It’s official: I now use Bing instead of Google

bingI know what you’re thinking: I work for Microsoft, so of course I’m going to use Bing! The truth is, though, that I’ve been using Google as my default search engine up until Bing was released two weeks ago. Previously, I just didn’t find any compelling reason to use Microsoft’s search engine(s). I like to think of myself as someone who doesn’t change habits just because he works for a company. Rather, I need to want to change a habit, if that makes sense.

That said, I’ll give most anything (specific to technology) a try at least once. So I thought I’d give Microsoft’s latest response to Google search another try for a couple weeks. This time: I’m sticking. The difference? I think Microsoft nailed it with the “vertical” search decision concept. You see, Bing is optimized for four types of searches decisions: shopping, travel, health, and local.

What I didn’t realize until now is that those four categories cover around two thirds of all my search decision queries (that’s an approximation for myself, I’m guessing the Bing team has a more accurate aggregate number that explains query breakdown). And now Bing displays those kinds of results very effectively. Here are a couple examples from my past week of searching deciding:

  1. I was interested in Indian food, so I searched for “Indian Food 98004” and right away got a listing of all the Indian restaurants in my area. If I click through on one, I get a landing page that aggregates reviews, shows a “scorecard”, provides 1-click directions, and shows photos and pricing information.
  2. I was looking for a particular flight, so I keyed in “Seattle to Austin” and right at the top of the list of results was the best price along with a prediction of if it’s going to rise or fall. If I click through, I get a landing page with all sorts of relevant information for booking travel.

Does this mean I’ll never use Google again? Of course not. The thing about search is that switching costs are very low. If Bing doesn’t give me what I want quickly, there’s a good chance I’ll give Google a try (just like I used to use other search engines other than Google when Google didn’t give me what I wanted quickly enough). But now that Bing shines with two thirds of my searches decisions, it’s earned the right to be my default.

According to some, Bing has Google running scared. While I’m not sure about that, I am glad to be in a position where I want to use my own company’s search engine.

Cross-posted to the Microsoft Learning blog.

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  • Xephrey

    Whoah! The travel section IS actually quite good! It gets me what I'm asking for really fast, really easily like you said – plus the majority of the page's real estate is devoted to information that I actually am looking for!

  • http://thenoisychannel.com/ Daniel Tunkelang

    Out of curiosity, what distinguishes Bing from Google on that first example? Isn't the Google result ( http://www.google.com/search?q=indian+food+98004 ) comparable?

    I grant that Bing wins over Google on travel–though I'd say that's by default, since Google doesn't do travel. The real question is how Bing compares to Kayak, which is clearly its real target here. I still prefer Kayak, though I imagine some people appreciate the Farecast stuff, but I'm skeptical that it's enough for Microsoft to gain significant market share in this vertical.

    You don't really comment on the other two verticals: shopping and health. I'm underwhelmed by Google on both of these, but frankly not all that whelmed by Bing either.

    My early reactions to Bing and some interesting discussion:

    http://thenoisychannel.com/2009/06/01/banging-o

  • http://bobcaswell.com Bob Caswell

    Hi Daniel,

    The first half of the Google result is comparable (for the food query) but the second half, comparing Bing's easy-to-find, more appealing landing page with a “scorecard” to Google's hidden, less flashy version… seems to me Bing wins on that one. Granted, the actual difference in info presented on the two landing pages is not significantly different (though Bing's does have more), but Bing's seems more intuitively designed and easier to navigate/find.

    As for travel, sure, it competes with kayak (a service I know and love, btw). But I really doubt the audience Microsoft is going after with this is likely to be die hard kayak fans (or even people who know what kayak is). I'm guessing the majority of new users of Bing that come to test it after seeing some of the ad campaign have likely never heard of kayak. Point being, as compared to Google, which is what everyone has heard of, this is a definite value add. And even for those who have heard of kayak, there is something to be said about having one less place to check. I'm used to kayak but prefer getting these kinds of results directly from my search engine now that that's an option.

    As for the other two verticals, I haven't played with health but I definitely have played with shopping. Left that one out because it was a similar comparison (in my opinion) as the restaurant. I really like Bing's product/shopping landing page over Google's.

    All in all, though, I can definitely see how this could come across as a disappointment to an experienced user as yourself. These are smaller, incremental improvements that experienced searchers are already comfortable with. But Microsoft is the one bringing this kind of new perspective on search into the light. Remember that as Google improves stuff, it rarely tells anyone beyond a blog post. I could be wrong, but I'm guessing the majority of Google searchers probably use Google the same way that they did 5 years ago. That is, even if much has changed in the past 5 years, Google user search habits probably haven't.

    Thanks for the link, loved the discussion over on your site.

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  • James

    Good insightful article!

    I've been unhappy or frustrated too often with Google results. The ads at the top are really bad but perhaps the worst are the non-relevant results. I found when you do a search for an item, many times you will see a competitors product listed first and that's because the competitor paid more to appear first. That is absolutely ridiculous to me. Needless to say, I've been happy using Bing. It's been a pleasant experience as well as yielding surprisingly fast results. Finally, I'm very annoyed at the lack of elegance from Google. Enough with the primary colors already, we don't live in a 4 bit world. On that note, Bing wins in my book for being more stylish.

    Another problem for me is that Safari for Mac's omnibar doesn't allow you to choose other search engines like FF, etc. So Mac users are locked in to Google. That really stinks. I prefer to have a choice.

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  • http://bobcaswell.com Bob Caswell

    Glad it's working out for you, James. I had no idea about that Safari limitation, wow.

  • Fadzai

    I used to us Start.com a long time ago, the google got better and I moved over, and they had iGoogle which is (almost) a similar experience to start.com but I didn't really like it.

    Last week, I went over to iGoogle after a long while and didn't really like it (again) so I decided to go back to the first such site I had seen, start.com, but it re-directed me to bing.com. At first I thought a virus had hijacked my page, but a couple of days ago, our development manager mentioned a decision engine called bing that microsoft had worked on that would give relevant results.

    A colleague and I then sat at my computer and went to google (insert chuckle here) to get searched for the term “bing” (We both couldn't remember where we had come across the term.) We tried a few quesitions, and these are the results

    http://www.bing.com/search?q=what+is+the+popula
    http://www.bing.com/search?q=who+is+the+preside
    http://www.bing.com/search?q=who+is+the+preside
    http://www.bing.com/search?q=what+is+the+capita
    http://www.bing.com/search?q=80054*(3%2B(4*4.56

    and a few other items and we totally loved they way the most relevant thing comes frist and is (usually) most prominent on the results page. Now granted, google generates similar results for some search terms, but we were blown away when we tried some travel related questions.

    I have now told all my browsers to search Bing, (this includes Chrome – queue that chuckle again) and downloaded the Bing Api which I am yet to play with.

    While chatting with him today I sent a phrase in spanish which he translated using http://www.microsofttranslator.com and we compared with results (once) on google. The first link we got on google could translate one word at a time, but Bing does *500*!!!. What's more, he scrolled down the page and we saw that there is a bot that can translate for you in Live messenger, … (at this point we were speechless)

    I am no authority on the matter, but I think this is what searching (and translating, and the whole internet experience) should be.

    Kudos to Microsoft, this is a brilliant product with multiple uses, is very convenient, and looks more elegant than some other engine I know.

    We have some google heads here, but we are now *Binging the house down*. You should have started Start.com like this, and I probably would never had crossed the web to go to google.

  • http://bobcaswell.com Bob Caswell

    Great examples, Fadzai, thanks.

  • http://www.getatrip.com/ Get A Trip

    Thanks for the very informative article on Bing. Though we are not indexed yet by the search engines as we are still in web development, I have always been frustrated with Google, yet know little about Bing. I typed in the word “Travel” and the search results were almost identical to Google in that the paid listings/sponsored searches hovered above and to the right of the search results. It sure looks identical to Google to me in everyway. Am I missing something? Does anyone know a site that talks about Bing's SEO information?

  • Bighappy

    Hmm this is most likely my problem with BING.COM everything I search for has absolutly nothing to do with shopping, travel, health, and local. Or I guess I should say about 93% of all my searches. I'm glad it works in your envioment because it sucks worse then AltaVista if you try to find technical information or information on classic cars.

  • http://bobcaswell.com Bob Caswell

    Thanks for the thoughts, Bighappy, hopefully Bing will get to the point where you'll want to use it for tech info or classic cars.

    I have to ask, though, when you say that 93% of your searches have “absolutely nothing to do with shopping, travel, health, and local” that means less than 1 in 10 times you “search” online it doesn't fall into those categories… that's a lot of searching for technical information and classic cars!

  • http://bobcaswell.com Bob Caswell

    Thanks for the thoughts, Bighappy, hopefully Bing will get to the point where you'll want to use it for tech info or classic cars.

    When you say that 93% of your searches have “absolutely nothing to do with shopping, travel, health, and local” that means less than 1 in 10 times you “search” online it doesn't fall into those categories… that's a lot of searching for technical information and classic cars!

  • Guest

    If google would have left there search engine alone I would have stayed with them.
    But first they screwed up there main page, then they messed up there image search they used to have the best image search in the world now they stink. And the stupied google instant which is on by default, I hate google instant and its a pain having to turn off google instant after everytime I clean my browser. Bing search has progressed now and comes up with what I am looking for always, Google used to do that but now you get off the wall results. So I have had bing as my default for the last 7-8 months now and will stay that way. If it ain’t broke don’t fix it I guees, google did not heed that advice thats why I switched they ruined what was the perfect search engine.