Monday, March 3, 2014

Does Your Audience Bing or Google?

Bing Versus Google
When it comes to online business website marketing, do the people who are looking for what you offer prefer Bing more than Google? Bing is Microsoft's latest attempt at comprehensive web search and was launched in May of 2009. It is not quite as powerful or generally as popular as Google, but it is definitely making the world’s biggest search engine stand up and take notice due to some innovative differences and an actual effort to develop broader relevant results.

Many people believe that Bing is second rate compared to Google, but Bing may be cultivating a user base in a way that is much smarter. First, the Bing and Yahoo partnership was genius. For those who don't know, search results at Yahoo and Bing are supplied by Bing. This is the “enemy of my enemy is my friend” approach to gaining market share and it is working. Bing has also garnered search relationships with Facebook and Apple as well recently. So it seems that the strategy to bring Google down, at least a little bit, is going to be a coordinated effort by several of the other big web players.

Significantly Different Demographics Evolving
Over 80% of searches on Bing originate in the United States, while only about 40% of Google searches do. Google does have a much higher overall search volume number though, so their actual number of searches from the U.S. is currently higher than Bing. However, Bing has been steadily increasing its market share for search year after year since it's inception. Their new partnerships with other services and acquisitions into other markets will likely allow that trend to continue.

Dollar Sign
The age demographic is where Bing is really starting to shine. Bing edges out Google in users aged 35+ and significantly beats Google in the 55 and older group. That is likely due to Bing being the default search engine configured in Internet Explorer and IE being the default browser bundled with all Windows powered devices. That trend is also likely to continue even as younger Google users age because of how Microsoft has positioned itself to cater to the older demographic in general with how their content is presented.

You don't have to be web marketing genius to know that people over 40 typically have higher income and more disposable income. Another interesting statistic, that also correlates to the 40+ age bracket, is that Bing users are more likely to have young children in their household. It will be interesting to see if those youngsters buck the Google trend as they age into their teen and early adulthood years.

A Different User Experience
Bing search results and their overall user experience strategy appears to be setup to intentionally take advantage of the older demographic gains they enjoy. If so, then that's a very positive sign that Bing has a long term agenda and isn't just accidentally gaining ground due to it's default status in Windows or some people's anti-Google domination sentiments.

One of the very first noticeable differences in user experience between the two search engines is the location of the “related search information” choices on the search engine result pages. Google chooses to place these down at the very bottom of the page, while Bing places them easily within view on the right-hand side.

grab handle
These optional search tags are extremely relevant to the user, so why does Google hide them at the bottom? In most cases, these optional search methods are often not even seen by the Google user at all.  The fact that Bing makes them so prominent likely evens things out considerably when it comes to relevance and whether the user actually finds what they are looking for or not. Older users certainly appreciate the prominently placed suggestions for alternative searches if their original attempt did not produce what they were looking for. Most people, regardless of age, appreciate extra help and especially so whenever extra help is given with easy access.

More Diverse Related Search Categories
Another advantage Bing has chosen to offer in their related search options is broader search categories related to the original search request. For example, let’s say that a user wants to research the Canon PowerShot Digital Camera, but really has no idea of what they are looking for yet. They type into the Bing search box the words “Canon PowerShot”. Bing not only provides a more user-friendly experience by placing the optional related searches immediately within view, but the options are extremely more diverse in comparison.

Google simply lists about 8-10 different Canon models, while Bing offers options of manuals, downloads, and accessories, as well.  If you're a web marketer then that broader search experience gives you more chances to get in front of that user by targeting several different types of categories simultaneously in your search marketing research, techniques, and strategies.

Video Search Engine Results
More and more business website marketing research is showing that the use of video in online conversions is growing substantially and there are some major differences between the two search engines in how these video results are displayed. Google will simply give you a long list of video options, usually based on the keywords in the video write up and the number of clicks that it gets on YouTube or some other form of social media.

Bing displays the videos in a tile format, without all of the extra wording and meta data that no one really cares about anyway. The user is given many more choices within the same first screen than what they get at Google. What is even more unique is that some video begins previewing instantly as soon as the user runs their mouse over the video image. This means that if you're creative, you can manipulate the video preview to sell your product just by the user hovering over top of it. No click is even necessary.

Which Is Actually Better?
Some guy thinking
That question doesn't really matter and neither does your own personal opinion on the subject when you're trying to get the most targeted visitors to your website. Step 1 of online marketing is knowing who your audience is and where they spend their time. If a higher percentage of the people you want use Bing, or even if it's just easier or more possible for you to get a higher listing there, then that's where your SEO efforts should be focused. It makes no sense to put most of your efforts into getting higher listings on Google if the people who want what you have aren't there or if you have zero chance of getting a first page listing there.

Also, which is “better” is easily influenced by brand perception to some people then actual results. A survey conducted in 2013 found that respondents chose Bing search results of over Google ones more often when they thought the results were actually supplied by Google.

These are just a few ways Bing is certainly trying to shake things up that sets them apart for the better from Google. If your targeted audience is U.S. based, over the age of 40 or is a family with young children, or if your product is a little pricey and requires the customer to have a bit more disposable income, then Bing could be the better search engine to optimize for. The way the Bing results and related searches are presented may also give you an edge by giving you more chances to get in front of potential customers who are looking for what you offer, but don't really know how to best find you on their own.

Don't just automatically run with the Google bandwagon. Do your research and weigh your options. Then do the math. A smaller potential pool of visitors from Bing that are more in line with your target demographic will almost always produce better results for your business than higher, untargeted traffic from Google. That's especially true if you have next to no chance of getting on the first page of results there anyway.