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4 Ways Microsoft Could Improve Bing

bing

When it was first launched in June of 2009, some proclaimed that Bing – a search engine owned, operated, and maintained by software giant Microsoft – would be the future of how we search the web.  And while Bing did have a handful of shiny bells and whistles (for the time), the search engine has yet to truly take off to the extent that Microsoft would have liked it to.  In fact, up until today I have heard very little news about Bing in the news, and in all honesty have all but forgotten the could-be revolutionary search engine.

With Bing’s being caught red-handed copying Google’s search results being the first big mention of Bing that I’ve seen in a matter of months, it is clear that the search engine is heading in the wrong direction.  But what can Microsoft do to turn Bing around to become the successful search engine that it has the potential to be?

Business

First and foremost, Microsoft needs to take a serious look at Bing from a business perspective.  As it stands now, Bing is doing nothing but costing Microsoft millions of dollars each year.  While this would be all fine and dandy if Microsoft was seeing a return on their investment, the fact remains that Bing is nothing but a financial black hole for Microsoft.

I understand that Microsoft has substantial operating expenses with Bing and that they have to spend money in order to get the wheels turning with Bing.  I can even understand that as of right now the search engine is still too young to bring in boatloads of revenue, and should be expected to eat at Microsoft’s profits until it is able to sustain on its own.  However this does not change the fact that I still feel that Microsoft could likely re-evaluate their current spending with Bing in order to use the money that they are already spending more productively in order to see a higher return on investment.

In essence, this means that by trimming the fat in Bing’s operating expenses and better investing that money into innovating Bing and investing to tie the search engine into more places (think default search engine in browsers, etc), Microsoft would potentially have a much more successful search venture on their hands.

Don’t get me wrong, though.  I’m sure Bing is still going to be a black hole for Microsoft’s money for a while, but I honestly feel that because Microsoft is currently sacrificing money to support Bing they should at least be seeing “more Bing for their buck.”

Innovation

One of the aspects that helped Bing to get off the ground in the beginning was the fact that it had a handful of features that were relatively unheard of at the time.  Features such as more organized and intuitive search results (showing images, video, news, etc on one page) helped to fuel Microsoft’s “decision engine” campaign, which I think helped to make Bing stand out from the other search engines on the Internet, most notably Google.  However even though Bing had innovative features at the time, they failed to continue innovating.  This ultimately set Bing up for failure and gave Google the time to implement similar features into their service, eliminating the “cutting edge” that Bing had.

As I touched on when I talked about Bing’s business strategy, I think that Microsoft would be best off to invest in Bing in order to bring more iconic features to the table to help make Bing stand out again.  You see, if Microsoft could bring Bing back to the point where it had advantages over other search engines, I think more people would be willing to use it.  I would also hope that Microsoft would learn from their mistakes as well and work on continuously innovating Bing to keep it fresh and current.  Not doing so would leave Bing in the dust.  Again.

Name Recognition

Being in the search engine arena, Bing is naturally up against stiff competition.  Many Internet users have been using Google for years and have simply continue to do so out of habit.  At the end of the day, Bing isn’t a bad search engine by any stretch of the imagination, and as I’ve said before I honestly think that I would use Bing more often if I simply remembered that it existed; and I think most users feel the same way.

When you think of “Internet search”, you probably think of “Google” naturally; much like many think tie the words “tissues” and “Kleenex” together even though “Kleenex” is a brand name.  In order to be successful, Bing needs to have this same recognition amongst Internet users.  More importantly, Bing needs to be people’s first thought when they think of Internet search in order to see any kind of success.  While name recognition is hard to build to begin with, Bing is fighting amongst more dominant search engines such as Google in order to be what people naturally use as a search engine.

I definitely give Microsoft a lot of credit for pursuing various advertising mechanisms such as television in an effort to make users more aware of Bing.  This type of advertising is sure to help make more people aware of the service, but Microsoft still needs to step up their game in marketing Bing if they are ever going to have any chance at luring long-time Google users.  In short, Bing needs to become a household name – much like Google – and Microsoft not only needs to make users aware of Bing’s presence, but rather work on convincing users to give Bing a chance as well.

Google

Last but not least, Bing needs to learn from Google’s successes and failures if they are going to stand a chance at becoming the next Google.  One of the biggest weaknesses that Google has right now is poor result relevance.  If Bing can beef up their own result relevance to surpass that of Google, they could have a new “in” with Internet users frustrated with Google’s poor results.  Admittedly, this is probably going to be a bit hard seeing as how Bing is now being accused of blatantly copying Google’s search results, but I still think that Microsoft should seriously consider a focus in result relevance.  This would, after all, give Bing the innovative “edge” that I refered to earlier, and would give users a genuine reason to use Bing as their primary search engine.