Microsoft brings Google search fight to UK

February 24, 2011 - Digital State Marketing

The software giant has launched a fully localised version of its Bing search engine in the UK

From Friday, Microsoft will go head to head with Google in the UK, when it launches a fully localised version of its Bing search engine, taking the UK site out of the Beta testing stage it has been in since launch in June.

With the launch, the UK will become the third country after the United States and Canada to receive a tailor-made version of Bing.

“We have had a dedicated team of 50 people working hard since June to make our results work better for people in the UK,” Ashley Highfield, Microsoft’s managing director of consumer and online products told The Times. “In particular, we want to excel in e-commerce because British people outweigh the US in terms of online shopping, and we wanted to make sure it could help you find a TV or camera in time for Christmas.”

In the United States, where the full version of Bing has been available since June, the search engine has been steadily building market share, though it still trails the market leader Google by some distance. The latest figures from Hitwise, for October, show Bing’s share of search climbing to 9.57 per cent, up from 8.96 per cent in September. In the same period, Google’s share fell to 70 per cent from 71 per cent. The introduction of Bing could potentially alter internet searching, and companies will have to be more aware of how to improve their SEO across a range of search engines.

In the UK, Bing’s share of search currently stands at around 3 per cent, roughly the same amount as its predecessor, Windows Live Search.

Bing’s approach to search is based on a more visual approach than that offered by its rivals. Searches for a major company will return not only a direct link to the site in question, but a précis of useful information from that site, including telephone numbers and even search boxes. Maps are also integrated into the search results, as is the ability to search Twitter feeds. Bing may be the start of a change in the face of internet searching. This may result in companies having to change the way they use website marketing to be effective in the eyes of  new search engines.

“We want to bring an end to the current ‘in out’ nature of search,” Mr Highfield said. “Where you click through to a result, find it’s not what you are looking for and then go back and search again. Our unique selling point is to give you the answers that you want in one page.”

Microsoft has so far spent $2 billion on rebuilding and rebranding its search effort, but it is unlikely ever to dominate the market in the same way as Google, one search expert told The Times. “The difference is that Google began as a search engine, producing results that people liked, whereas for Microsoft, it’s just another weapon in their armoury.”

The biggest challenge for Bing is breaking the Google habit. Nowhere outside Microsoft HQ does anyone talk of “Binging”, rather than “Googling” something online. This is why it is still critical for businesses to properly and effectively advertise their firms online using SEO techniques that centre around Google.