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In terms of hard numbers Google is still the leader in the search engine market, certainly in the US, UK and many parts of Western Europe, but that doesn’t stop Microsoft’s Bing from pulling out all the stops to gain some ground. 

Here are five important ways in which Bing might just be starting to get an edge on Google.

Bing’s partnership with Facebook gives it a boost in social search

We are constantly being told that search is going social, so Bing’s partnership and integration with Facebook – the world’s biggest social network – could potentially materialize into a big advantage over Google.

In its latest announcement Bing reveals how it has enhanced the way it takes and uses data from Facebook (such as Likes and interests) to create personalised search results.  So if you are looking at shopping results (and you are logged into Bing) then it will tell you which pages have been Liked by which friends.  It will also use Facebook data about your interests to bring specific pages higher up.

Here’s what Qi Lu, director of Microsoft Online Services, says about the integration:

Bing and Facebook are collaborating to create a search experience that doesn’t exist at the moment. What’s missing from search is the trusted opinion of people you value.

There are still industry debates about whether Likes do add a level of trust and whether they’re all that valuable in the context of search.

But if social is going to play a role in search, then having access to Facebook’s data (which Google doesn’t have), gives Bing the advantage of being able to try new techniques and models for marrying the two areas. That’s got to be a major plus.

Bing is expanding its partnerships in mobile

In May this year Research in Motion (RIM) announced that Bing will become the global default search engine on all new BlackBerry phones, along with the BlackBerry Playbook tablet. It will be closely integrated with the operating system, demonstrating the depth of the relationship between RIM and Microsoft.

This news follows Microsoft’s highly publicised alliance with Nokia, which will see the Finnish giant move to Windows Mobile-based phones, all of which run Bing as the default search engine.

Add in that Microsoft has also struck deals direct with carriers (such as Verizon in the US) to make Bing the search engine for some Google Android-based phones and you can see a concerted push into the mobile market.

This is important because mobile surfing is expected to increase dramatically in coming years, with a large slice of this likely to be focused around search – such as looking for the nearest bank/petrol station when you’re out and about or comparing prices on the web against physical in-store goods. 

Bing’s iPad app has been given a big thumbs up

While Apple includes Google as the default search engine for its Safari browser, the Bing for iPad app has been roundly praised by the industry as providing a more complete experience than Google’s equivalent app and really maximizing the benefits of the high resolution touchscreen device.

You’d assume that the first wave of iPad users are technology innovators who will be willing try new things, so Microsoft will be hoping that they try Bing on the iPad and then migrate to it on other devices...and maybe influence their friends and colleagues too. 

Bing is thought by some to have a tighter privacy policy than Google

The issue of data privacy is growing in importance as people wake up to the wide range of information that is available about them on the web. Regular media stories about high profile hacking attacks means more people will want to control their online footprint. 

This may give Bing an advantage because some experts have said that its privacy policy is tighter. 

In fact, in late 2009, Asa Dotzler, an executive from Mozilla (a Microsoft rival when it comes to browsers of course) felt so strongly that Bing is better on privacy than Google that he alerted readers of his personal blog to instructions on how to switch Firefox’s default search engine from Google to Bing.

Microsoft is bringing Bing to the Xbox

Microsoft’s Xbox is much more than a games console. For many users it acts as the gateway to the internet from their living room, making it a central part of their online experience. 

So the news that Microsoft is making a version of Bing available for the Xbox opens up a potentially huge new market.

While Bing will initially offer a limited range of search types, you can expect that to increase in line with user adoption. And again, after using Bing on one device people may well adopt it on other platforms, and help boost market share.

Google has been way ahead for quite some time now – and has done so many things right, that it’s difficult to say whether Bing will ever be able to catch up. 

And it’s worth noting that Bing has only been able to gain some critical market share in the US so far (where Bing plus Yahoo – which is powered by Bing’s search engine – jointly have around 30%), while Google has a very dominant 90% + share in most European countries.

So part of Google’s global success is partly down to its commitment to investing in international versions of its products and quick penetration of countries outside the US. Bing will definitely need to add internationalisation to its plans if it is to get closer to its rival.

But at least the intense competition between the two is fuelling innovation and change and is great entertainment for industry watchers.  

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Published 29 June, 2011 by Horst Joepen

Horst Joepen is CEO of Searchmetrics and a contributor to Econsultancy.

6 more posts from this author

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Depesh Mandalia, Head of Digital Marketing at Lost My Name

I have to say that the number of points aside, they don't come anywhere near bringing Bing close to Google, in terms of domination, usage, quality of results... the list goes on... partnering with Facebook to improve results when you have such a minority user base is a slow burner and partnering with RIM and Nokia, 2 companies that are crumbling under the might of the iPhone and Android driven devices won't go far in helping Bing either!

A better post would be 5 ways in which Google could end up losing its advantage over Bing, as I'd suggest the only way Google can be caught is if Google screws up?

over 5 years ago

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Nick Stamoulis

The Bing-Facebook integration was a huge boon for Bing. It gave them something that Google doesn't have, a very rare occurrence these days. If Bing can slowly (and steadily) chip away at Google's market share, we might have a very different world of search ahead of us. However, I can't imagine that Google is going to idly sit by and let that happen.

over 5 years ago

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Stu

You mention a list, but none of those things mentioned pertain to quality, excepting your statement about quality of results. I disagree with that statement, as my experience has been that both offer quality results over the other on a search by search basis. I've used both extensively and that's been my finding.

Partnering with the companies mentioned will indeed give MSFT a chance at gaining share. Lets break it down so we can understand why. Nokia: While they have slipped in market share and the reasons are pretty obvious, adopting WP7 to go along with what has always been considered to be quality built and visually pleasing hardware, should indeed amount to market share for both Nokia, Bing and WP7. Nokia, like Apple, has a percentage of it's user base that is very loyal to the brand and I see those hardcore types going out for the new handsets when they get released, along with some of the less rabid Nokia users. RIM: They're are on the decline and signs would suggest, unlike Nokia, they may stay that way. However, in the corporate world there is still a good base of Blackberry users and that's unlikely to just go away within the next few years. It may indeed dwindle, but they'll keep a decent sized base in that market for a while, which in turn, should help Bing to some degree. Verizon: This one's a no brainer. Take the biggest wireless carrier (currently) in the U.S. and sign an agreement to offer Bing as the default on many devices and that will almost undoubtedly translate to some market share. How much? Who knows, but the important part, for MSFT, is some share. Also, factor in WP7 picking up market share as time goes on (and I believe any reasonable person can see that happening at some point, considering the smoothness and ease of use of the OS, ever expanding app development, more attractive Nokia phones and probably more attractive HTC, Samsung phones, etc. in the future. What looks like meaningful updates and in a timely manner consistent with the competition and once again, some probable market share for Bing.) and the other companies MSFT has deals with, and they're to numerous to mention, and you see a potential future for Bing to gain significantly.

All that being said, Google's not just going to stand still and see what happens. They'll continue to make their own deals and develop their products and modify the engine to stem any tide by Bing. They've proven to be capable and there's no reason to think that they won't make it hard. However, sometimes being the big kid on the block backfires a little on you, as we've seen with MSFT over the last several years. Being to dominate can lose some share to those who start to believe you've gotten too big and powerful and you start losing a little of the mindshare in that popularity contest. That always starts slowly, but it can certainly grow into a large number wanting to see you fail more than wanting to see your competitors succeed. We see it every day if articles, forums, blog, etc. with Microsoft and we could well see it at some point with Google. Your own success can also become one of your biggest achilles heels in some people's minds. A few more examples: AT&T, IBM, etc. Listing more is really pointless. We all know who they are and we've seen how another has come along to take their place. Bing could be that for Google, just as Google or Apple could be that for Microsoft.

over 5 years ago

Manfredi Sassoli de Bianchi

Manfredi Sassoli de Bianchi, VP Marketing at jobinasecond

Many sources report an increased market share of Bing over the past twelve months and that is at least partly linked to the points mentioned above.

Increased competition in the market will foster innovation, so overall this is good news.

I think Bing has some way to go before it can pose a serious threat to Google in the Search arena but the two companies compete on many fronts and as platforms are merging into services, I believe that Microsoft are still in a position to bring to the table game-changing developments.

over 5 years ago

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MediaMate

By partnering up with Facebook as well as Samsung, Bing could really catch up to Google. Google knows this and wants to keep its domination in the search engine market. I would think Google would try and do something quick to counteract this smart move by Bing.

over 5 years ago

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Istok

Tread lightly Facebook. If you keep letting marketers hijack your apps and control information on users there will be a huge backlash.

over 5 years ago

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Ronnie S

Bing is not even close to closing the gap on Google. Their Facebook partnership is cool, but I dont think consumers will really care...unless they bring some sort of search functionality into Facebook itself. And, I think this technology is very far off. Plus, if Google+ does begin to take off, Google will have a bigger advantage of integrating social + search results than the Bing + Facebook partnership.

Also, the average consumer is still not navigating to Bing to do their research. We are still living in a "google it" age, and this is not going to change anytime soon.

As for mobile search. Google and Android dominate. Period. Google search is still the default on Apple products. Bing will have the dwindling blackberry market.

Also, lets not forget that Chrome is still steadily rising in market share. Internet Explorer still dominates, but Chrome continues to show steady movement.

about 5 years ago

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CanadianGirl

I switched to Bing because it sounds better and I read a Mozilla article recommending it for better privacy. So far, I like it. It's better than I expected. Now I just have to kill my old Google habits, which will be hard because I love Google News and Gmail. I may end up sticking with Gmail. Another reason for the switch? I'm sick and tired of feeling like Google+ is going to be pushed on all of us because I don't want it.

about 5 years ago

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Martin Soler - wihphotel.com

As everyone has already said, Bing is a long way from being a real threat to Google, however they are the closest anyone has ever gotten so far. And considering Microsoft's experience and funding it's only a matter of time before they do.
If anything MS are the kings of partnerships while Google definitely aren't and in my opinion that's where MS will take over.
Facebook integration means little now but that could be massive very soon.

about 5 years ago

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