NEW YORK (AdAge.com) — It will be at least nine months — and probably closer to a year — before Microsoft takes over Yahoo’s search infrastructure, theoretically consolidating 28% of the U.S. search market and mounting the first credible challenge on Google in a decade.
But it’s not too early for marketers to wonder if they need to ask: Do we, uh, speak Bing?
One thing is certain: figuring that out is going to amount to a mini stimulus package for digital agencies and search-engine-optimization consultants in the first half of 2010.
Ad Age Digital DigitalNext MediaWorks Turning up on the first page of organic search results when someone types your product or brand into a keyword box is pretty much the cost of entry for any substantial e-commerce entity or marketer. And for the past decade or so that’s meant pretty much one thing: optimise your site for Google, maybe a tweak or two for Yahoo, and everything else, well, didn’t matter all that much.
“If you were well-optimised for Google, you were pretty much set, because it means you were well-optimised for everyone else out there,” said John Ragals, chief operating officer of digital agency 360i. “The gap wasn’t significant enough to warrant the extra investment.”
But Bing is quite a bit different from Google and Yahoo, both in the way it ranks pages and the way it presents results on the page. And if search becomes more of a two-player market, it could mean a return to the late ’90s, when it was common for marketers to create separate pages optimised for Yahoo, Google, Lycos and AltaVista, and as they do now for the iPhone or other mobile devices.
“You’d effectively have two pages, one for Google and one for Bing,” said Danny Sullivan, editor of SearchEngineLand.com. If all goes according to plan, Yahoo will make the switch to Bing’s organic search results in the third quarter of next year, and then fold in Bing’s paid search results soon after.
“We’ve been getting a lot of questions from clients about the differences,” said Craig McDonald, chief marketing officer of digital agency Covario. “This will have an impact in the first half of next year.”
Shooting for the top five
The big challenge for marketers will be to figure out how to land among the top five spots on both search engines. That is particularly true for Bing, which often shows only five organic results on its first page — after which it groups results into categories. Position six on Google may mean users have to scroll down to see the result; on Bing users have to click to the second page.
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