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The Bing Opportunity: Be the Anti-Google

Can Bing Do It?

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I have had several discussions over the past few weeks with Stefan Weitz, director of search for Bing, and Andy Chu, director of product management, Bing for mobile, about some pretty cool things on the horizon for Bing. We can’t say any more than that now, but it will be fun to follow. My conversations have been eye-opening to say the least and, as a result, I think that Bing could actually put a dent in what they refer to as “the Google habit.”

As I bet Stefan would attest, I am a bit opinionated about this whole local Internet space. So rather than grouse about it, I am going to outline my thoughts on just how Bing could make some serious progress in the search space. So, here goes.

Background

Google is the dominant player in the search space and they have been for more than a decade now. We know what they can do (automate everything and get a finger in every pie you can imagine) and what they can’t do (marketing—unless you are in Portland, OR—and customer service). They have jumped out to a ridiculous lead in the mobile search space (97 or so percent market share) and they are working to put the SMB, local Internet marketing space together with their mix of Google Place Pages, Hotpot, and Latitude.

All that being said, they appear to be doing this the way Google always does things. They are putting their head down, plowing forward, listening very little to the end user, and just assuming that because they are who they are, that the SMB will “get it.” I think they are wrong and that’s where Bing can get some serious traction.

Bing’s Opportunity

In simple terms, Bing’s opportunity exists in becoming the anti-Google. My discussions with Weitz and Chu show that there is considerable promise on the product side of Bing.

They have adopted a partner mentality in order to get a lot of their search results to reflect more in-depth information. They have partnered with Kayak for travel and with FanSnap for sports events and ticket information. According to Weitz, 30% of Bing searches now deliver information that is outside the “blue text link” result that many of us have grown so accustomed to.

There is also the obvious social side of the coin as well, because Bing actually appears to have a better connection to the social graph for search results through their investment in Facebook and the resulting relationship. Now, don’t get me wrong, that relationship seems to be far from perfect, but it’s better than where Google is in the social arms race.

Overall, Bing is positioned to make a dent in Google. I am being realistic in that I don’t think they will ever overtake Google, but they can make serious inroads in search and mobile.

How Would They Do It?

Here is the where the rubber meets the road and I wonder if Bing has the chops or even the nerve to do what is necessary to really make an impact in the world of search, especially at the critical SMB level. My recommendations are written as if I were speaking to Bing directly.

If you are going to lose money, lose it doing something that will move the needle. Microsoft’s online efforts are a tremendous drag on overall profits for the company because it loses money hand over fist. This is done because they know they have an uphill battle AND it is one that is worth fighting. It can’t stay that way forever, though.

Spending $100 million on a general branding campaign is a good start but it’s not where the win occurs. The win occurs when you sit across the desk from the SMBs of the world, shake their hands, and find out what they need. The win comes when you educate the SMBs about the Internet space as a whole. The win comes when you help them person to person.

So spend the money you have wisely by investing in the human side of the Internet. Hire people to be city managers. Give them a more than fair wage plus the chance to earn commission based on reasonable metrics like number of verified business accounts in the portal and other things. Let them earn the right to hire more sales people and be entrepreneurial in their market but with the backing of a Goliath like Microsoft.

Invest in people to take the message to the street level and to evangelize. Now you are acting like the anti-Google, and you are doing something different that impacts actual human beings. People like being treated like real flesh-and-blood and not some algorithmic function.

Oh, and on a very simple note: There should be a “Find Us on Bing” sticker in every storefront of every business in the country. Now that’s advertising, but it can only happen through relationships, which take people and a lot of money and hard work. You’ve got the money now, so spend it wisely on those who can do the hard work. Be the anti-Google who uses people and not the algorithm to change the marketplace.

Invest in more people who do actual live customer support. What if Bing could tell the human story of hiring hundreds of dedicated customer service representatives who are well-trained and fairly paid. No minimum wage phone picker-uppers. Hire just-out-of-school business degree-holders who are interested in this stuff, and let them show you what they’ve got.

This story could be incredible. While still in the stifling grip of a recession and the supposed “jobless recovery,” what if Microsoft advertised that they were hiring people in the United States whose sole purpose was to talk to the heart of the real economy—Main Street, USA—about getting their businesses in shape to do the right kind of business online? It’s PR gold, and oh by the way, it would work to get real business, not just a happy face story.

For the foreseeable future, there are enough older business owners who do not see the world of communication as a digital-only process. This is going to be the case for at least 20 more years. In that time, this group will age out and give way to the younger generation who is comfortable with the interactive way of life.

In the meantime, business will get done and many of this older (dare I say forgotten) crowd are the ones with established businesses and the financial wherewithal to have endured storms and to understand where and when to spend precious resources.

If Bing would help this group move forward, that would go a LONG way to breaking the Google habit and creating more opportunity for all involved.

Stop worrying about what Google is doing. Being the anti-Google will require something that is different than Google and not mere mimicry. Right now, Bing is doing a good job delivering search results with actionable options. This already trumps much of the Google search experience, but not enough people know about it.

Google won’t be stopped, but they can be “right-sized.” This is strange for me because honestly, I love Google. As a small business person myself, they do a lot for me, from e-mail and Google Docs to so much more. I am not interested in seeing them fall and become nothing. Quite the contrary. I believe that all ships rise with a rising tide, but right now, though, Google has not been challenged enough in the search game to stay sharp. That’s where Bing has a chance to improve the online space for everyone.

Bing has to step up and become a serious threat to Google, so that the Internet as a whole can improve. All these other search engine wannabes like Blekko and Wolfram Alpha all want to make the world safe from bad searches, but they don’t have the resources that Bing has. That will be limit their success. And Yahoo? Let’s just say that Bing needs to lead this race, and if Yahoo gets a lift, so be it. But don’t expect it.

I realize that this is a bit long and it is a bit heavy-handed but it’s time. There is so much more to be examined in this scenario, but I think that if Bing would take the opportunity to be the anti-Google that there is “gold in them thar hills!” And honestly, if Bing started making money in search, I bet we would all start making more money because that means there is competition and options and hope.

Do I think Bing can be the anti-Google? I think they certainly have the potential, but my question is do they have the guts? Time will tell and I hope this gets very interesting, very quickly because if not, we could find ourselves stuck in a Google habit that will work but could be so much better if there were company (or better yet A company) to make us all get better.

Your thoughts?

Originally published on Biznology

The Bing Opportunity: Be the Anti-Google
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  • modelportfolio2003

    Simple response: game over. Bing is wasting its time. I know of no one who uses it. It will continue to be a sink hole for Microsoft.

    • Travis

      It has been taking market share away from Google since launch. The game is just beginning. :)

    • Rahul

      I agree. Bing will never catch up. It is just a ripoff of the Google. They have to remarkably well and different just to stay in the race. And I second I don’t know who uses Bing. although even if there are these people using Bing. I feel They are just doing it for curiousity

      • Jacob

        microsoft had a search engine out before google existed.

  • http://xhibitswebdesign.com souleye

    frank, nice article (thank you) but I would like to sound a discordant note.I agree that google has been out of touch and a bit arrogant lately. but you have a microsoft that has been successful in doing anything internet right. all they have been able to do is use their monopoly to muscle people out of business. they’ve never held a position of innovator, just followers. I think that consumers love leaders, that’s one google advantage. I’m sure google is watching microsoft pretty close. if microsoft would start playing the ‘anti-google’ card, I think it would be a wake-up call for google. as I see it now, microsoft cannot outgun google, so it may be a bloody war. of course, consumers will always win but if I had to place my bet that would be on google.

    • Stu

      Despite all the foolish talk about MSFT never innovating and always following the lead of their competitors, Bing has gained market share every month since inception. As for this person who knows no one who uses it, I’d suggest that you get out more and meet some people. There’s no question that Bing’s making some in-roads into the search market as evidenced by their consistent market share increase. There’s still a long way to climb of course, especailly globally, but the signs are there. Plus, lets not forget the anti-trust talk going on with the EU right now about Google. I’d expect that to pan out, in the end, as a loss for Google. It will have some effet on market share, not astronomical, but a chance for sites like Bing to gain. Lets also not forget Google’s disaster fail in China, where Google is no where near the dominant search provider right now and declining fast. Another opportunity for someone like Bing to gain significantly.

      Google has to be careful and not rest on their laurels and market share, as MSFT has done. It’s not a fault of Microsoft, but a fault of being so dominating in any market. Beleive me, despite all this, “We hate Microsoft” attitude floating around the internet and world, things will be no different if Google, Apple or some startup takes over that kind of dominance. They’ll become stagnant and the next MS, Google or IBM will move in and look like the savior of all. This has happened time and again in this and every business and despite what fans of the next great innovator want to believe, it will continue. It’s a cycle and one unlikely to be broken at any point.

      • Rahul

        Microsoft apologist always come up with those market shares statistics. I don’t claim Google is perfect. Nor this has been the case with Internet Explorer either, still it commands Healthy share in most of the markets despite having much better optins, guess why, out of habit. Google is a habit and Bing wants thrive on this habit. so Google stays, and Bing will continue to make continue to be hole in the sink for Microsoft.

        • Papi

          I think you hate Microsoft because it is the thing to do in the tech world but that’s so 90s. Do you even know why you hate Bing? What? Your Google advanced search commands ain’t working? Intitle: failed for you? :-) Stop listening to the tech crowd and start “Binging”? Google will be a thing of the past soon due to all the abuse.

  • http://UseBiz.com Jeff Schneider

    There has been a real need for an Anti- Google and our approach to search will be more Market Savvy to consumers needs. There is a dire need for advertisers to have a real choice, and we will supply that choice.

    We figure there will be an instant injection of user base that is looking for a better alternative than Google and there are plenty of signs that there is a Pefect Storm brewing for a SMARTRER Search Alternative in the Market Place to enter. Our Business Model is designed to take advantage of LOCAL, Cloud Services, SEARCH, Mobile Apllications along with Start-up Services. We will tie things together in a VIDEO CENTRIC Marketing Strategy that rounds out our Model.

    Gratefully, Jeff Schneider (Contact Group) (Metal Tiger)

  • http://www.jobs4teens.co.nz Sam

    What about DuckDuck Go? Bing has been caught stealing it’s results from Google because it’s own ones were so terrible.

    • Stu

      Once again, antoher ill informed person who wants to post having no clue about what you’re saying. You might want to investigate a little before you take Google’s little marketing ploy seriously. I don’t blame Google for trying to turn this non issue (one which they’re just as guilty as anyone else of doing) into a marketing tool. Oompanies have been doing this for a long time and the sheep hang on their every word as if it’s law.

  • KamakshiSri

    I am a big fan of Google but what MSFT has though of is a indeed a good idea but I am sure that will remain an idea because of its impracticality of the follow-through which is almost impossible. The points they have stated cannot be followed at a big organization like theirs.

    I really don’t wonder how Bing’s market share keep on increasing which is simply indicative of the fact that fools are still living on this earth. So, let them flourish Bing and let’s move with Google.

    MSFT will simply waste its time because Google is not the users habit but a chronic disease that cannot be treated. I have seen users, mostly techies, sick of Google. They simply can’t break with it. Whatever strikes their mind, they don’t step back from inserting it in the Google search box.They strongly believe that SEARCH means GOOGLE.

    • Stu

      You do make a good point. Google has become a chronic disease more than a search provider. Don’t get me wrong here either, I certainly don’t hate Google or like them, they’ve simply done search better for a decade or so. However, diseases can be cured and I’ve tried Bing out extensively over the last year and I firmly believe that Bing is that cure. It won’t be a quick cure by any means, but a slow and steady progression of feeling better.

      I continue along that analogy, but I want to make it clear that it’s not a shot at Google or a pro Microsoft rant. I’m simply saying people will discover this other option that is Bing and if they continue as they have this last year, people will think of option and not just of Google, when they think search. Let me once again say, this will not be a quick process, but one of attrition. Obviously, what I say isn’t a guarantee of anything. Either could set their respective search apart or either could start loging appeal, but as it sits right now, both are of pretty equal quality and (having used both extensively) you can’t really go wrong regardless of which you use right now.

      • KamakshiSri

        Under prudential light, you may seem right because much is dependent on the users. The market statistics data are never true. Both of them are trying to make their results better in the search. So in such a case how can we expect the Google users to switch to Bing.

        • Stu

          Simple. The same way they switched from Alta Vista, Yahoo etc. to Google. They simply get sick of the status quo and look for another option and discover in Bing, an option that is a quality alternative or, in my opinion, a better alternative.

          Let’s also not forget places like China. An extremely large user base and a place where Google has pretty much crashed and burned now. Baidu is now dominating in that market, but who’s to say MSFT can’t pick up some of those hundreds of millions of users. Let’s not forget the antitrust suits against Google with the EU either. Another market where Google could lose some share if depending on how things all play out. Microsoft knows plenty about that and that’s part of the reason they’re now jumping on the bandwagon in that antitrust suit. The antitrust suit against Microsoft in the EU and here in the U.S. certainly hurt MSFT and to think the same couldn’t happen to Google would be very short-sighted. A big part of that hurt, as was the case with Microsoft, could simply be the negative attention you get with the press. Consumers can be easily swayed and if enough attention is given, it can definitely drive some to other options.

          • KamakshiSri

            The prime reason for users switching from altavista and Yahoo to Google is the search quality which is too poor as compared against Google and , moreover, both altavista and Yahoo never made anything to make SERP better. So, there they go.

            But the case is not so with Google. Google have been evolving, making changes, taking steps to offer better results.

            They are responding to the users. They have taken immediate action or steps to keep pace with changing demand of the users. They were most screwed for the content firms and now it is out of SERP, though in certain queries I still see them. They will take time but will make search better.

            Well, I know Baidu is ruling at Chain because Chinese Govt. blocked gmail services and who knows at what moment it may revert back to Google.

            Well, I agree that “Microsoft knows plenty about that” but knowing something and making use of it are two different things, Stu.

            I am simply looking at the steps taken by Google and Bing. To be honest, only time can reveal what these Giants are upto but I want what I am looking for on either of them. Whoever offers me better results, I am surely going to vote for it.

  • http://hifiandmore.blogdia.com/ Carmina

    Where exactly is the facebook like link ?

  • http://amberin.org/ Amberen

    Here’s one way Bing can overtake Google:

    1. Everyone’s on Facebook (well…maybe not literally everyone, but a good number of people are).

    2. Bing needs to strengthen it’s relationship with Facebook.

    3. If, over the next 10 or so years, people can come to look at Facebook as a search engine (powered by Bing), then, in my opinion, Bing has a chance–a very good chance–of gaining a lot of search engine share.

  • wilner

    Well, I am one of those few who switched from Google to Bing in 2009.
    I did it because I was tired of using Google and wanted a [i]different[/i] form of search. I fully realize that Google overall gives better results than Bing, but better is not the only reason to not switch to Bing. Bing provides a pleasantly different way of finding and organizing information that resonates with the way I think and do search, and it resonates with me much much more than Google ever did, even with Instant and all that. So I will stick with Bing until something better comes along.

  • http://www.Imperativegear.com Jay

    Bing is better than google