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Does Microsoft’s Search Bling Have Enough Bing for the Buck?

in Search Marketing

Steve Ballmer and Microsoft will launch Bing next Wednesday.
Steve Ballmer and Microsoft will launch Bing next Wednesday.

Today, while there have been the requisite conversations about Twitter and Facebook, the day’s been dominated by one word: “Bing.”

Yes, Bing.com is here, almost. Microsoft is launching its new engine next Wednesday, but the demo reel is live at Bing.com.

What does it all mean? Here’s a round-up of first impressions. There’ll be much more to say once this comes out:

  • It looks very good. The basic layout of the results page is the same, with the exception of the right-hand ‘guided search’ bar (which only worked so well when Ask.com pioneered it). For some kinds of searches, it may even prove to be better than Google.
  • It won’t matter if it’s better than Google. What matters is if consumers use it.
  • A huge challenge will be promoting something consumers don’t think they need. 360i’s CEO Bryan Wiener told The New York Times, “There is not a perceived market problem with search that needs fixing.”
  • The rumored $100 million ad budget, or hundreds of millions if you count partnerships, will help. But this MUST be an experience consumers will tell their friends about. That’s how all of the biggest digital brands have been built this decade: Google, Facebook, MySpace, Wikipedia, YouTube, Firefox… it’s a long list. We’ll see if it’s that good.
  • Microsoft’s advertising platform has been strong for some time now. On that basis, Microsoft has been very competitive with the other engines, and they offer some fantastic tools. But again, if they don’t have the market share, nothing else matters.
  • With the focus on helping consumers refine results, Bing’s goal will be to keep consumers interacting with the results as long as it’s required. If it works as planned, that should mean there are fewer false hits – the kinds of clicks that lead consumers to press the back button right away.
  • One oddity in the demo video: it mentions searching for a French restaurant in New York and seeing if there’s parking. These people have clearly never eaten in New York. As much as I love Salty’s in West Seattle, they really need to pay a visit here sometime – the food’s quite good. Oh, and why isn’t the video embeddable?
  • Microsoft’s billing Bing as a decision engine and even registered decisionengine.com. It makes sense if you watch the whole video. If you don’t though, it reeks of being so overly rational and intellectual that it misses the chance to forge an emotional connection.
  • The new name should help. Two of the biggest features of Bing are its design and usability. Those are not attributes one generally associates with Microsoft.
  • The Twitter buzz was in full force. I opened a Twitter Search window around 11 a.m. ET for ‘bing’ mentions and kept it open. Seven hours later there were nearly 13,000 mentions. While that made it a top 10 trending topic, it was trumped by news of Hulu Desktop (which launched for real) and was trailing far behind a number of other buzzwords and memes. Here’s the top 10 as of 6:15 p.m. ET: #liesboystell, #liesgirlstell, #3wordsaftersex, BGT, #twistory, #thingsmummysaid, #3breakupwords, #jonaswebcast, Hulu Desktop, Bing

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