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Search Wars: Microsoft and Yahoo Transition Europe Organic SERPS

  |  August 5, 2011   |  Comments

Q&A with the Bing-Yahoo team about conversions, social integration, and more.

There's an ongoing war among the search engines for user loyalty. The engine with the most eyeballs wins, and to win what's needed is to make searching consumers think that a particular engine's search results are the best. Because of this, the consumer wins, regardless of which top-tier search engine they select.

Competition for the user keeps the engines investing in their platforms and constantly improving their results. This week, on August 3, 2011, Microsoft and Yahoo went live with the Bing platform powering Yahoo in France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Spain, and the U.K. The organic rollout is already live in the U.S., Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, New Zealand, Peru, and Venezuela.

This development is important for PPC search advertisers because if we want choice within the PPC ad marketplace, we need search engines to compete vigorously for the searcher and to constantly innovate. It's also important because better organic algos also feed the algos that can help show the most relevant ad to searchers (i.e., calculate the relevance portion of "quality score" better).

With more traffic flowing through the Bing system in a diversity of languages, engineers can evolve the systems faster. While in most markets the Bing engineering team still doesn't have access to the data depth and volume that Google has, the fact that the Yahoo and Bing engines are now driven off the same back end will accelerate the platform's evolution.

On the marketer (client) side, most of you who manage paid search are also either in charge of SEO or interact with the SEO team, be it internal or external. So if you haven't been using Bing Webmaster Tools you should be in order to prepare for both organic and paid traffic centralized out of Bing and adCenter.

I had a chance to ask some questions of the Bing and Yahoo team to learn more about the rollout and future plans of the search alliance. My first question was this: Have there been any internal or sharable studies on the organic relevance, user satisfaction, or user engagement metrics (CTR per SERP) of the Bing results compared to the pre-existing Yahoo results or those of Google? The response was fairly long but encapsulates many elements that may be of interest to you, so here it is:

Consumer search behaviors are extremely complex and are influenced by many factors, both endogenous and exogenous. Click-rates, for instance, are bound to evolve depending on individual intents, query types, but also conditions such as weather conditions, time of day… As such, the actual ranking of the search results is an important driver of clicks, yet it is not the only factor and the broader search experience itself is equally important.

The terms of the Yahoo! and Microsoft Search Alliance specify that Yahoo! Search and Bing will leverage the same algorithm and search back-end technology. However each company will continue to innovate on their search experience, enabling both organizations to address specific user needs and consequently grow their respective audiences.

Globally, our combined audience is already significant in size and in online purchase activity. The unique searchers on Yahoo! and Microsoft sites are likely to spend 95% more than the average searcher, and likely to spend 52% more than Google searchers worldwide (source: comScore qSearch custom, April 2011). In the U.K. specifically, we are talking of 21 million unique searchers using Microsoft and Yahoo! sites (including Yahoo! Search, Bing, and partners) providing 453 million monthly searches and a 7.2% search share (comScore April 2011). Microsoft and Yahoo! have searchers you won't be able to reach elsewhere: 4.8 million unique searchers using Microsoft and Yahoo! Sites (including Yahoo! Search, Bing, and partners) do not use Google in the U.K. And this audience is of great quality as the combined UK audience is 41% more likely to convert than the average British searcher (Nielsen NetRating Oct-Dec 2010).

 I also inquired as to the timetable for the adCenter platform's rollout. The response was verbatim out of the blog post/announcement, here, so I'll let you read it as part of the announcement.

Because of the interest in the intersection of search and social media, I asked: Do you anticipate any social media graph integrations with the international SERP rollout?

Answer:

The transition of the organic search results means that all organic search results on Yahoo! Search will be powered by Bing when the organic search transition is complete. Microsoft will provide results for all web, image and video searches, while both companies will continue to innovate and personalise their respective search experience. As such there will not be a unified, international SERP. As Yahoo! and Bing continue to innovate around the user experience, the social graph may indeed get integrated in one or both experiences. Bing has for instance recently announced an intensification of its partnership with Facebook to integrate personalized social signals into the SERP, enabling a more personalized experience. This Facebook partnership has, however, no impact on the Yahoo! search experience, as each company owns their respective consumer search experience.

Much of the news here isn't entirely new. However, I, for one, am anxious to see some of the promised innovations. We need to continue to empower search marketers and advertisers to use search as a marketing tool.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kevin Lee

Kevin Lee, Didit cofounder and executive chairman, has been an acknowledged search engine marketing expert since 1995. His years of SEM expertise provide the foundation for Didit's proprietary Maestro search campaign technology. The company's unparalleled results, custom strategies, and client growth have earned it recognition not only among marketers but also as part of the 2007 Inc 500 (No. 137) as well as three-time Deloitte's Fast 500 placement. Kevin's latest book, "Search Engine Advertising" has been widely praised.

Industry leadership includes being a founding board member of SEMPO and its first elected chairman. "The Wall St. Journal," "BusinessWeek," "The New York Times," Bloomberg, CNET, "USA Today," "San Jose Mercury News," and other press quote Kevin regularly. Kevin lectures at leading industry conferences, plus New York, Columbia, Fordham, and Pace universities. Kevin earned his MBA from the Yale School of Management in 1992 and lives in Manhattan with his wife, a New York psychologist and children.

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