Microsoft, Yahoo Can Try, but They Can't Take Google's Search Crown

By Clint Boulton  |  Posted 2009-07-29 Print this article Print

Press and blogger corps (myself included) are falling all over themselves to write about how Microsoft and Yahoo finally did it.

The companies finally banded together to take on Google, the search engine lion with 65 percent (or 70, depending on who you believe, with 78 percent of paid search according to Microsoft's legal eagle Brad Smith) of the search market.

At the heart of the deal, Microsoft will pay Yahoo TACs (traffic acquisition costs) at 88 percent of search revenue generated on Yahoo's sites during the first five years of the agreement. Microsoft's Bing search engine will be the exclusive algorithmic search service and search ad platform for Yahoo sites, with Yahoo supporting the search ad sales for both companies.

I was surprised to read comments in a Wall Street Journal report on the news from Search Engine Land's Danny Sullivan, who said Google should be worried. Sullivan told the WSJ: "It's going to give Microsoft in one fell swoop a much bigger share of the search market."

I e-mailed Danny the following: "I'm surprised. 19.6% (Yahoo's search share) + 8.4% (Microsoft's search share )= 28% ... versus 65%, 70% (Google's search share). I agree this is a big jump, but with everyone, including yourself (in "State Of Search: Google Will Stay Strong Despite Bing & Yahoo"), is talking about how people aren't leaving Google because of their comfort level with it. So, my question to you is: what exactly should Google be worried about?"

Danny responded via e-mail this morning to clarify. He said Google should be concerned, but not panicked about this arrangement:

[It will make] Microsoft potentially a much stronger competitor. It's more a one to one competition, a clearer alternative to Google. That's worrisome, though like I said, not necessarily a reason to panic. Microsoft has an opportunity, but they also have to deliver on it.

Together, Yahoo and Microsoft could potentially halve the gap between themselves and Google, provided Yahoo users like Bing when it finally becomes the search platform for Yahoo in 2010 (pending federal regulatory approval).

And regulators will scrutinize it, but I expect it to pass muster because regulators want a worthy challenger to Google.

But let's be real clear here. It will take more than just a combination of Microsoft and Yahoo working together to make any inroads against Google. As I've written in the past, people are comfortable with Google. Moreover, it will take a long time -- maybe five years -- for Microsoft to make a serious dent into Google's share. Technology Business Research noted today:

Microsoft's release of Bing is being positively received by consumers, but is not sufficient to span the vast chasm Google maintains in the search market. With Microsoft starting from less than a 10 percent share of search, and Google maintaining around 70 percent, it would take years for Microsoft to build any serious presence in the market.

Not only that, but Microsoft, as Sullivan said, must execute. There are no guarantees here, folks. Until Bing, Microsoft hadn't done squat in search in 10 years. TBR also wrote:

While Google's share of the market and hold on consumers is formidable, Microsoft's advertising deal with Yahoo may be the best shot at succeeding in the market. This deal will instantly triple Microsoft's share of the search market, providing the scale to attract a greater advertising base, creating the possibility to monetize its search and advertising assets for the first time.

Yes, but there are no guarantees. The potential to monetize search and ads versus Google exists, but how does anyone know by the time Microhoo gets around to taking Google's search ad share that Google won't have successfully penetrated other search ad markets, particularly mobile and display ads?

Microsoft and Yahoo aren't standing still, but neither will Google, which will take this challenge seriously under its "competition is just a click away" approach.

Lots, lots, lots more on TechMeme here. |

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