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Is Bing Missing an Opportunity to Win Users from Google?
Tuesday, April 24, 2012
As Google continue to try and organize the world's information on the Web, recent algorithm updates from the past year have turned a lot of people (mainly site owners, webmasters, SEOs, and some business owners) against Google. Will Reynolds over at Seer Interactive had a passionate post about what he learned form being banned in Google (and Will is one of the good guys).  However are these people still using Google, the answer for the most part is yes.  ComScore data suggests that Bing's market share has remained constant over the past few months.  To me, this is a missed opportunity for Bing.

Why Aren't More People Using Bing?

This is a great question.  Why aren't more people using Bing for their search needs?  Well in all reality more people are using Bing, it's just that in North America, Google is still the dominant player with regards to search.  There are a number of reasons why people are still not flocking to Bing:

  1. Nothing attracts a crowd like a crowd - all of the "cool kids" are over at Google.  Google still has a 66% market share when it comes to search in the US.  People are creatures of habit and will go with what they know best.  Having said that there has been a changing of the guard when it comes to web properties with the number of popular social media sites popping up in recent years.  Sites like Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest have been attracting users at some pretty amazing rates.  Why can't Bing so the same?
  2. Bing is a Microsoft product - because of that some people have associated a negative perception of the search engine.  The world has its fair share of "Microsoft Haters" and I would guess that some of these passionate people avoid Microsoft products as a result.
  3. Microsoft has always sucked at Search - in the beginning this was simply a result of not placing enough focus on search.  Even Bill Gates stated that Microsoft was slow out of the gates when it came to search.  So then Microsoft had to play catch up and are still playing catch up.  However they have done some positive things when it comes to search, their partnership and Facebook integration being just one example.  The fact is Bing had to and still has to be better as a search engine.
  4. Quality of Search Results - this might be the one area that Bing should be exploiting right now.  More and more people are becoming unhappy with Google search results.  That is not to say that Bing's results are better, but algorithm updates such as Panda have really starting to take its toll on many Google users.  I use search a lot as part of my digital marketing efforts.  A while back I noticed that Google's results were getting worse (based on the queries that I was performing) and as a result a wrote a quick little post on the fact that I began cheating on Google with Bing.  Bing's results were/are getting better while Google's search results were/are getting worse (again based on the queries that I was performing).  Bing should be stepping it up right now and be promoting the fact that their search results are improved while the other guy (i.e. Google) are experiencing some difficulties right now. 
  5. Google has more brand prominence than Bing - year in an year out we hear that Google is one of the world's top brands, yet we have never heard this about Bing (Microsoft does make the list however as the parent company).  In 2011, for example Microsoft's brand value decreased by 3% while Google's increased by 27% placing the two in the number three and four spots in Interbrand's Top Brand report.  Other reports such as this one have Google as the top brand in the world with Microsoft a distant #19.  Google was #3 in Forbes top brand list for 2011 whereas Microsoft came in at #11.  People just seem to like Google better than Bing (or Microsoft).
Google is still the leader in search for a number of reasons:
  • they have a larger index
  • they have better algorithms (when they use them properly)
  • they throw more computing power at their search efforts
  • they generate a ton of advertising revenue
  • they have a well versed and experienced search quality team lead by the very personable Matt Cutts
Bing has an opportunity here to make a statement and say hey "Google's good, but we're not so bad either...."  It is true that more and more users are becoming frustrated with Google's results.  Why not promote Bing as the alternate destination and wow the searchers with:
  1. A great SERP (Search Engine Results Page) user experience.
  2. Relevant Results that are timely and provide the information the user was looking for.
  3. A clean index with less spam and poor quality sites.
I read reports that Bing had reduced the importance of link popularity as part of their ranking algorithms.  This is great as link popularity can and has been totally gamed by sites who have artificially risen to the top of the search results in some cases.  The fact that Bing can potentially do something about this has to be commended.  Bing's ranking algorithms are different than Google (they admit to using CTR as part of their ranking algorithm) and as a result they appear to be better positioned to control the spam in their index.  It probably does not hurt that Bing's index is smaller than Google's which I think is part of the problem with Google as of late. 

We're not talking about understanding every little detail of the algorithms or trying to reverse engineer the algorithms, we just want the best results to appear when we type in a search query. 

I do think that Bing is missing an opportunity to win some users from Google.  Whether it is through promotion of the Bing product as being more spam free, better real-time results or what have you.  The past 12 months have been challenging for Google search and while there have been a number of changes made I sense that the discontent with Google's search results is at an all-time high.  I still use Google, but I do use Bing more often, just as I use Twitter more often and Facebook more often. 

The fact is Google needs competition in search.  Right now Bing, and to a lesser extent, Yahoo is that competition.  Therefore it makes sense for Bing to step it up and provide the information that users are looking for in the quickest manner possible.  If they can accomplish more of this, then I would expect more people to use Bing and their search products.  Frustration alone with Google might just be the little boost that Bing needs to play a bigger game in the world of Search.

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posted by Jody @ Tuesday, April 24, 2012   1 comments
12 Website Redesign Tips for 2012
Thursday, April 19, 2012
There appears to be no shortage of site owners who feel that a site redesign is required for their web properties.  It seems with most clients that I work with a site redesign has just happened or will be happening soon.  Typically there are four reasons what a site owner proceeds with a website redesign:

  1. The existing site is dated - come across any sites circa 1996 lately?  There is definitely a fair share of them out there, and this is one of the main reasons as to why site owners partake in a redesign project.

  2. It is simply time for a change - quite honestly there are some websites that truly need an overhaul and should be redesigned.  Perhaps the site does not have the opportunity to be scalable to the needs of the site owner or the business as a whole.

  3. Poor Site Design - I get a kick out of some web designers who try to make sites all flashy and shiny.  Yet they fail to take items such as usability, SEO and search into consideration.  As a result a "pretty" site gets created with very little functionality or strong usability in place.
  4. Merger/Acquiring of other organizations and their web properties - as the Web matures and with business as usual we continue to see one organization acquire another.  Nowadays this means acquiring their associated web properties as well.  For some that means planning a strategy for incorporating or decommissioning the acquired web property.  In some cases this builds a strong case for a website redesign of the organization's flagship web property.

12 Website Redesign Tips for 2012

We have provide various redesign tips in the past, but we thought now would be a great time to remind site owners, webmasters and SEOs of some key tips to leverage when planning or working through a website redesign.

  1. Establish a redesign timeline - this is critical.  I have seen a number of businesses who try to rush their redesigns.  That is the worst thing that you can do.  You need to be methodical in your website redesign as there are simply too many things to risk.  From usability issues to SEO, to legacy content, you need to develop a timeline to incorporate the planning, transition, launch and post launch phases of your site redesign.  Failure to do so can mean a lot of additional work post launch.
  2. Identify the goals of your website redesign - are you simply looking to improve the look an feel?  Are you looking to drive more traffic to your site?  Or is the goal to improve the conversion options that users are presented with so that you can drive more conversions?  Is it all of the above?  You should identify clear goals for your redesign.  These goals should be top of mind for all involved in the redesign project.  From the design team to IT, to your digital and SEO teams, the goals should be clear and concise.
  3. Take Inventory of your existing URLs - this is so important and yet I have seen a number of site owners who still don't do this.  Taking inventory of your site pages is important.  At a bare minimum this is important for three reasons:
    • to ensure that all URLs are accounted for; so you know what you are up against at a page level
    • to determine which content will be carried through as part of the redesign, which content will be redirected and which content may be decommissioned (if any).
    • to ensure that key pieces of content are not missed from an optimization perspective.

  4. Understand which areas of your website are currently driving traffic and leads -  perform an extensive review of your analytics to identify what your top traffic and converting pages are.  Ideally the pages that are performing well should be left alone so that you do not jeopardize the good standing that they have with users and the search engines.  Sometimes the smallest tweak can have a negative impact on page performance.  Be sure that you understand which pages are your top performers.  Do not mess with these pages if possible.
  5. Think of technical improvements that can be made - if you are going to go through with a website redesign you should take the time to do it properly.  Consider all of t he technical areas that can be improved with the redesign?  Are you able to leverage improved coding  coding standards such as HTML 5 and microdata?  Can your pages be redesigned so that they load faster and have cleaner coding practices overall?  If part of the reason for your redesign is to generate more traffic, then you need to consider making the site compliant with Google and other search engine guidelines. 
  6.  Take inventory of current rankings - prior to launching your new site, you should have a general idea of where your existing site is placing within the search results, especially in Google as this is where a large portion of your traffic may be coming from.  This is especially important for non-branded phrases so you can focus on content that is currently performing well in search.  You will want to preserve this content as best as possible.
  7. Content is your life blood - as part of a site redesign, you have the opportunity to ensure that your site does not feature any thin or low quality content.  You can combine pages or in extreme cases remove content that is of no value to users and/or the search engines.  A site redesign gives you the chance to serve up top quality content that is potentially fresh and increasingly beneficial to your audience and the search engines.  Ensure that you content is well optimized (but not over optimized).  Ensure that you are focusing on content themes and interlinking relevant pieces of content.  Most importantly ensure that your content is highly engaging and useful for the user.  You should be able to make vast improvements with a well-planned and well executed website redesign.
  8. Don't forget about Social - as part of your redesign in 2012, you want to make sure that your site is well optimized for social.  This may be as simply as adding or updating the social sharing buttons on your pages making it easier for users to share and promote.  Promotion of your content is nearly as important as the content creation itself.  Build your website for social acceptance.
  9. Keep it simple - do not try to over-complicate your website redesign.  Some of the largest site redesigns that have transpired have been simple in nature.  In some extreme cases a drastic change may be required, but all in all keep it simple and follow your redesign plan.  You might want to get a second opinion of what your designer is telling you.
  10. Plan for Scalability - if you think about it, if you design your site well and are able to continually populate rich and fresh content you should not ever need another website redesign.  If you plan your redesign with a long term vision, you can develop a technically sound and user friendly website for years to come.
  11. Make your site mobile friendly - with the ever increasing use of mobile devices and tablets to find information, your site needs to be mobile ready and mobile friendly.  This does not have to be an overly complicated project.  Simply ensure that your most important content is mobile friendly whether you create a mobile site or not, ensure that your flagship site can deliver to mobile users as well.
  12. Do not rush your site redesign - timing is important with site redesigns.  We discussed establishing a timeline for your redesign earlier, but here are some other issues to consider:
    • if your deadline for launch is approaching and you have not addressed the majority of usability and SEO issues, DO NOT launch.  Move your launch date.  Attention to detail is important here.  Failure to implement all of the main recommendations/updated can create a lot (and I mean a lot of additional work) post launch.
    • time your redesign for your off season.  If you are an ecommerce site reliant on holiday traffic, do not launch a new site in the last quarter (yes I have seen sites do this....).
    • allow timing for technical and SEO test to be completed
    • if you have to push back be sure to push back - delaying a site redesign is rarely a bad thing

There you go.  If you are planning a redesign in 2012, the above website redesign tips should help ensure that you enjoy a successful launch and more importantly successful post launch.

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posted by Jody @ Thursday, April 19, 2012   0 comments
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Name: Jody
Home: Kelowna, BC, Canada
About Me: SEO guy by day, family man 24/7.
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