The desktop search engine industry has been awfully quiet lately. Just looking at the search volume in Google Trends reveals that there’s been little positive change in the past 12 months (see chart below). But early this week, everything suddenly changed as the two search engine giants got into a fight over Google calling out Bing for copying their search results. In summary, Google baited Bing by creating illogical search results for “synthetic” queries (aka nonsense terms). Google recruited 20 engineers with Suggested Sites in Internet Explorer 8 and had them search for these fake term in Google until the results showed up in Bing (about 2 weeks!). The next day Microsoft fired back at Google explaining that the algorithm to prioritize search results uses multiple “signals” along with collective intelligence to determine search quality and in this case Google simply exposed this flaw. In essence, the flaw suggests that Microsoft considers Google to be the authoritative source whenever the result set is limited.
While there is no denying that Bing autogenerated the same results as Google, there are two important lessons that technologists and marketers should learn from this fight:
By now, I expect that you’ve heard about the viral video that has reinvigorated the Old Spice brand. I have to hand it to the ad agency Wieden & Kennedy for showing everyone that the adage “if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again” works. According to Mashable, they reformulated and re-released the original video (initially produced in February) and developed almost 200 unique video responses to the social media buzz. These personalized videos generated even more buzz and eventually drove video views through roof.
As a technologist who’s focused on marketing, I love stats (short for statistics) because they help me tell a story. But as a former researcher, I’m very familiar with the famous quote by humorist Mark Twain:
“Facts are stubborn, but statistics are more pliable.”
At last night’s AiMA event on search engine strategies, the speakers referenced a study where users showed no significant preference to Bing or Google. After a short web search (via Google), I found the research paper by the Catalyst Group (see below). In the study, users reported that they wouldn’t switch from their current search engines even though Bing possessed some favorable improvements to Google. Continue reading