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Why Search Advertisers Might Like Bing Better Than Google

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imageIt’s been less than two weeks since *Microsoft* finally unveiled the new and improved Bing search, but there’s already a consensus that the changes were mostly cosmetic. Our Joe Tartakoff found that the quality of Bing’s search results still didn’t measure up to Google’s, and TechCrunch reports that Bing’s leapfrog over *Yahoo* Search to the number two spot was short-lived. But new eye-tracking data from user experience research firm User Centric finds that Bing’s cosmetic changes could ultimately evolve into a major advantage for search advertisers.

The company studied a small group of searchers, giving them four specific queries so that they’d get the same results on both Google and Bing — and found that Bing users were much more likely to look at the search ads on the right side of the page. On average, 42 percent of Bing searchers looked at those sponsored links, while just 25 percent did on Google (NSDQ: GOOG). The difference didn’t extend to ads that showed up above the organic results; it also didn’t show up in terms of clicks, as ad click-through rates were about the same on both engines.

Find out about User Centric’s methodology and the implications for advertisers after the jump.

But there are caveats. First is the small sample size. User Centric studied about two dozen searchers for this test; managing director Gavin Lew said the smaller size allowed for more qualitative analysis (through one-on-one interviews) that backed up the numbers. There’s also the question of whether Bing’s newness contributed to the searchers’ willingness to look at the ads on the right side of the page; Lew said it could be indicative of a more ad-friendly design. “Bing’s three column layout, with the related links on the left, and sponsored results on the right almost forms bookends around the center content,” he said. “Bookends compel users to look at both sides of the page, not just the center. That’s a direct contrast to the left-centered interface.” He added that Google had much more white space between its core results and the right side ads.

But the eye-tracking data and design theories can’t make up for the fact that Bing’s results currently aren’t as comprehensive as Google’s. If Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT) can fix that — meaning indexing sites faster and increasing relevance — while maintaining the high level of user attention on the paid search ads, then Bing’s new interface could actually wind up being a game-changer in terms of search advertising. User Centric plans to repeat the study in a few months to see whether the trend has legs, so we’ll definitely be able to find out. Release.


16 Responses to “Why Search Advertisers Might Like Bing Better Than Google”

  1. Specificity is what we are looking for while searching for the information on the internet. I would be happy with 500 more relevant results than 50.000.000 results that contains 99.99% totally irrelevant content to my searches.

  2. The sample size collected had sufficient power to detect a significant difference. The type of study performed is a common practice in virtually all forms of research practiced in all behavioral science graduate programs in the world (defending dissertations and the like).

    As you will find, User Centric consultants frequently publish papers in peer reviewed journals and publications, as well as present data at professional associations domestic and international. We believe that we run our studies in a sound and rigorous manner that is in line with the scientific method.

    That said, we acknowledge some may argue about the sample size. Yes, we could have run more participants, but that only increases power. Would 30 have been better? 40? 100? While sample size is really a question of power, a majority believe sample size comes down to “this smells large enough”. But, the problem is that this assumes that the speaker says that these results or scores can be generalized to the population. This is not a question of confidence intervals, but a question of difference. Bing and Google’s scores were significantly different. This is an inferential statistics question whether we can infer from the data that the difference is significant. If we were to run the study 20 times what is the likelihood that we could have found this difference by chance alone (p value of .05).

    User Centric did not say that the scores were generalizable, but that the difference between Bing and Google were significant. We are able to make that statement and yes, sample size played a role in the statistical analysis performed.

    Now, we certainly welcome discussions on new research questions or even if we think the result is due to the novelty of the Bing design and whether this will fade away. Valid points where we could run a study with experienced users and other permutations. Please forward topics for research questions to me directly.

    The result is what it is. Let’s talk about the implications, habituation, usefulness of features, whether the options were copied from Google and improved or made worse.

  3. Google has treated its advertisers so bad lately, coming up with Quality score and impossible to track guideline changes that I'm certain that many advertisers would be happy to explore new venues of search advertising.

  4. Like others, I have been very satisified with Bing results. They are as good if not better than Google. Moreover simple wallpaper that changes every day and tells me something new is compelling reason to keep coming back.

    My wife, who was die hard Googler, seemed to be satisfied with results and has already changed her Home page to Google. That is something!!

  5. Funny that you mention Bing falling flat on its face. Most of the media reports i have been reading (and it includes the whole gamut, from blogs to tech mags to newspapers) seem to be impressed with Bing. Personally, I have been trying out Bing since its launch and comparing it with Google search as much as I can and I feel bing delivers it. There are times when Bing is better than google and vice versa. the cosmetic changes just make bing more attractive than google, all things being the same.
    I think i m getting hooked on to bing for sure. I really think Microsoft has done a great job with the revamping and relaunching.

  6. Ramesh

    Bing is serving good results, I was google die-hard byt after trying Bing i tot it is no less to google. I'm slowly converting to binger. Mostly when I talk to friends i started using the bing as a verb in many cases. My kids find this word rolling easy after they saw a commercial ad and converted " I Scream, U scream, we all scream for Ice cream" to "I bing, U bing, we all bing for bing bing" :-) Isn't it that easy?

  7. I have been very impressed with BING – the user interface, features like BING 411 – very cool you can call and get latest traffic updates, directions to restaurants, etc! I am also impressed by the relevance compared to google – i found it very comparable!! I am BINGING it and loving it!

  8. shawn

    Cosmetic improvements are not a bad thing and can lead to better results as I've learned from using Bing. The left pane categories, while still needing to mature were very useful additions to the search results. I've been completely satisfied with the results of my searches. I have jumped back and forth a bit between the engines when I just couldn't find what I was looking for, but, found myself staying with Bing. Interesting, considering I did not like using Live. Why? Perhaps there's something more to searching than just a list of results, or perhaps there's more under the hood than the article is letting on.

  9. Sanjeev

    I have been binging avidly since the release. I ran every search in Bing and in Google and have to admit that Bing came out on tops every time if not equal. So I am not sure when the article above states that the quality of search results for Bing are yet to catch up with Google's. So far it has been better for sure.

  10. Chris

    Odd, he didn't point out any reasons for Bing becoming anything, he was talking about monetisation. Even more odd is that that post seems to turn up on just about every blog that mentions Bing.

    Quit astroturfing and get back to making your search engine not suck.