Google has introduced a new feature for its search platform, called Instant Previews. The idea behind Instant Previews is to allow users to see what a specific page will offer before they go to it. For Google, providing such a service will help it improve the experience users have while trying to find specific content. This new service should go a long way to keeping Google Search ahead of the competition.
Of course, the main competition that Google is worried about is Microsoft. The company’s Bing platform, with the help of Yahoo, has about 28 percent market share in the United States. Google has over 65 percent market share. The last thing the search giant wants to do is give Microsoft the opening it needs to steal significant market share away. Instant Previews gives Google an excellent chance to keep that from happening.
That’s a real problem for Microsoft. The company would have a better chance to compete effectively if Google didn’t continue to offer innovations, but it is. And so far, Microsoft has done little to respond.
Simply put, Google’s search improvements should scare Microsoft. And here’s why:
1. Instant Search is proving to be a winner
Although some wondered how useful Instant Search would be when it launched a few months ago, it’s clear now that it works quite well. The service allows users to see results to queries as they type letters in the search box. The result is a faster search experience, which only improves the effectiveness of Google’s services. Bing is still stuck providing users with suggestions, which isn’t likely to do as much to help grow Microsoft’s search market share.
2. Google’s mobile search is getting better
Google has brought Instant Search to its mobile search offering. And because of that, its service is extremely viable on smartphones. Bing has a fine mobile-search offering of its own. But many people who have used Google and Bing on mobile devices quickly discover that Microsoft’s offering doesn’t stand up all that well. It’s fine for simple searches, but with more complex searching, Google’s mobile option is noticeably better. Until Microsoft can address that problem, the company is going to have trouble catching up.
3. Google is on Windows Phone 7
Google made the smart move of bringing its search platform to Microsoft’s new Windows Phone 7 mobile operating system. That doesn’t necessarily mean that Google Search will reign supreme on Windows Phone 7, but it does mean that consumers will have another option to search for content. And if they find that Google’s alternative is better, Microsoft just might have some trouble ruling its own operating system.
4. Instant Previews makes sense
Google’s decision to offer Instant Previews in its search results makes a lot of sense. The chances are most users will find a lot to like with the feature as they start using it. That’s because Instant Previews just automatically becomes part of their Google Search experience. There was nothing for users to install or switch to. Users just find that they are working with Instant Proview as they enter their search keywords. Before Instant Previews, finding just the right Web page was hit or miss with many queries. Clicking on a page that might or might not be useful can be a pain. But with the help of Instant Previews, viewing a page title quickly without going to the destination link should improve that experience. At least for now, Microsoft has nothing to respond to this new Google feature.
Microsoft Search Keeps Playing Catch-up with Google
5. Bing doesn’t have the name recognition
Microsoft’s Bing search platform has one major issue that needs to be addressed over time: name recognition. Google has become synonymous with search, and people typically call on others to “Google” something. Bing doesn’t have that luxury. It’s a search platform that not enough people are using to make it as easily recognizable as Google. That kind of name recognition has helped Google and hurt Bing.
6. Relevance still isn’t Bing’s strong suit
For the vast majority of searches, Bing performs quite well. But in those cases where a user needs to search for more sophisticated topics that require more detailed queries, Google Search, at least in my testing, performs at a much higher level. Considering the search engine’s market share, it’s not a stretch to say that most would agree. Until Microsoft can improve Bing’s algorithm, the company should be worried about its future search prospects.
7. It’s more than just search
Search is extremely important to the future of Google’s and Microsoft’s operations. But that doesn’t mean that it’s the only thing that matters. Quite the contrary, all of the accompanying services, including Google Maps, Google News and other options, have helped the search giant maintain its lead in the market. Microsoft has several other services as well, including Bing Maps, but they don’t keep people engaged as effectively. This will continue to hurt Microsoft until it can find a way to keep people using its many services.
8. Advertising is slipping away
The real concern that should be going through Microsoft’s meetings is the possibility of being blocked out entirely in the Web advertising space. As Google has proved time and again, success in search is extremely important from an advertising perspective. Microsoft knows that too, which is why it has its own advertising platform. But Google’s AdWords and AdSense are still the gold standard. That’s precisely why Google generates so much cash from ads while Microsoft is still trying to play catch-up.
9. Mobile advertising should be a concern
When Google acquired AdMob to bolster its mobile advertising efforts, alarm bells should have gone off at Microsoft’s headquarters in Redmond. AdMob is a leader in the mobile advertising space. With the right focus, Google can effectively corner advertising both through mobile search and via applications. The more powerful Google is in the mobile-ad space, the worse it is for Microsoft.
10. There isn’t a real cash advantage
Microsoft spent all kinds of cash to take a dominant position in a multitude of IT market sectors. It invests heavily in Office, Windows, Internet Explorer and, now, search. But the company doesn’t have a cash lead in search because it’s up against a company in Google that’s operating as efficiently as Microsoft is. That should worry Microsoft. If it can take the cash lead, it will need to take the innovation lead. At least so far, it has been unable to do that.