Last monday I had an interesting discussion on Twitter with Paul van Oosterhout and Bart Schuijt about Bing. We were discussing what Bing would need to become a good alternative for Google. We had some ideas ourselves but I decided to involve a few more people on this question. So I started asking people “What does Bing (primarily) need to do in 2011 to become a major competitor for Google?”
Back to the basics
The first response I got from many people was that Bing needs to get better basic results. Although Bing has many great verticals, many of them even better than Google’s, search starts with the basics. When the basic results aren’t satisfying chances are people aren’t going to use the verticals either. They’ll probably just return to Google, no matter how great the verticals are. Maybe they will use the verticals sporadically but people are animals of habit and mostly will stick to one search engine for all their needs.
Better basic results means improving the search algorithm. Improving the search algorithm means investing time, collecting data and testing. Regarding the collection of data Bing obviously has a disadvantage to Google who seem to anticipated the need for data long before Bing. But with the partnership with Yahoo! and Facebook, Bing might just get a boost they need. Of course improving the quality of basic search results is a long term strategy. The focus should not be to become better than Google in the next year, but to become satisfying for the general user and retain the users they already have.
Utilize the verticals
Ask anybody about the strong points of Bing and they are probably going to mention one of the many impressive verticals. Whether it’s the travel vertical, image search or maps, Bing has developed some great verticals. But they don’t exploit this nearly enough. They should promote their verticals much more.
They do not only need more promotion, they primarily need a rollout beyond the US. I know a lot of people in Europe who are very eager to use Bing’s verticals, but here we are stuck with “Live Search with a Bing logo pasted on top of it” (Bas van den Beld). The verticals could be a great way to attract more users and if the basic search is at least satisfying people might just stick with Bing. It’s quite clear Europe is ready for Bing, when will Bing finally be ready for Europe?
No matter how good your search engine is, you have to get users to try it. As mentioned before, the search engine people use is part of their habit. To break that habit is tough but extremely necessary. However, there are ways to get people to use Bing instead of Google.
First of all Bing could target the younger audience to influence their first choice for a search engine. When people choose to use Bing at first and they like what they get, there is no reason for them to switch search engines, as there is no reason for the current Google-users to switch to Bing.
Another way to get users to use Bing is to be the default search engine people get in their browsers, on their phones and wherever they search. This means an investment in becoming (or staying) the default search engine for new PCs, smart phones, browsers, Facebook and other social networks, but also for ISP errors, parked domains and publishers. In the words of Nichola Stott: They need an extremely aggressive business development strategy.
Of course there’s much more Bing can do to make 2011 the year of Bing. My question to you: What does Bing need to bring to convince you to use it instead of Google?