Some Positive Signs for Advertisers in Bing’s First Week

To search marketers, the enhancements in Microsoft’s new search experience are meaningful only insofar as they deliver a corresponding boost in search activity. Early data from Comscore offers some good news for Bing on that front.

However, since most of the new activity was generated by first-time users snagged by the extensive ad campaign, news coverage and other buzz around Bing.

According to Comscore, Microsoft grew its share of U.S. search users by 1.7 percent, from 13.8 percent during the week of May 26 to 15.5 percent last week, when it launched the brand. Bing’s share of search results pages grew as well, from 9.1 percent the last week of May to 11.1 percent the first week of June.

Whether those improvements are the start of something big for Microsoft’s search business remains to be seen. “The ultimate performance of Bing depends on the extent to which it generates more trial,” noted Comscore SVP Mike Hurt.

Comscore did not share corresponding weekly data for Google and Yahoo that might suggest whether Bing has stolen share from those services. A spokesperson said it’s too early to say whether there’s any differentiated impact on the other search engines.

In another bit of bright news for Bing’s advertising prospects, a new eye tracking study suggests Bing’s sponsored links may command more attention than Google’s. The report, from user experience research firm User Centric, states Google and Bing are about equal in the attention given to both organic results and the paid ads at the top of the results page. However, Bing’s ads in the right column performed better, commanding the attention of 44 percent of participants compared with 25 percent for Google. (Image below provided by User Centric.)

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As with Comscore’s data, the eye tracking analysis can hardly be considered conclusive, as it involved only 21 participants and four search tasks. But it does contribute to a wave of momentum for Bing in the wake of an impressive promotional onslaught.

Elements of that effort include television ads, homepage takeovers on NYTimes.com and other sites, and an unusual live infomercial on Hulu. The so-called Bing-a-thon on Hulu was hosted by Jason Sudeikis of NBC’s Saturday Night Live, the G4 cable channel’s Olivia Munn, and comedic actor Fred Willard, and took the form of a three-hour variety show.

In an interview with ClickZ before the general launch of Bing, Brian Boland, director of Search and Media for Microsoft Advertising acknowledged that search volume remains the number one concern of agencies and advertisers. But he also said advertisers are looking for innovative opportunities not available elsewhere. One such opportunity may lie in Bing’s use of search refinements that could reveal useful information about a person’s intent while searching.

“Where volume goes, interest goes,” he said, adding, “[Agencies] want to see a coherent brand that’s doing something exciting… As we get deeper into this we’ll create more mechanisms to help advertisers figure out how they want to show up against these experiences.”

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