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Is Google the “Man” or Does Bing Have a Say in SEM?

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Google dominates the search engine space.  More searches are conducted on Google than anywhere else.  Google has two-thirds of the search engine market. Google generates more online sales revenue than any other search engine.  Google is the internet company to beat, except it’s unbeatable. If you aren’t ranking on Google, you’re ranking nowhere.  Concentrate on Google and you’ll be fine.

Google, Google, GOOGLE!

I don’t agree.

All of the things just stated are true, but only in a certain light. Once you start peeling away the outer layers of global data, which form the onion skin around search engine performance, a very different picture is painted.  Marketers are well aware of the fact that differentiation is the key to company promotion, and Google is not all things to all people, which means as a marketer or company promoting yourself online, you must take a more granular approach to your search engine marketing.

Google Constructs

Google dominates the search engine space – with two-thirds of searches being carried out, this is entirely true, but let’s takes a closer look at this “global” number.  Whichever way you slice the search engine pie, both Google and Bing have huge amounts of traffic cutting across every cross-section of user demographic profiles.  A third of Google searches are conducted by people overseas i.e. outside the US, whereas its closest competitor, Microsoft’s Bing, has the bulk of its search business concentrated in the US.

Does this mean you should move your search efforts to Bing to focus on the North American market?

No – Google’s sheer traffic numbers means more North American traffic is generated from Google than from Bing; but the gulf between the two companies is not as wide as is initially made out.

Google generates more online sales revenue than any other search engine – again this is true, but it does not apply across the entire spectrum of users. Bing does beat Google out in some areas.  First of all, volume traffic is not the critical factor for success in SEM – conversion rates play a huge role, which is probably more important than traffic numbers alone.  Bing has better conversion rates in some key demographics – notably users over 34 years of age, and especially in the silver surfer demographic (older, typically retired users).

Bing users are more likely to have children, be well on the way in their careers and working lives, to be home-owners and to have busy lives for which the Internet is a time-saving Godsend.  In short, Bing has a higher concentration of key demographic users in its traffic, with the motivation and the disposable income to spend time and money online. Google’s overall success is again due to the volume of search traffic compared to Bing, but we are comparing apples and oranges.  For SEM professionals looking to differentiate their offerings and focus on their target audience, they must look to see what the balance is between Google and Bing to maximize ROI.

Google is unbeatable – while the Goog Monster may appear unbeatable, let’s get serious. Google is a very well-managed company in an exceptionally strong position, but anyone thinking Google is unbeatable only need to look at the spate of American car making giants who ran for bankruptcy protection last year to understand no company is “unbeatable.”  What the future holds for Google is uncertain; in the short term it is an extremely strong company, but 5 years ago who would have believed that Facebook would grow to be a serious rival to “traditional” search?

Google’s success stems from how it rode a sea shift in how the Internet was used by people.  Perhaps another paradigm shift has already taken place with online social networking, and there is no hiding the fact that Facebook is looking increasingly cozy with Microsoft (owner of Bing).  Google competed heavily with Microsoft’s Bing to take over the Yahoo! back-end for search: Bing won that battle with Google only managing to take over Yahoo! in Japan. At the same time, Google high-tailed it out of China last year, citing issues with privacy and censorship – but Bing is expanding in that market.

Google is not, and will never have, things all its own way.

Balancing Strategies: What Does This Mean for SEM Marketers and Companies?

Unless you are the type of company which has a universal marketing denominator of zero, the lowest common denominator, you cannot focus exclusively on Google. It also makes no business sense from a risk perspective to put all your promotional eggs in to one search engine basket.  Commercial and marketing sense dictates you must diversify your promotional efforts in order to maximize ROI; your own success will be based upon your target markets and how different search engines are used by users within your own key demographics.

Diversifying your marketing efforts between competing search engines (and other marketing channels) is crucial to overall business success.  Pinning all your SEM success upon Google is a very short-term strategy which is not likely to translate into long-term stability and profitability. More than this, ignoring Bing and to a lesser extent, other search engines such as Blekko, means you are cutting yourself off from traffic which can be worth more in conversion rates and hard sales revenues.

Best practice is therefore to look at what each search engine specifically offers and to weight your resources and campaigns accordingly. Given the frequent changes and developments in the search engine space, spreading your concentrated effort is the only effective hedge against the risk of changes in fickle user behavior, and to allow you to be well-placed to take advantage of how your target markets are using the Internet in practice.

United States (US): New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, Phoenix, Philadelphia, San Antonio, San Diego, Dallas, San Jose, Austin, Jacksonville, San Francisco, Columbus, Fort Worth, Indianapolis, Charlotte, Seattle, Denver, Washington, Boston, El Paso, Detroit, Nashville-Davidson, Memphis, Portland, Oklahoma City, Las Vegas, Louisville
United Kingdom (UK): London, Birmingham, Leeds, Glasgow, Sheffield, Bradford, Liverpool, Edinburgh, Manchester, Bristol, Kirklees, Fife, Wirral, North Lanarkshire, Wakefield, Cardiff, Dudley, Wigan, East Riding, South Lanarkshire, Coventry, Belfast, Leicester, Sunderland, Sandwell, Doncaster, Stockport, Sefton, Nottingham
Canada: Toronto, Montreal, Calgary, Ottawa, Edmonton, Mississauga, North York, Winnipeg, Vancouver, Scarborough, Québec, Hamilton, Brampton, Surrey, Laval, Halifax, Etobicoke, London, Okanagan, Victoria, Windsor, Markham, Oshawa, Gatineau, Vaughan, Kitchener, Longueuil, Burnaby, Ladner, Saskatoon
Australia: Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide, Gold Coast, Canberra, Newcastle, Wollongong, Logan City, Geelong, Hobart, Townsville, Cairns, Toowoomba, Darwin, Rockingham, Launceston, Bendigo, Ballarat, Mandurah, Mackay, Bundaberg, Bunbury, Maitland, Armadale, Rockhampton, Adelaide Hills, South Brisbane, Hervey Bay

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