Battling Goliath: Bing vs. Google in the Search War

Do you Bing it or Google it?

I’ll be honest – I can’t imagine ever responding to a question with “I don’t know…Bing it!” But should I start practicing?

Bing vs Google

A recent Search Engine Watch article makes some compelling points regarding Bing’s potential to compete with Google. First, Google’s recent move to secure search has more than a few people up in arms, making this a good time for Bing to start moving in on the giant’s territory. Second, Google is in the process of making some game-changing updates, which Matt Cutts recently referred to as “moonshot changes.”

The company is shooting for the moon with voice search, “deep learning” and other updates aimed at creating a better understanding of search intent. If users don’t have a positive response to these major updates, Google might potentially open the door a little wider for Bing to step in and take over more of the market share.

Although Google doesn’t have many holes in its armor, Bing is bringing some unique weapons to the search war. Perhaps the most threatening is the search engine’s partnerships with social websites, including Facebook. While Google uses the Knowledge Graph and deep learning to understand what the searcher wants, Bing uses data from social sites to determine intent.

Some searchers might prefer results that are provided based on their social media activity as well as their friends’. Of course, one might argue that Google does the same with Google+ reviews; if I search for “bakery,” and one of my Google+ contacts has recommended one in my area, I’m likely to see that bakery in my search results.

However, Bing’s integration with social media still seems more pronounced, at least for now. When conducting a search, users can see related social posts from public figures as well as their own Facebook friends.  In the company’s own words, the search engine offers “a human perspective, an expert answer, and a comprehensive point of view.

Another possible plus is Bing’s new Smart Search feature, offered with Windows 8.1. This feature compiles information from the Web as well as related files on the user’s local drive. The purpose of Smart Search is to make it easier to find everything you need related to one topic without having to conduct several different searches.

Stefan Weitz, Director of Search at Microsoft, points out that although Google is still dominating in terms of traditional search, “We have to stop forcing people into a search box…We have to evolve search. Our focus going forward is on places where people don’t even know they are doing a search.”

Bing’s growth will also depend on the devices people buy. Which phones are people choosing and which search engine do those devices feature? Which tablets are they buying? Can the Microsoft Surface compete with the almighty iPad?

The numbers are still overwhelmingly in Google’s favor. Between March and April of this year, Google’s search market share dropped 0.6%, while Bing’s rose 0.4%. However, of the 20 billion searches conducted in April, 13.3 billion were powered by Google, while 3.5 billion were powered by Bing. David and Goliath, indeed.

Of course, the potential is there. In a recent study, Yale professor Ian Ayres conducted query tests in both search engines. Google won 53% of the time, while Bing won 41% of the time – not too shabby for the runner-up to the king of search.

Although I can’t see Bing ever eclipsing Google, the company is certainly raising the level of competition in the search market. As Matt Wallaert, a behavioral scientist for Bing, notes, “Given our share gains, it’s clear that people are recognizing our quality and unique approach to what has been a relatively static space dominated by a single service.”

How will content marketers adapt if David knocks Goliath down a notch?

Laurel ReeseAssistant Project Manager

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