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Friday, 29 May 2009

What will Microsoft's new search engine do to online businesses?

Looking at the latest trailer for Microsoft's new search engine, Bing, due to be launched on June 3rd.

I never thought I would say this, because I'm a big Google fan. But I like the way Bing organises the information on local businesses. I do wonder if the Bing approach may boost the best in each category to the detriment of the rest and ultimately reduce choice?

Microsoft prefer to say they are providing a "decision engine".

Certainly the way information is presented with the option to drill down on the features you are most interested in looks useful for researching buying big ticket consumer products and services. And there's a cashback incentive built-in. It seems to be collating the comparison sites on the preview video, so I am not sure if smaller retailers can make an impression there.

The flight price forecast feature that predicts when prices will be cheapest looks cool if it's effective. I've seen an awful lot of online promises to find cheap flights that don't survive comparison with a manual search on the well-known low fare airline sites. But, eco considerations aside, a predictor that helps nail cheap flights effectively would be good for business and personal traveller's' budgets at a time when most people feel the need to be careful with their cash.

I'm personally not so keen on the facility that limits health topics to reputable health information sources, but acknowledge that it may be a good starting point for research into a problem. My doubts stem from a guess that it may not cover alternative therapies. I prefer to try the gentlest alternatives available first and only reach for pills as a last resort as all drugs have side effects and I have experienced some scary ones.

What impact do I think Bing will have on current SEO practices? And what that will mean for online PR and marketing? It's really too early to say: Bing isn't here yet, but it will be interesting to try out. There's a lot of negative comment about it shaping up to be a big adfest. I'm not so sure. Nothing's perfect and I think it could be useful for some searches.

I suspect the sort of businesses that used to do well from Yellow Pages could flourish from the localised information allied to the recommendations and other related information Bing offers. And comparison sites look like they will get a boost.

Will I abandon Google as my main search engine? Probably not. I'm not mad about being spoon fed all my information. I'm a curious creature: I like the serendipity that Googling offers. And I like choice. Plus Google will no doubt leapfrog Bing with it's own ideas. And that competitive process could be good for all of us.

But I wouldn't be surprised if a fair amount of large company ad revenue flows to Bing if it works like the video says.

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posted by Penny Haywood Calder at


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