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Revamped Bing sets its sights on Google with Pepsi Challenge style campaign

Microsoft’s search engine, Bing, is tak­ing bold steps to lose its sta­tus as Google’s less sophis­ti­cat­ed lit­tle broth­er with a new cam­paign called “Bing it On.”

If suc­cess­ful, online adver­tis­ing sales could ben­e­fit from a search engine to rival Google for accu­ra­cy and relevance.

A moun­tain to climb?

So, what can the for­ward-look­ing search engine mar­ket­ing spe­cial­ist, busi­ness devel­op­ment man­ag­er and advert­ing sales man­ag­er glean from the new cam­paign?  “Bing it On” bor­rows from Pepsi’s famous blind taste chal­lenges dur­ing the ‘70s and ’80s and presents side-by-side search results for five search queries, pit­ting Bing against Google.  Searchers then choose which results are best and which are a draw.  So far, Microsoft claims, the results of its own blind tri­als are in its favor by
2 to 1.

Break­ing the “Google habit” is going to involve a for­mi­da­ble strug­gle. Google com­mands a thun­der­ing 66.8 per­cent of the search mar­ket, with growth of 1.8 per cent since Bing made its first appear­ance in June 2010.  This com­pares to Bing’s still fee­ble 15.8 per­cent, vir­tu­al­ly all of which has been gained from Microsoft part­ner Yahoo.

Play­ing the long game

Despite the rel­a­tive­ly small gains, some indus­try insid­ers believe Bing it On is a bril­liant first step in a longer-term push to break Google’s posi­tion as the “go to” search engine.  As Bing R&D Vice Pres­i­dent Harold Shum notes in a recent blog, it has involved almost fever pitch inno­va­tion by Microsoft engi­neers in devel­op­ing “Fas­tRank” tech­nol­o­gy and sophis­ti­cat­ed new algo­rithms to mas­sive­ly increase the rel­e­van­cy of Bing’s search results.

He writes, “[W]e feel con­fi­dent that it’s time for cus­tomers to come give us a look, and for a con­ver­sa­tion on search­ing qual­i­ty to occur in our industry.”

Not every­one is enthus­ing about the Bing it On cam­paign, how­ev­er.  Tech jour­nal­ist Joe Wilcox of describes it as a “real turn off”: in the blind chal­lenges, impor­tant details such as loca­tion are stripped out of the search results, mak­ing it impos­si­ble to make an informed deci­sion over which “side” is best.

For Microsoft, though, this is but the first step on a long jour­ney it ful­ly intends to be a “catch-up and over­take” mission.

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