The New Google UI: What this Means for "Search Wars V2"
Elisa had a great write up on the new Google design, and I was able to contribute some thoughts in a piece that ran in USA Today, but I had some additional thoughts on the new design, Bing's design, and what it all means for search marketers that I thought I'd share here.
The Bing/Yahoo Merger
I mention in the piece that "the whole will be greater than the sum of the parts" when Bing and Yahoo finally consumate their search merger. What I mean by this is that advertisers will be more likely to move to the single platform with better reach (BingHoo), and that Bing's access to their once-competitor’s technology will (eventually) make their algorithm better. Beyond that, the increased market share will be self-reinforcing; it’ll allow Microsoft to invest more resources in search and all of the data and IP they have access to will make them a better search engine with more reach.
Issue 2: How Google-Obssessed Should Bing Be?
For my money not much. VCs are pouring money into Cuil and other search engine plays not just to gamble up that they might have the next Google, but also because carving out even a substantial piece of market share in the search space can help you to build a 100 million dollar business - you don't need to unseat Google. Really Bing would be better served trying to carve out this type of market space, particularly focusing on verticals that Google under-serves rather than trying to “win the search war.” I think they’re doing that with a focus on select query sets and becoming a shopping destination. In the end they clearly have to create points of differentiation as compared to Google, but they don't need 51% of search share to have the channel be an enormous win and asset for them.
How Does All this Impact PPC and SEO?
I think the landscape of paid search changes (fewer platforms with relatively greater share) and the complexity of optimizing for organic search increases (with a consolidated number two, the second engine becomes significantly more interesting from an optimization standpoint than two with relatively smaller share). There’s a bit more depth on that in this article from the time the deal was announced.
What Did Bing Do Right?
One thing Bing did well which Google is already active responding to is to provide a more “layered” approach to returning search results. Rather than just giving searchers “ten blue links” that direct them to Web sites, Bing has done a nice job of refining and integrating their image search, offering related searches prominently in the SERP, and then layering in things like “brands for x, styles of x, top ten x, x buying guide” (a nice example of this is if you search for “shoes” on Bing). Offering a custom experience depending on the type of search someone performs (something broad and informational like shoes versus something that implies comparison like best running shoes versus something that implies a readiness to buy like Nike Dunk Lo Pro SB Avenger) has been a best practice for marketers looking to improve conversion rates for years – search engines are finally adopting some of those best practices in designing their user interfaces, and right now I think Bing is ahead here.
Ultimately who "wins" and how much search share the two companies end up with will be determined by a lot more than just UI tweaks, but it's definitely interesting and note worthy to see the interfaces change, particularly for search marketers