For most consumers and businesses, the term ‘search engine’ has become synonymous with Google. While that focus is understandable—Google is by far the most popular and widely-known search engine—the result is that Microsoft’s Bing is often overlooked.
Even when it does come up, marketers are often unsure what exactly to make of Bing. On one hand the search engine has survived for more than a decade, is very well funded, and has pioneered many key innovations (such as the integration of social signals). On the other hand, it can be difficult to justify dedicating time and money to Bing when succeeding with organic and paid Google tactics is challenging enough.
Basically when it comes to search engines, most businesses find themselves asking: Does Bing really matter?
If you take a quick glance at market share, the answer seems to be: not really. While the exact numbers vary a bit depending on the source, it’s clear that Google dominates the search market with around a 92% global share and Bing is far behind with around a 2% or 3% share.
However, these numbers are slightly misleading for two reasons.
First, Bing’s U.S. market share is significantly higher than its global market share (for example, 6.5% versus 2.5% in this data). Second, Microsoft has a partnership with Verizon to power search on that company’s Yahoo and AOL properties in many regions, including the U.S.
This means Bing’s true market share in the United States is closer to the 10%-11% range.
In addition to its Verizon partnerships, Bing also benefits from being closely tied to another major corporation: parent company Microsoft.
Specifically, the search engine is closely integrated into Microsoft’s new Edge web browser (which had a strong launch this year) as well as into the company’ Windows operating system (which still powers more than three-quarters of desktops worldwide).
Bing’s integrations with Microsoft products as well as its exclusive partnerships with some platforms means that its audiences do not necessarily always overlap with Google’s—and that the traffic it drives sometimes behaves differently.
For example, when SEO expert Matthew Woodward analyzed web traffic to his own site, he found incoming traffic from Bing was actually more valuable, with fewer bounces and higher engagement rates compared with incoming traffic from Google.
While Bing’s integrations, partnerships and different audience characteristics are interesting, they probably still don’t justify investing in organic SEO specifically for the platform for most businesses given Google’s dominant position.
However, these factors do make Bing more appealing when it comes to paid search. That’s because the Microsoft Audience Network, like Google Ads, combines search data with technology such as machine learning to deliver sophisticated campaigns not just in search results but across the web.
Notably, the Audience Network includes LinkedIn—a property also owned by Microsoft—which means marketers can serve ads on the business-oriented social networking platform as well as target specific LinkedIn audiences on other platforms, including Bing (something Google can’t do).
Moreover, a number of publishers focused on professional audiences—such as The Wall Street Journal and Forbes—are also part of the Microsoft Audience Network.
So, what does this all mean?
Essentially, when it comes to organic search Bing has a larger-than-acknowledged market share but still lags far behind, so most brands should probably concentrate on Google for now (though they should occasionally check Bing’s Webmaster Tools to ensure there are no major issues with their web properties getting crawled and displayed).
The good news with that is that the fundamentals of modern SEO—such as focusing on creating high-quality content, ensuring properly structured pages, and delivering fast, mobile-optimized experiences—are effective for both Google and Bing, so focusing on the former still helps with the latter.
As for advertising, the answer is more complicated. On its own Bing still might not warrant a lot of attention, but as part of Microsoft’s Audience Network it can deliver unique opportunities—especially for firms seeking to reach professional audiences and for those looking to reach consumers who favor platforms like Yahoo and AOL.
In other words, when it comes to paid search, Bing does matter and marketers shouldn’t be too quick to dismiss it—or Microsoft.