This morning, Hitwise reported search share movement. This measures how many times an engine is queried for information. They also looked at how many of these results lead to visiting a webpage, and how many words were in the queries.
For this post we are going to look at the overall share numbers, and what they mean for advertisers, both on Bing, and search as a marketing vehicle.
So this graph shows very small month over month movement of percentage of total searches from February & March, about 1 ½ points for each engine. It is significant that the Bing-Yahoo! search alliance has crested 30%, and Google has dropped below the 2/3rds threshold.
While the chart may not be dramatic, taking a look at the numbers that drive this, we can see a more clear picture.
Google had a 3% drop and Binghoo rose 5%. It then dives in and shows us the specific metrics for both Yahoo & Bing properties individually – data that we yearn for in adCenter where have no choice but to buy advertising on both engines with no insight into how each are performing (let alone controlling the distribution)!
Actually, lets take a closer look at what these trends mean for marketers.
So from these numbers, we can draw a few conclusions: Google’s organic quality battles are real, AdCenter transition is over – it’s time to develop, & Not all queries are created equal.
While Google aggressively battles the quality of their Search Result pages, people are choosing to search Bing. We don’t know if they are searching them one after another, as a way of getting a full picture
(Side note, I prefer to search them side-by-side on Bingle.Your search comes up in both engines, with navigation to see each one independently)
Right now advertisers on Google are on the sidelines, watching the search engine battle spammers (and everyone caught in between). As a result, more value is being found in ads – we pay to be in front of those searches, what’s more simple to understand! Eventually, if the perceived quality of searches continues to diminish, then we will have to worry since no one wants to search just for the ad.
Google’s battle with the quality of the organic results, is only one front. They have also taken very dramatic steps to improve the quality of ads, with more tools and insight into how to best qualify our target audiences. Ever since the announcement of Bing & Yahoo’s search alliance, Google has been on a tear, tying in different services, improving transparency in the delivery, and taking steps to improving advertising beyond search.
Adcenter meanwhile, has been forced to focus on the nuts and bolts of delivering to both properties, and provisioning adCenter to be able to receive Yahoo builds and accounts. While many sacrifices were made (with historical data, legacy performance, and targeting discrepancies) overall the transition was pretty smooth.
Now the time has come to catch up. Every aspect of AdCenter is lacking when compared to AdWords, including navigation, reporting, account access, the desktop tool, conversion tracking, UI usability, keyword selection, and editorial approval. The ability to make hierarchal changes and accessing data that is currently quarantined in the report center would be two huge steps forward.
The last point that needs to be made about this data is that it doesn’t measure actual user queries, just any query, whether it was a bot or script, even when the engines themselves pull results from different sources into their mix. For instance the mixed search result pages you see across all engines reflect a number of different queries, including to the web index, image index, news index, realtime index, and video index (to name a few). So to a certain extent these numbers have to be taken with a grain of salt. Look at the trends, but don’t live by them!
Since some of us do live by the online markets, let’s pour a cup of coffee and see what’s on the horizon.
While we all know search plays an integral role of delivering qualified traffic, no advertising channel is static, and none of us know what direction search and other cutting edge technologies may head in. With that in mind, lets take a look at where businesses and marketers need to focus on to stay ahead of the curve.
First of all, cover your bases. Make sure you have products in shopping engines so when people are looking for them, you have a presence. Shopping online is not going anywhere, and you want to make sure you are in front of your audience regardless of where they search. Those who are ahead in their market have analytics and utilize the data to refine how their site operates. Find areas where you are losing traffic, refine your conversion path, and test different elements. Even a bad test provides useful information, and good tests, well they help your site achieve new high points.
Look beyond search engines to engage your current and future consumers. Social networks are maturing into viable audiences to engage. Having a presence and engaging your base socially can effect their search behavior. Also, many people cringe when they hear banner ads or the content network. Steps have been made to greatly improve the targeting so you can hone the delivery of your message to a higher quality audience. It still doesn’t equal the search experience, but again it is important to have a presence across different domains, even to the benefit of your search performance.
Look beyond direct sales. While everyone loves to see high conversion rates, a good long term strategy is to engage shoppers before they are ready to buy. If you are there while they are researching you have an opportunity to reel them into a sale. If you can get them to the site early on you can directly target them through remarketing campaigns, giving specific messages that can influence their behavior.
So, a 1.5 point tick in search engine shares may not be a big deal with everything that is happening in the world, but it does show some tea leaves and represents an interesting time in the search space. Will they make it out of adolescence and into adulthood? Most likely, but who they become and how they grow old will be up to us.