The Yahoo-Microsoft Deal from Searchers’ Perspective

So by now, you’ve probably heard about the Microsoft – Yahoo search deal. You may even have read my take that this will be good for advertisers. If not, go back and start there, so we’re all caught up.

I got responses from several other search marketers saying the deal looked good from their side too. We’ll be putting up a collection of industry responses later today. In the meantime, I wanted to look at the deal from a searcher perspective. Is it good for them too?

For most searchers, Google = search. They don’t know or care about the fact that Microsoft just launched a search engine, and unless they have Yahoo as their home page (likely decided by their ISP), they don’t have much use for Yahoo Search either.

Will a combined Microsoft-Yahoo search change any of that? Not likely.

“The deal is both good and bad for searchers. Bad in that there will be less choice. I personally prefer to have more options rather than less. Good for searchers in that Bing is actually a pretty good search engine,” said Amanda Watlington, owner of Searching for Profit.

Basically, it’s going to depend on just how good Bing is, and how good it will become, given the additional volume pumping through its platform. That volume should generate more relevant ads, since there will be more competition. It should also allow Microsoft to innovate with its algorithms faster, since it will have more data to work with.

Andrew Goodman, principal at Page Zero Media, agrees: “It’s a good deal for searchers. Running a high-quality consumer search property is expensive and requires constant innovation. By consolidating resources these companies can focus on their strengths,” Goodman said. “Microsoft has done a great job developing a consumer-oriented search engine in Bing. They may also have access to data from Yahoo that can help them to refine it.”

Microsoft has proven with Bing and adCenter that they can not only keep up with Google, but actually improve on what’s already out there in the marketplace. With a huge surge in traffic through those platforms, they should theoretically be able to improve on their ideas, refining their algorithms, adding features and improving relevance.

But, as has been said many times before, it’s going to take something more than just “a little better” than Google to get searchers to switch. What may happen is that Yahoo-Microsoft becomes a more credible number-two. That in itself could be good for searchers, if only because it forces Google to innovate a bit quicker, given that it’s nearest competitor will be quite a bit nearer than it’s used to.

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