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Bada-Bing! Microsoft’s New Search Engine Could Lead to Cha-Ching for Advertisers!

It’s been almost two weeks since Microsoft thankfully retired the Windows Live Search brand and instead started asking us if we Bing.

Well, aside from the initial reports that Bing is seeing an increase in market share, there could be an even more important benefit of the new design. Bing might just make more money per search query than Google.

As you may have noticed, Bing uses a three column design for its search results page. Having just returned from Microsoft’s Search Summit, I can confirm that this wasn’t just done on a whim, but very carefully thought out. One of the driving factors for the design, was the ability to give Bing users a vast array of data and refinement options. In essence, Bing gave that left hand navigational column a prime time spot.

So, what happens when you shake-up the design of a search results page? The search engine user breaks that zombie stare they once used to focus purely on the middle column of results. In other words, their eye starts roving. In fact, as User Centric’s eye studies have shown, Bing users–faced with a 3-column design–are much more likely to view the paid ads that run down the right-hand column.

…sponsored links on the right attracted more attention on Bing (~42% of participants per search) than they did on Google (~25% of participants per search). The participants who fixated on these links spent approximately 2.5 seconds looking at the area during transactional searches and 2 seconds during informational searches. These times were similar for the two search engines.

Now, it could just be the novelty factor. More likely, the design of Bing encourages the searcher’s eye to look beyond the typical ten blue links. If this trend holds, advertisers will be delighted at the additional engagement Bing brings to their ads. And that engagement means more money for Microsoft’s coffers!

In other words: BadaBing Leads to ChaChing! ;-)

(Hat-tip)

  • http://www.mmmeeja.com/blog/ andymurd

    Interesting. I wonder if the same eye tracking results apply for three-column blogs. Got an data?

  • http://www.marketingpilgrim.com Andy Beal

    Not sure. If I see one, I will let you know.

  • liju

    Also the preview function in bing could be helping…
    to make the user stay longer on a bing page
    to make the user wander towards the right side of the page. ?

  • http://www.koolaidantidote.com Tom Kasperski

    I’d caution jumping to too many conclusions. The gaze duration in the left column might be due to users attempting to comprehend the “new” UI options. This might change over time as users become more accustomed to Bing’s SERP UI.

    The right column gaze duration results are indeed interesting, but could there be other factors in play? For example, the heatmaps you posted had 8 ads in the right column on the Google SERP, and only 5 ads on the Bing SERP. And, who knows, we might be looking/thinking too hard about these gaze duration studies – the similarities are striking.

    Btw, I’ve done usability studies on sites with 3 column layouts – particularly those where the right column is bifurcated – very similar to your blog’s layout Andy. What I learned is that users overwhelmingly ignored the content and links in the far right column.

    Tom Kasperski’s last blog post..One small step for?everyone

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  • http://domusinc.blogspot.com/2009/06/why-would-google-ding-bing.html Marco

    I think it is relevant, but it should be measurable as time goes by. One thing that is certain, though, is that Google is paying notice to Bing.

  • http://sayreonline.com/blog Brennan

    Wow, that heat map is pretty interesting. I know many older people who have switched over to Bing because it is still simple but a little more welcoming and visually more appealing.

    Brennan’s last blog post..Protecting Your Company In Local Search

  • http://www.hyperactivesam.com sam michelson

    Interesting! On one of our retail websites we have been seeing an increase in clicks and conversion % since the switch to Bing. This info may mean we should start using paid ads on MSN once again – in the past the clicks were so minimal it was hardly worth the effort.

    sam michelson’s last blog post..Evolution of the Internet and what it says about us

  • http://www.newhomessection.com/blog Jayson

    That’s pretty interesting, I wonder if the data will hold up as time goes on. If it does, I can guarantee that the Googler will be switching to a three column layout soon enough.

    This heat map definitely says top placement is important regardless – the bottom results (organic and paid) are barely viewed.

    Jayson’s last blog post..Shame on You New Home Source for Stealing Our Traffic

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  • http://www.mattlillig.blogspot.com Matt

    Unfortunately, a view doesn’t always correspond to a click and search engines don’t get paid for views. I’d like to see some click heatmap reports.

    Matt’s last blog post..Yahoo! Web Analytics 9.5 launches and new Y!WA Facebook Group!

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  • http://lab.77agency.com Rich

    While Bing may make more money per search than Google, they will also be spending more. This will make the world of search a healthier place. http://lab.77agency.com/search-engine-marketing/can-bing-level-the-search-playing-field-3148/

    Rich’s last blog post..Can Bing Level the Search Playing Field?

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  • Brad

    The sample size collected had sufficient power to detect a significant difference. The type of study performed is a common practice in virtually all forms of research practiced in all behavioral science graduate programs in the world (defending dissertations and the like).

    As you will find, User Centric consultants frequently publish papers in peer reviewed journals and publications, as well as present data at professional associations domestic and international. We believe that we run our studies in a sound and rigorous manner that is in line with the scientific method.

    That said, we acknowledge some may argue about the sample size. Yes, we could have run more participants, but that only increases power. Would 30 have been better? 40? 100? While sample size is really a question of power, a majority believe sample size comes down to “this smells large enough”. But, the problem is that this assumes that the speaker says that these results or scores can be generalized to the population. This is not a question of confidence intervals, but a question of difference. Bing and Google’s scores were significantly different. This is an inferential statistics question whether we can infer from the data that the difference is significant. If we were to run the study 20 times what is the likelihood that we could have found this difference by chance alone (p value of .05).

    User Centric did not say that the scores were generalizable, but that the difference between Bing and Google were significant. We are able to make that statement and yes, sample size played a role in the statistical analysis performed.

    Now, we certainly welcome discussions on new research questions or even if we think the result is due to the novelty of the Bing design and whether this will fade away. Valid points where we could run a study with experienced users and other permutations. Please forward topics for research questions to me directly.

    The result is what it is. Let’s talk about the implications, habituation, usefulness of features, whether the options were copied from Google and improved or made worse.

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