With the Microsoft Yahoo Search Alliance having finally made it to Europe, we looked at whether companies and agencies would be considering spending more money on the platform, particularly given concerns about Google’s near-monopoly within the UK search engine market. 

For our UK Search Engine Marketing Benchmark Report, published in association with NetBooster, we asked companies how they had changed their paid search budgets across Google, Microsoft/Yahoo, and other search engines.

The results show that whilst 59% increased their paid search spend on Google over the last year, only 21% spent more on either Bing or Yahoo, with the proportion decreasing their budgets being double that on the Search Alliance platforms.

Given that these results are representative of the period before the roll out of the Search Alliance, we asked whether the partnership would actually encourage companies to spend more of their budget on the platform, particularly given the benefits in terms of time saved managing search campaigns. However, only 20% of companies stated that they would consider spending more money on advertising on Bing or Yahoo as a result.

Looking further at the results, the qualitative responses behind this question revealed that marketers simply do not get the returns via the Search Alliance as they would do on Google.

We spend very little with Yahoo and Microsoft, even after optimising they don’t produce anywhere near the same results as Google.

97% of site traffic comes through Google. In addition, Yahoo/Bing provides traffic that converts significantly less than Google.

We have dropped them from the marketing budget because of poor performance.

The key issue here seems to be this: there just aren’t enough people using Bing or Yahoo to encourage significant interest in paid search advertising. And while the number of search engine queries on the Search Alliance is still large enough to be worth mentioning (currently 5.62% as of June 2012, compared to 90.69% for Google, according to the latest statistics), for advertisers who sell niche products that target long tail search terms, the relative lack of traffic means that the platform isn’t even worth considering.

Fundamentally, Bing and Yahoo need to work harder on providing real reasons for customers to use the search engine. My own opinion is that Europe has been an afterthought for these platforms, particularly as it seems to take so long for innovations to cross the pond, by which time the ‘innovation’ in question is no longer as innovative.

As well as the obvious example of delay being the Search Alliance, another recent case is that European users are still waiting for the ‘New Bing’ featuring Facebook integration that Microsoft released to much fanfare in the US in May. As is clear from the comments on site (including my own on Twitter), users outside of the US are frustrated at the fact that they cannot use these new products and services.

What do you think?

Has your company or agency actually changed their paid search spending as a result of the Search Alliance? Have you noticed any change in the volume or quality of traffic? What can Microsoft and Yahoo do to innovate? Share your comments below.