Microsoft Bing Still Has Room to Grow, Says Exec

 
 
By Nicholas Kolakowski  |  Posted 2009-09-16
 
 
 

Microsoft's general manager of corporate strategy, Charles Songhurst, used a Sept. 14 question-and-answer session at New York's Jefferies Annual Technology Conference to outline Redmond's strategy for Bing, suggesting that the search engine has yet to be pushed fully onto the global stage.

"We haven't launched Bing in International," Songhurst told the audience. "It's active and usable, but it hasn't had the marketing push behind it. And what we've found is that that marketing push makes a huge difference."

In the weeks following Bing's June 3 rollout, Microsoft had pushed the search engine in the U.S. marketplace with a massive ad campaign estimated at between $80 million and $100 million.

"I think the other thing we're beginning to find is that the search market is more differentiated, and less homogeneous than we thought," Songhurst continued. "What we're increasingly seeing is that different consumers have different styles and tastes. And Bing is about particular tastes and styles, it's more focused results, you get more information per result, you get more details."

According to a new report by research firm Nielsen, Microsoft made incremental gains in the search-engine space in August, with 10.7 percent of U.S. online searches. By comparison, Yahoo and Google had 16 percent and 64.6 percent, respectively, in the same survey. In addition, Bing experienced a month-over-month increase of 22.1 percent.

Bing could carve out 10 to 20 points' worth of market share in the global search-engine space, Songhurst felt, simply by drilling more deeply into different consumer segments. He added that "a 10 to 20 percent global organic share" would make search "a very profitable business for us." Microsoft is currently competing for Bing-centric distribution deals on various sites, hoping to soak up users who come to those URLs in order to search.

Those deals would likely be similar to the partnership agreement signed between Microsoft and Yahoo on July 29, which will have Bing powering search on Yahoo's sites. The maneuver could conceivably expand Bing's share of the U.S. search engine market to 30 percent, based on combining the respective shares of both Microsoft and Yahoo.

The partnership may not be enough to undermine Google's 64.6 percent, but it may also allow Bing to become more robust, as it utilizes a new flood of information from Yahoo's sites to refine its search processes.   

In order to expand its reach, Microsoft also plans on aggressive moves in the mobile-search arena.

"We've internalized what Google has been saying over the past few years, which is they see mobile search as one of the biggest areas," Songhurst said. "One of the things that we've designed in the way that Bing is designed is, a lot of the way that Bing is slightly more tailored, slightly more [customized], slightly less results and slightly more data per result actually suits the mobile world."

He added: "We're very, very focused on how we tailor Bing to have results that are geo-specific, location specific, and fit the various UIs."

Bing faces a similar uphill battle for market share against Google in the mobile-search space, however. According to a comScore report released in August, Google owns 52.5 percent of the mobile-search space, with Yahoo coming in second at 22.6 percent and Microsoft at 8 percent.

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