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Do you remember last year when Bing aggressively marketed their “Bing It On” challenge? Back then, Bing also made the claim that searchers prefered Bing in the blind test 2:1. Now, a recent study from the “Freakonomics” blog harshly disputes Bing’s claims as well as strongly critiquing their marketing of the study as possibly constituting deceptive advertising.

Law and economics professor Ian Ayers explained the study and says the claims made by Bing came from a small sample of only 1,000 participants, too few to be a reliable sample of the population. He attempted to replicate the study at Yale Law School where he teaches:

I set up a similar-sized experiment using Microsoft’s own BingItOn.com site to see which search engine users prefer. We found that, to the contrary of Microsoft’s claim, 53 percent of subjects preferred Google and 41 percent Bing (6 percent of results were “ties”)…

The thing is the results of this study still aren’t too bad for Bing. Yes, it shows that Bing’s claims may have been disingenuous, and Google could very possibly still be the more favored search engine. However, Bing still came out with a very respectable number of people favoring their search engine. This could be a sign that Bing could very feasibly grow their market share further than they have. They currently take 18 percent of the market, compared to Google’s static 67 percent.

Of course, Microsoft has responded to the study already. They issued a formal statement from Matt Wallaert, behavioral scientist at Bing, which read:

The professor’s analysis is flawed and based on an incomplete understanding of both the claims and the Challenge. The Bing It On claim is 100% accurate and we’re glad to see we’ve nudged Google into improving their results. Bing it On is intended to be a lightweight way to challenge peoples’ assumptions about which search engine actually provides the best results. Given our share gains, it’s clear that people are recognizing our quality and unique approach to what has been a relatively static space dominated by a single service.

There was also a much more extensive response to the Ayers study in the form of a post on the Bing Blog.

And of course, Matt Cutts from Google couldn’t help but share his two cents on Google+:

Freakonomics looked into Microsoft’s “Bing It On” challenge. From the blog post: “tests indicate that Microsoft selected suggested search words that it knew were more likely to produce Bing-preferring results. …. The upshot: Several of Microsoft’s claims are a little fishy. Or to put the conclusion more formally, we think that Google has a colorable deceptive advertising claim.”

I have to admit that I never bothered to debunk the Bing It On challenge, because the flaws (small sample size; bias in query selection; stripping out features of Google like geolocation, personalization, and Knowledge Graph; wording of the site; selective rematches) were pretty obvious.

So yes, Bing’s study had a fair amount of problems, and their critics seem poised to take action about deceptive marketing, but there is an upshot for Bing. The search engine still performed very well in the results and could gain a fair amount of searchers in the future. But, it also confirms something Bing may have been more worried about. As Greg Sterling points out, “the Google brand and not necessarily search quality is now what sustains Google’s dominance in search.”

A PPC war has started between Bing and Google and Microsoft Search Network’s GM fired the most recent shots. David Pann has bashed the effectiveness of AdWords Enhanced Campaigns for larger advertisers because of its bundling of desktop and tablet targeting options.

“For smaller advertisers that don’t distinguish between mobile, tablets and PCs Enhanced Campaigns may make sense. But for larger advertisers which understand that their messages must be different according to the device it will be harder and they will have to create workarounds,” Pann said.

Pann has a point and there have many independent reviewers who have essentially had the same critique since Google unveiled Enhanced Campaigns.

Take his opinions with a grain of salt, however, considering he is working for a direct competitor, who just happens to be rolling out their own version of Enhanced Campaigns in the coming months. Pann says Bing’s version will allow user’s to choose whether to combine mobile and desktop campaigns, or to keep them separate. Bing plans to launch their new product in beta sometime before fall and have a full release by the end of summer 2014.

For more, check out Jessica Davies article at The Drum.

It’s been a week since Microsoft dropped their “Scroogle” attack ads aimed at Google, but they are still running their “Bing It On” challenge trying to convince searchers that Bing is superior to Google. Yet, all of Microsoft’s attempts don’t seem to be working. Despite Microsoft saying Bing It On testers preferred Bing 2:1, Google continues to claim well over half of all searches.

This has Greg Sterling from Search Engine Land wondering why no one believes Microsoft’s and other competitor’s “Better Than Google” claims. Is Google’s brand just that strong? Does it come out of habit?

The most obvious reason people don’t buy Bing’s campaign is they are blatantly aware it is all marketing. They used the same principle as a blind taste test, but those types of tests don’t come off as explicitly biased as a website “blind” test. Just to get to the test you have to go to a website with Bing in the name.

No one is going to trust Bing’s statistics when they are that blatant about the test. There is nothing blind about going to “Bingiton.com“. It also doesn’t help that there is a big disclaimer at the bottom of the search page explaining how the test doesn’t use the full search capabilities of either engine.

Bing It On

Google believes part of the reason users aren’t responding to Microsoft’s negative marketing is customers respond better to companies that “focus on building good products” rather than slinging mud. While Google remained as silent as possible on the “Scroogle” ads while they ran, now that they have been stopped, Google search chief Amit Singhal finally spoke about the issue at a SXSW conference, when taking questions from Twitter. “We focus on our users.”

Google’s right, customers don’t respond to negative marketing campaigns against well established brands as well as they respond to the new and innovative products Google is producing.

But, what about independent studies? A recent study by Butler University found that not only did Bing have better quality answers according to their criteria, but so did ChaCha, Ask.com, Bing, and Yahoo. Why has this type of study not put a huge thorn in Google’s side? One reason is Google’s incredibly strong brand. There is also the “Google Habit” or the comfort with the interface, but more than anything it is personal experience.

ChaCha may have better answers, but most users will agree it is not convenient enough for when you need to make a quick search and find a simple answer. Bing has been making users uncomfortable with their blatant attack ads, and any survey that puts Ask.com ahead of Bing, Yahoo, and Google will be heavily doubted in this age. The website lost its reputation years ago as other search engines grew, and it never regained it, just as Yahoo has steadily lost its market share to Google.

The only companies that can compete against Google are equally strong brands such as Amazon and Apple. Google is so well established in the American market, that it is hard to believe any study reporting that there are a handful of “better” ways to search. But, Google didn’t just install itself into ourcollective hive mind. Google is trusted because they offer a search engine users are pleased with, and they are constantly innovating new and exciting products. If they ever stop innovating, Bing might have a shot. Until then, attack ads and over the top marketing campaigns aren’t going to do much.

In order to improve your existing online ad campaigns and discover new opportunities that you’re currently missing, you have to study the analytics. Trend line analysis is likely included whether you use AdWords, Microsoft AdCenter or any other platform and it saves you from poring over column after column of numbers. Instead, you are presented with an easy to read and, more importantly, an easy to digest report.

Matt Van Wagner has an in-depth report on different types of trend line reports and how to use trend line analysis at Search Engine Land.

Let’s look at some potential errors to avoid and how to make these reports work for you.

First and foremost, you have to understand the context of any report and be sure to enter proper parameters. If your reporting time is too short, you may see a graph suggesting a problem that isn’t really there. You may also notice a simple fluxuation of variables beyond your control and perceive it as a problem with your campaign.

Before making any changes, do some investigating. Take the guesswork out of online advertising and diagnose the problem. Then, you will know what needs to be changed, or what can be left as is.

Always keep your specific campaign goals in mind. For some, conversion rates improving but total conversions going down could be a problem. However, if it’s in line with that campaigns goals, then you’ll probably want to leave the campaign untouched.

Sometimes it’s what you decide not to change that will make the biggest difference.

With time, you’ll start to be able to recognize at a glance a graph showing the early signs of trouble. Be sure you understand not only what each individual trackable metric means, but also how they relate to each other.

We’ve talked quite a bit about the quickly growing use of mobile devices to search the web. The latest reports show between 10% to 20% of all traffic on the web, and some popular websites, claim that roughly a fourth of their traffic is coming from mobile devices, if you include tablets.

Of course, this all shows that ignoring mobile web use at this point is not a good decision. Those that are innovating in the field of mobile optimization will have a much brighter future than those that continue to resist the mobile shift. The sooner you optimize your site for mobile use, the better chances your company will do well in the future.

There are two factors that differentiate mobile devices from other traditional computing devices. They both are obvious, but both factors have undeniably huge effects on users’ web experiences. The first is portability. Since mobile users are accessing the web on the go, their current location and activities become important to what they are accessing online. The second factor is screen size. Mobile screens do seem to be getting larger, but they will never go anywhere near standard computer screen size. Take advantage of screen size limitations of mobile users, rather than fight it.

With between 15-20% of all searches on Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc. coming from mobile users, how does that change search behavior?

Search Behavior Due to Location

Microsoft’s research has found that 30% of all mobile searches are related to their location, and 61% of searches end in a phone call. Like I said, a person’s locations and activities are clearly important to mobile user’s.

Of course, the recent changes to search engines have made great strides to customize search results based on user’s locations, but you should still make an effort to specify your business’s location on search engines using their web master settings.

The major search engines also look for location signals from the title and text present on a website. If you own a local business, make it easy for them to find these signals. Emphasize the location on the site so search engines prioritize your website in search results around your area.

Can you still take advantage of mobile users’ locations even if your business has more than one location? Of course!

If your business has multiple locations, you should be creating internal pages for your different locations, with a present hierarchy starting from the homepage so that search engines will notice the location specific pages too. You will still have to deal with standard issues such as speed, relevance, and backlinks, but taking advantage of location will help get individual pages ranked based on where your users may be.

Search Behavior Due to Screen Size

Screen size contstraints are a more physical limitation, but it strongly effects how people search and visit pages. The clearest difference between mobile and desktop search is the number of paid results and advertisments. On most search engines, there are far less paid ads on mobile because of the screen size. That means organic results on mobile are more important than on desktop.

Screen size also limits the number of results you recieve at any given moment. On a typical smartphone you can only see a few results at a time. Desktops give users a broad range of results immediately, but on mobile the top three results are key. Mobile users are not prone to research, and they rarely go past the first page of results, so it is important to get your page as high in the rankings as possible.

Search behavior on mobiles are certainly unique from their desktop counterparts, and mobile requires a similarly unique SEO strategy. Of course, desktop is still important, so the best way to approach the issue is by creating a seperate mobile site that is optimized for mobile user experience. The longer you wait to optimize, the more trouble you will have later.

For more, read Paras Chopra’s article at Search Engine Land.

 

You may have heard about this, but Bing and Facebook have joined forces, and now Bing is going to start displaying results based on Facebook posts.

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This was something that had been coming, but it was unknown exactly when the date would be.  Yahoo and Microsoft have made an alliance.  It’s called the “Search Alliance”.  Originally it was intended as a unification for paid advertisements, but it’s clear now that the unification is for both paid and organic listings; do a search on both Yahoo and Bing for a keyword phrase, and the results are now identical.

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The news is out, Google is not a fan of Microsoft Windows. The main reason is security concerns, the vulnerability that is present with the hackability of the operating system. Read more

Today a court order goes into effect to force Microsoft to allow Windows users a choice in internet browsers.  Previously, Microsoft’s Internet Explorer was the default browser installation on Windows.  As of today, that decision is no longer enforced, and users will have a choice to make that many were previously unaware they even had.

One possibility of this outcome is that Google Chrome may now see some increase in use.  Google is doing a heavier push in the mainstream media, so everyday internet users will see the option to install Chrome.  If a lot of them choose this, this will increase Google’s hold over the search engine market, and this will also effect many SEOs in their approach to optimization.

It appears the battle between Google and Microsoft (who’s joined forces with Yahoo) may have only now just begun.  To check out more details on this story, see this article by HighPosition.net.

I got an email from Microsoft adCenter promoting the new alliance between Yahoo and Microsoft.  They’re calling it “Search Alliance“.  The aim is to have their online paid advertising fully unified before the 2010 holiday season, although they did say that they’ll wait until 2011 if they “determine this will be more effective”.

Microsoft bought out Yahoo, so now the primary tool behind both search engines will be Bing, and behind the pay per click (and other paid online advertisements) will be adCenter.  The Search Alliance has stated that each company will “continue to have differentiated consumer search experiences”.  Not sure exactly how they’ll pull that off with the same search engine for both, but they may just mean the search interface.

The support will be broken apart, Yahoo supporting the bigger advertisers, and Microsoft will provide support to “self-service” advertisers.  They are combining their platforms for the advertising audience, so ads put together under this new alliance will reach consumers using either search engine.  The Search Alliance brags that advertisers of all sizes will now be able to have access to a combined audience of nearly 577 million worldwide searchers.

At any rate, this is pretty big news – Yahoo and MS pulling together to battle the mighty Google.  I expect this may be an epic battle.