Why Bing will be trailing on Google and why it should hook up with Apple and Facebook

Bing is doing well, at least, in the US it is. The latest numbers by Comscore show us that Bing increased its share of searches by 1.1 percentage points last month and Statcounter noted that Bing had outgrown Yahoo, but was still trailing on Google.

Bing is not sitting still either, with their expansion to France and new additions to their search results like flight auto suggest and more personalized search options with the extension of the like-data in their search results.

So Bing is doing well, I personally also want them doing well, because I believe we could (especially in Europe) use some more competitiveness. Still, I fear that Bing will be trailing on Google for quite a while and might never even ‘catch’ them. Why? The reason lies in the combination of mobile and personal. Let me explain.

It was a couple of months ago when Google CEO Eric Schmidt said something non-controversial (for a change) which was pretty important and marked why Google will be the leading factor over Bing. He named the four pillars which Google would be focussing on in search, what was going to be important were Personal, Local, Social and Mobile. These combined would make what Schmidt called the perfect “serendipity engine“.

At the same time Bing’s director Stefan Weitz kept talking about “user intent”. What does the searcher really want? Microsoft is trying hard to grab that intent. So is Google. And both are having a hard time grabbing the right intent. But Google might just win it here, even though it might not show just yet. When Schmidt made his famous quoteWe know where you are. We know where you’ve been. We can more or less know what you’re thinking about.” he might have said it in a ‘creepy’ way, which made many stagger. But if you listened well you could hear the winning formula: mobile.

Google has Android, Apple has the iPhone and Microsoft now has the Windows Mobile 7 phone. So on the mobile market they can nicely compete with each other. Google has gained a lot of market share there already, which with Microsoft remains to be seen. But there is more to this battle than meets the eye. The mobile advantage Google has on Microsoft might very well be why they will win it in search.

Mobile makes personal

The search engines want the user intent, and we want the search engines to understand our intent. Because then we can really get the information we are looking for. But for that personalization the search engines need data. That data is gathered by your online behavior, but what many forget is that that same data is also gathered on a mobile phone.

With the Android devices Google has connected the online behavior with the mobile behavior, making it the perfect data gathering tool. Where a computer can be used by many in the company or a household, a mobile phone in most cases is very personal. It is what you do. Google knows where you go, what you are looking at, who you are connecting with. That data can be used to optimize the Personal (and local) part of search. And that data is Google’s data, Bing doesn’t have that.

A quick example. A few weeks ago I was looking on my computer for the address of the company I had to go to. I looked it up on Google Maps and also checked the directions to see how long of a drive it would be. I then closed my computer went into my car and got out my (Android) phone. I then fired up the Google navigation. Guess where it opened: the address which I had just been looking for on my computer. Because I was logged in on both devices it remembered what I was doing and made the next step as personal as I could get it. Creepy, but handy at the same time.

And this is just the data which goes from the computer to the phone. The data coming from the phone to the computer is going to be much more worthy than this data. And Google is collecting that data as we speak (or browse, or navigate, or do whatever we do on the phones).

How can Bing still win?

Can Bing still win it from Google? Well, based on this mobile theory it is going to be very difficult. But there still are some chances. And they are called Facebook and Apple.

There have been rumors before that Bing could be the new default search engine on an iPhone. If they can pull that off they will be able to grab great data from there, but it is a long shot. Off course there is always Nokia, which now is going to run Windows Mobile, but will that be enough..?

A bigger chance for Bing is Facebook. They are already partnering up with them and have made search more social, but the second largest indication of what a user intents is, next to their mobile behavior, is their social behavior. They are telling Facebook what they want and like. That is golden data. So Bing should get even closer to Facebook to get a hold of more data to make our experiences even more personal.

But Bing is trailing and will probably be trailing for a while. Unless they find the right partners (and not start fighting with them!). And that is where Google has another advantage: they don’t need the partners, apart from social.

So this is my take on it, what’s yours?

Bas van den Beld

About Bas van den Beld

Bas van den Beld is an award winning Digital Marketing consultant, trainer and speaker. He is the founder of State of Digital and helps companies develop solid marketing strategies.