Microsoft lags so far behind Google in the search engine market because it didn't acknowledge the long tail, said Yusuf Mehdi, senior vice president of the Online Audience Group for Microsoft Bing, at Search Engine Strategies NYC March 25. For Microsoft, focusing on the head instead of the long tail meant that it returned queries for popular sites and failed to serve queries with smaller, lesser known resources online. The long tail of queries ended up yielding more money for Google over the last 11-plus years.
fell so far behind Google in the search engine market because it failed to
retrieve relevant results for a long line of less popular queries, a senior
Microsoft executive told the crowd at the Search Engine Strategies show here
Such was the key reason Yusuf Mehdi, senior vice president of the Online
Audience Group for Microsoft Bing, offered for why Google is light-years ahead
of Microsoft in the search market. Google commands
65 percent of the U.S.
share search market, compared with 11.5 percent for Microsoft Bing.
Mehdi, responding to a keynote host's observation that Microsoft was late to
the Internet and search, said, "We missed the boat early on that the focus
was about the long tail. We actually focused a lot on the head of the queries. ...
It turned out the long tail was much more important."
For Microsoft, focusing on the head instead of the "long
meant that it returned popular queries but failed to satisfy
less common queries. The long tail of queries ended up yielding more sizable
traffic and therefore more money for Google over the last 11-plus years.
See pictures of Mehdi's presentation of new Bing search
The result was a decade of search futility; just 10 short months ago,
Microsoft's share of the search market had fallen to 8 percent. Bing has gained
3.5 percentage points of search since June 2009. Google has remained at its
position, even growing a tad, while Yahoo has slid, with Bing gobbling the
company's lost share.
Mehdi said that a year ago, four new URLs were created every second of every
"Think about the explosion in the long tail. You have to crawl, index
and make sense of that. On any given a month, one-third of queries that show up
on Bing, it's the first time we've ever seen that query. A huge chunk of those,
we'll never see again. They're like gone with the wind. The challenge of being
able to be up to speed to understand that new flow of data and to be able to
index the right thing so you can respond in subsecond time is a very, very hard
This scale challenge Mehdi described is a big reason why Google has extended
and maintained its massive search share. That and the massive digital
advertising market Google has fostered to make $23 billion a year.
"The problem gets harder when it comes to new forms of unstructured
data," Mehdi continued. "How do I get to things that are closed off,
such as Twitter feeds or YouTube videos, or things that you can't crawl easily?
What happens when you can't understand the URL?"
Mehdi said the tide is turning back around to the head of popular queries.
This is why Microsoft has partnered with Twitter, Wolfram Alpha and, as of
today, popular location-sharing service Foursquare
Search was originally meant for navigation, with Google's PageRank
ranking algorithm fortifying results with relevance. Search is becoming an
engine to fuel transactions and advanced research, including queries of
multiple sentences instead of just keywords.
If the old search query was about finding the right Website, the new line of
queries is more like, "Where does President Obama stand on healthcare?"
and "What are the causes of a certain type of pancreatic cancer?"
Current search isn't designed to keep up with humans' thinking patterns on
search and suffers from ambiguity. Bing, he said, is looking to solve the
challenge of deciphering user intent. This means finding what users are
searching for even though the consumers' query words don't match their idea of
what they want to find.
"It's more of a dialogue with the consumer," Mehdi said. "We are about understanding user intent, and in mapping the intent into tasks and into actions."
Microsoft executives are certainly on the same page in this regard. Mehdi's
comments echoed those made by Bing Director Stefan Weitz to eWEEK recently in