Google. The company hopes that you and your business might consider switching to its suite of products.
Despite the company’s enthusiasm it has an uphill battle ahead of it. According to market research firm comScore, Google is doing better than ever with a 66.7 percent market share in search. This leaves Bing to fight for a foothold with a little more than a fourth of the market under its control.
Microsoft, however, has aggressively set up partnerships to expand Bing’s visibility and viability as an alternative — but has it been enough? Has it really made a product powerful enough for your business to switch to, or is it all just so much hype?
Benefits to Bing Searchers
If you’re a web searcher and considering switching to Bing, the first thing you’ll be concerned with is finding accurate results. In recent years, Microsoft has struck deals with partners like Wolfram Alpha and others to dramatically improve its search results on Bing. As you might expect, these deals have resulted in tangible improvements to Bing’s search results when it comes to topics like calculations and statistics.
Rather than going the route of Google and doing everything itself, Bing attempts to pull its data from the best sources available. This is obvious when you learn of Bing’s Facebook integration. Rather than trying to force you to switch to its own social network (like Google does with Google+) Microsoft allows you to sign into Bing with your Facebook account. Doing so introduces a sidebar that allows you to see whom among your Facebook friends are knowledgeable in the topics you’re searching, and posts searches directly to Facebook for answers.
If you’re concerned about accessing Bing, you’ll be delighted to find it’s more accessible than ever. Bing has been integrated and featured prominently throughout the company’s Windows Phone, Windows 8 operating system, and Xbox product lines. Microsoft has even made Bing available on some of their competitor’s devices as well. Apple fans with newer Macs and iOS devices will find Bing as one of the search engine choices available on these platforms.
Drawbacks to Bing
Switching to Bing doesn’t come without some bumps in the road, however. In the years it has been on top, Google has been able to refine and polish its results tremendously. Many of these refinements might go unnoticed until you’re suddenly without them. If you’re the type of person who uses Google search for quick access to sports scores, stock information, and movie times, chances are things simply won’t feel right on Bing. Likewise, if you’re used to searching Google for real-time news and information, you’ll notice that Bing doesn’t do so as liberally or prominently.
While these details may seem small, they amount to a lot collectively. This is particularly evident on mobile platforms, where Bing’s presentation feels almost like an afterthought. For example, mobile searches on Bing for stock quotes like “AAPL” show ads instead of info (see the image above). The same search on Google displays information packed charts. If you’re the kind of user who does mobile searches like this frequently, you’ll see your workflow slow down tremendously. If time is money for you, you’ll likely find yourself appreciating Google’s refinements more and more.
Implications for SEO
When it comes to search engine optimization, one area where Bing falls flat is how quickly the service indexes some sites. Searches for newly posted content from smaller sites are not always effective on Bing.
Incidents like this seem to be more endemic than incidental as similar complaints are easy to find online. Microsoft offers its Bing Webmaster Tools to correct and refine the way your site is indexed, however these tools pale in comparison to similar tools offered by Google. Tools or no tools, results like these are damning for a small business looking to get its information out to audiences quickly and effectively. If Bing can’t index your content fast enough it threatens to leave your business behind.
Bing is growing and it shouldn’t be ignored. While it’s possible that Microsoft could continue to improve Bing in ways that make it more viable in the future, Google remains the standard fir search. Gimmicks like posting a search query to Facebook or searching from your Xbox are certainly interesting but these features do little for you professionally.
At the end of the day your business needs to be where your customers are. Bing’s lackluster results may cost you time and money in the long-term, and ignoring Google may have profoundly negative consequences on your content being found. Our suggestion: set up your Webmaster Tools on Bing and keep an eye on it, but if you want to stay relevant — stick with Google for now.
Which platform do you optimize your business content for — Google or Bing? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
John Morrison: John is a freelance photographer, writer, and traveler based out of Chicago. He is a graduate of the Pratt Institute with a BA in Visual Communications. Before joining Sprout, John previously worked for Apple Inc. as a lead creative and business associate. He likes old Polaroid cameras, New York style pizza, and typing in the third person. Connect with him on Twitter: @localcelebrity