Search is like electricity: it is all around us; we don’t see it, it just lights everything up. Search has now become so pervasive that most users are not aware of their search habits. They may not be consciously searching nor aware that search is offering a service without being asked. In modern search experiences, be that on the web or within other online services, we are expressing our intent with natural semantics. We speak up and the artificial intelligence makes sense of our words by marrying them to a myriad of other signals and deliver us the information we are, or will be, looking for.
That small electric charge powering the delivery of the right information to online user is perceived as rolling thunder in economic spheres. During the recent financial report reflecting on its second financial quarter for 2016, Microsoft announced that its search advertising revenues excluding traffic acquisition costs grew 21% year-over-year, citing Windows 10 as one of the catalysts for this important increase. This resulted in a raft of articles in the press about what was seen as a paradigm shift in an industry that many thought immovable.
Let’s face it, for many advertisers, search was once regarded as an altogether different type of electricity: static and taken for granted. But I am not certain that Thomas Edison once thought that his lightbulb would be able to communicate, self-regulate its intensity, replace alarm clocks, etc. So even the most established of services can be disrupted. It takes smart connections between users and technology, between innovation and people’s needs… In the end, this press spotlight on our industry has led many actors to revisit their preconceptions about their media mix decisions.
Many had indeed not realised how much the Bing Network had been growing and how Microsoft strategy continues to add scale. The most recent comScore market share report shows that Bing is continuing to gain steady traction and growing fast globally. Bing-powered search accounts for nearly one-third of search market share in the US. Overall, Bing has more than doubled its market share since launch in that market, and internationally the same trajectory is followed: in the UK, the Bing Network is nearing the 18%; in France, it has reached 11.9%; in the Netherlands, 10.4%.
Scale and volume are crucial for our advertisers and agencies. This is why Microsoft is focusing on three fronts to drive such momentum:
- Organic growth: Bing has been growing organically over the past 5 years, and Microsoft is committed to create industry leading destination search and going beyond the search box in innovative ways.
- Integration in consumer software: Bing’s integration in Windows 10 has already helped deliver additional volume and scale. There are currently 200 million devices running Windows 10 today, and growing.
- Partnerships and syndication: Microsoft has been partnering with market leading brands to provide unique search experiences. Many ignore for instance that Bing is the search engine serving web results for Siri on iOS and Amazon’s Echo for instance. AOL and Yahoo searches are also powered by Bing. Gumtree and Ecosia in Europe have recently joined the bandwagon…
This approach is shifting the perspective from which advertisers informed their marketing investments: it is less about unique web users and more and more about ecosystems of devices and services. As Carat Head of Media Futures, Dan Calladine, pointed out in his “Top 10 trends for 2016” presentation, mobile search is creating a more level playing field, and new mobile search experiences like personal assistants such as Cortana or Siri are likely to accelerate that disruption. In 2015, Bing for instance has already seen a +63% click through rate growth year over year thanks to features like Location Extensions, Mobile Sitelinks, App Extensions and more. And we can all expect to see further innovation on mobile ad products. After all we are all in in search, whatever the device or its operating system (Bing Ads Editor for Mac is coming and campaign monitoring apps are available on both Android and iOS)
So yes, search is electrifying. And the recent progression of Bing in that industry is adding more intensity. Bing is already outpacing the market with an annual growth of 19% in North America and Europe according to Adobe Media Optimizer which measured in Q3 2015 a 10% increase in paid search all up. That is all the more notable that in the same time that growth is not achieved at the expense of its quality. ComScore outlined that Bing users tend to spend 22% more than the average internet users. Personally that was enough to get my light bulb moment… What about you?