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Google might be king, but let’s give Bing a chance

August 3, 2009

bing

There’s been a lot of talk on the internet about Yahoo and Microsoft joining forces to take on Google, so where does the good old travel industry fit into all this?

The idea is that Yahoo will now use Microsoft’s Bing search engine (pictured above), and share revenue gained from advertising, such as sponsored links. There’s a good write up on ttglive.com: Yahoo/Bing merger ‘benefits travel’ but in this post I’m going to look at Bing’s potential.

Pay per click
Now, in the travel arena, and for one TTG columnist in particular, I imagine the Yahoo/Microsoft is welcome news. Jetline Cruise’s Ian Gilder, who writes under the name of “Bad Boy of cruise” for ttglive.com, complained back in May that we are paying too much for Google, picked up subsequently by Tour CMS’ Alex Bainbridge.

Google has a near monopoly it seems, and its power is making travel firms pay for this as they attempt to get to the top of the search rankings/sponsored links. Sure, online travel agents get a lot of traffic from Google, but Ian Gilder is concerned at how quickly the cost of key words are rising.

Bing who?
So far, so good. There’s a newish search engine player (Bing is still in beta) on the market, but it seems not many people are using it yet. Earlier today I did a quick straw poll on Twitter. I asked: Do you Google it, or Bing it, for your travel holiday research?

Have a look at the results below…

responses

There are some definite trends here:

  • Habit. People are so used to Google. And how often do you hear people say “Just Google it”? That’ll be tough to break.
  • Innovation. Google has a new browser called Chrome, a collaboration tool called Waves, a new mobile phone operating system called Android. Google is slowly taking Microsoft apart and rebuilding it. We use 1% of Microsoft Word’s abilities. Google took that 1% and put it online, and called it Docs.
  • Afraid of change. Notice the word “experiment” and “first timer”. We have an emotional attachment to Google, it’s been with us for so long. Why? It’s a website? It’s almost like you’d be cheating.

The real-time threat
Search is also changing. In today’s Guardian, Jeff Jarvis has argued that Yahoo and Microsoft picked the wrong fight. One of his reasons is that Google has turned its eye towards the next “battlefields”, namely mobile, social media, and the live web.

Twitter is an example of this threat move towards live search – with the recent redesign (below), notice how suddenly there’s a search bar on its homepage. And the massive trending topics beneath. Signing in, or registering, now comes second.

twitter

The battle has begun
But Bing is gaining power. For ttglive.com stats, Bing last month overtook Twitter (by one place) as a referrer. Over at Travel Weekly, Nathan Midgley cites that Bing is his publication’s fourth largest referrer.

It also has more built-in travel information: According to wikipedia, “Bing Travel searches for airfare and hotel reservations online and predicts the best time to purchase them”.

It also appears to offer more real-time searching capabilities than Google. This is an area it should heavily promote, especially following the redesign of the Twitter homepage.

I also like the look of Bing. It’s got that minimal feel Google has, but looks nicer. The homepage graphic also lends itself to travel, and from the straw poll there was someone who said they used Bing specifically for hotel searches.

So, I’m going to try Bing out over the next few weeks, to see how effective it is. In a way, it’s supporting the underdog, and maybe if everyone can break the Google habit, and at least experiment with Bing, it could even lead to fairer advertising costs and help the smaller travel agencies compete with the larger firms?

And I’ll leave you with this excellent comment from SEO firm Web Certain’s Andy Atkins, who left this at the end of the ttglive.com news article:

“It’s difficult to see how Bing+Yahoo could benefit travel if as Warren says there will be no impact.

“However, I believe that the immediate impact of this deal is not the important point.

“The key is that Microsoft is now in a position to sign up partners around the globe as it moves its chess pieces into place to compete with Google. That includes partners in Europe and the UK.

“This step isn’t Microsoft beating Google. But it is Microsoft taking up arms and preparing for battle!”

READ: Five burning travel questions for Wolfram Alpha

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. Edge Press permalink
    August 3, 2009 11:19 pm

    Google is pretty much unbeatable in my opinion. People are not used to change and usually like things the same way as long as it is a good way. Google is good. And it’s already defaulted in so many web browsers as home pages or as search boxes in the corner of the screen. Google will not be defeated quickly, but great post!

  2. August 4, 2009 10:31 am

    I loved this line “We use 1% of Microsoft Word’s abilities. Google took that 1% and put it online, and called it Docs”. Very true actually.

    I too agree that Bing is showing a better face than Google on some search terms. Apart from Travel related searches, Bing is better than Google on some searches. Example: Last night I was searching for a Hawk head in Google Images, I liked nothing. In Bing, I performed the same search and liked nearly 10 images.

    On the Pay Per Click advertising, Bing’s ad market had already gone up 8%. Please read for more info on this: http://thetravelhawk.com/2009/06/16/bings-ad-market-up-by-8-till-now/

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