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Bing Growing at Expense of MSN?

Danny Goodwin
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Microsoft is pushing Bing hard on msn.com, but it's not coming without a price. Some MSN partners -- and even MSN's sales staff -- are angry that links to searches on Bing are hogging some valuable space on MSN's home page.

Following up on an earlier New York Post story, Adweek reports that sites including Delish, Wonderwall, and Glo all saw traffic plummet while Bing's traffic jumped. Adweek also reports that "MSN executives had to a write a check for a few hundred thousand dollars" to preserve the Delish partnership.

A look at MSN's home page today shows that indeed, links leading to Bing search results have increased of late:

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The screenshot shows a total of 29 links to Bing on msn.com. There are 48 other links on the page (for a total of 77), which means Bing was given a total of less than 40 percent of the links on this version of their home page.

Microsoft said ad revenue is rising and they're happy to see their audience is growing. Still, those anonymous executives aren't happy.

Adweek quotes three anonymous sources, who said, "The revenue numbers are fine, but Bing is sucking the life out of MSN"; "This is something they need to decide on the corporate level"; "What does it say about Bing that they have to do this at the expense of MSN? Especially as the display market heats up?"

Adam Sohn, Microsoft's senior director, responded in a statement: "Microsoft is investing more than ever in the success of its online services, including MSN and Bing. Content and partnerships remain a critical part of this strategy, as is a healthy and growing search business."

Although the Post story notes that "Microsoft's plan to direct customers away from MSN and toward Bing comes while MSN's unique users are growing," a quick check of Compete reveals that Bing has seen much more growth over the last year, increasing from 38.8 million in December 2009 to 79.8 million in December 2010. During the same period, MSN grew from 70.5 million uniques to 74.6 million:

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Guess they've never heard the old phrase "a rising tide lifts all boats"?

So the problem seems a bit overblown as MSN doesn't seem to really be suffering all that much traffic-wise due to Bing. And Bing is also gaining more search market share, in part thanks to MSN's push.

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Bing search share grew once again in December, increasing from 11.8 percent to 12 percent, according to comScore. Combined with Yahoo search, which Bing powers, Bing now serves 28 percent of U.S. searches per month (or 4.6 billion searches).

Bing still has a long way to go before rivaling Google, which saw its market share rise to 66.6 percent, up from 66.2 percent in November, and 11 billion searches.

Bing searches grew 5 percent in December, and had a higher success rate than Google searches, according to Hitwise:

"Bing and Yahoo! Search achieved the highest success rates in December 2010, meaning that for both search engines, 81 percent of searches executed resulted in a visit to a Website. Google achieved a success rate of 65 percent, up 1 percent over the previous month. The share of unsuccessful searches highlights the opportunity for both the search engines and marketers to evaluate the search engine result pages to ensure that searchers are finding the information they are seeking."

Bing's biggest obstacle is convincing Google users to switch search engines. Those "search overload" ads aren't going to do it.


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