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Google vs. Bing: Why Microsoft Can’t Overtake Google in Search

BING — but its not Google?

For years, Microsoft has been trying to outperform Google when it comes to performing searches online. The company’s MSN Search and Windows Live Search options failed miserably at achieving such a goal, and Microsoft eventually shifted to renaming its search engine operation entirely. The newly named “Bing” has been making pretty big wave online since its debt several years ago but it has only managed to carve out a 12 percent share of the online search market in that amount of time. Meanwhile, Google maintains an enormous lead, with slightly less than 67 percent of all online searches being performed via Google.com.

Microsoft has made a lot of noise about the superiority of their operation, going so far as to challenge Google to a “search off” in a wide-ranging promotional campaign. All it has gotten the company is an extra 2 points of market share, with no real results to show for it. Toward the end of 2012, Bing’s rising position in search market share stagnated, even as advertising ramped up for the Bing search engine, the Surface tablet, and the release of Windows 8. The reasons that Microsoft will likely continue to fall well behind Google are many, but there are a few that are particularly painful for the company to deal with.

Google Sets the Search Engine Optimization Conversation

Google’s hugely dominant position in online search has given it the ability to largely define the terms of what constitutes a good website, with its algorithms being trained to identify good, authoritative, highly valuable content. That means developers are designing their sites specifically to fit within Google’s own paradigm, while the competitors online are merely fitting themselves into Google’s model for what constitutes a good, highly-ranked website.

Bing has tried to bring extra value to this by pairing with Facebook, which Microsoft owns a pretty big stake in. Using Facebook, results are filtered in a “social” way that aligns them with a person’s own interest. However, with 12 percent of the search market share and the inclination of many Facebook users to safeguard their data, this approach has had a negligible effect online. Furthermore, Facebook users who are logged out do not benefit from this social approach, making Bing’s returned results a touch less accurate than those provided by Google.

Search Placement on Google is Far More Valuable than at Bing

The problem with Bing is that it’s mostly perceived as an afterthought for marketing professionals who are looking to pay a premium for excellent placement in results. Google allows sponsored results to appear before its ranked ones, and many companies take advantage of this service. Bing has its own form of sponsored, highly ranked results, but they’re purchased by marketing professionals far less often. Most medium-sized businesses often have a budget that forces them to choose between placement on Google or Bing. With majority market share position, who wouldn’t choose Google?

The problem with this strategy is that it sets Bing up to continually take financial losses. In fact, the search engine has been a loss leader for Microsoft since the very first day it appeared online. Google, meanwhile, derives the vast majority of its revenue through its search product. With a combination of paid placement and Google AdSense products with every search, the company has mastered profitability and search result relevance all at once.

Google’s Web Services Beat Microsoft’s, Hands Down

Microsoft had an early lead in web services toward the late 1990s, when virtually everyone hat a Hotmail.com email address. That edge vanished over the course of the next decade though, largely at the hands of Google. In the years that have followed since Google unveiled its industry-leading Gmail product for consumer and business email, the company has released cloud-based calendars, productivity applications, blogging tools, and its own social network. Google Analytics monitors a website’s SEO, while Google News allows access to the latest headlines. Its investment in YouTube has paid dividends, and its Google Play store has tens of thousands more applications than Microsoft’s own Windows 8 Store.

Customers can, and often do, using Google for everything. Of course, every single one of Google’s web services runs its search operation through the company’s own software. Because Google beat Microsoft in web services, it now counts a larger base of daily users and higher revenues from virtually all aspects of its business.

Android, Android, Android

The battle for mobile dominance is one that exists largely between Google’s Android and Apple’s iOS. Windows Phone 8 has single-digit market share, and it’s clear that BlackBerry is no longer a major competitor. Though Apple and Google compete in a major way, all searches conducted on an iPhone do, by default, run through Google. For all but the most recent year of the iPhone’s existence, its mapping tools used Google services and a YouTube app was installed by default.

On Android, every service runs through Google unless users change it on their own. With a majority of the international smartphone market share, this is an advantage that Microsoft will likely never overcome. Even if they did, it would take them the better part of a half-decade just to reach parity with the sheer number of Android devices currently on the market. With every Android phone sold, Google counts another search customer among its ranks that likely wont’ defect to Bing, Microsoft-owned Yahoo, or any other options.

Relevance is the Difference

Conduct the same search at both Microsoft’s Bing and Google’s search engine, and Google is likely to present a better set of results than Bing does. That’s what most users have found, except for those that Microsoft proudly touts in its “Bing it On” commercials that claim it offers more relevant results than does Google. When it comes to search, the relevance and value of every result is what determines the relevance and value of the search engine. This alone is what has contributed to Google’s dominance and, without a major change to Microsoft’s product, that isn’t going to change now or in the near future.

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