Top stories June 2009

Bing Microsoft launches Bing supported by $100m advertising drive
The big news this month is that Microsoft launched its new search engine, Bing, on 28 May, its fourth new engine in five years and a replacement for last year's Live Search.

The company described it as 'specifically designed to build on the benefits of today's search engines' but said it would begin to move beyond this experience with 'a new approach to user experience and intuitive tools to help customers make better decisions.'

Microsoft has also unveiled its intentions of setting up a high-profile UK agency and advertiser roadshow, in a clear bid to persuade UK brands to invest in Bing.

Senior Bing champions will attend the company's annual search summit in London on 18 June 2009, and begin the process of convincing its clients that Bing can be a serious contender for Google. The Microsoft Advertiser Roadshow will go out to agencies and advertisers in June and July.

Figures from internet monitor, Hitwise, show that Microsoft's share of UK search traffic fell from 8.55% in April 2006 to 3.51% in April 2009, while Google's rose from 69.36% to 86.94%. So the question on everyone's lips is: will Bing regain some of this market share for Microsoft?

To achieve this huge numbers of people will need to be persuaded to kick the Google habit, a fact all too obvious to Microsoft, who has committed $100m to its Bing advertising campaign in the US.

Greenlight is holding The Greenlight Bing Challenge agency-wide from Monday 8 June 2009. Employees are competing to see who can forgo Google and use Bing the longest. To follow their progress and contribute comments and details of your own Bing experiences, go to the Facebook fan page.

Wolfram Wolfram Alpha: not trying to beat Google
Wolfram Alpha's launch hit the headlines back in May 2009 and has continued to fill column inches ever since, not least for debate over its potential to usurp Google (see our April newsletter for initial coverage). 
Founder, Stephen Wolfram, calls his creation a 'computational knowledge engine' rather than a traditional search engine. What's more, he's made no claims to 'kill' rival, Google, and goes so far as to not rule out working with the search giant in the future.

Wolfram says, 'We're working to partner with all possible organisations that make sense. Search, narrative, news are complementary to what we have.'

The engine provides users with direct answers to queries by searching its internal knowledge databases instead of the web. Answers are accompanied by graphs and tables, placing the engine somewhere between Google and Wikipedia, and making it a useful resource for a minority.

Greenlight COO, Andreas Pouros, calls it 'a useful experiment in information retrieval', but says it has a long way to go before becoming useful.

'Semantic search will make this something that can be easily replicated, and will mean other search engines can emulate Wolfram's approach.'

Squared Google Squared launches
Google launched its Google Squared application on 3 June. An advanced function, it provides search results in the form of a spreadsheet-like grid or Google Square.

Ideal for making comparisons between potential purchases, Google Squared significantly reduces the time spent working out users' best options, for example for a type of mobile phone or holiday, by organising the searches into a comparison table format.

At its 12 May Searchology conference in California, Google previewed a number of other innovative search products, which all created customisable search results.

Results can now be edited to include only the most recent (as much as up to 24 hours before), which has been called an attempt to capitalise on the growing demand for so called real-time results generated by Twitter.  

From 13 May onwards Google started displaying a 'Show Options' tab for every search conducted. This allows users to customise their queries to include more videos, images, forum results, reviews or a timeline. A further feature allows search results to link up and display on users' mobile phones when they log on to the website from their handset.

Yahoo Yahoo!  brings new search functionality to the mix

Yahoo! announced plans to revolutionise search and the standard text-heavy results page at its press event in late May.

The search engine's idea for creating a more engaging user experience is to view the internet as a series of objects rather than pages. It claims users are looking for relevancy over pages of results.

Say you were searching for a restaurant. Instead of just returning links to the main website, followed by a collection of other algorithmically decided results, Yahoo! envisages a capsule of relevant information, including reviews, opening hours and photographs.

The new initiative forms part of Yahoo!'s year-old Search Monkey project, which allows companies to send the data they want included in their search results to the search engine. As many as 70m enhanced results are viewed by users daily.

Twitter Less Twitter, more Twoogle?

Never far from the headlines, Twitter has now announced plans to begin fine-tuning its search function by indexing the links included in tweets.

The move will effectively create a real-time mini Google, with the search function returning links to millions of web pages. It will incorporate a reputation-ranking system too, also reminiscent of the search engine giant.

Google co-founder, Larry Page, has admitted his company has been losing out to Twitter in the race to meet web users' demand for real-time information. Google Chairman and Chief Executive, Eric Schmidt, goes so far as hinting Google could become Twitter's partner, however he dismisses Google would want to buy Twitter. 

'There is a presumption that you cannot  have multiple solutions that co-exist. We can talk to them...there is all sorts of stuff we can do. We do not have to buy everybody to work with them.'

Google Google changes trademark policy. Again.

Google announced a further change to its trademark policy on 15 May, which allows the limited use of trademarks in ad copy, even if the trademark owner objects.

Taking effect in the US from 15 June this year, the policy change will reduce the number of generic ads on Google's US network and benefit both users and advertisers, the search behemoth claims.

Greenlight's PPC Director, Hannah Kimuyu, says, however, 'Some advertisers will do all they can to be visible, even if that means abusing the power Google has bestowed upon them.'

The revised policy follows on from last year's May 2008 changes, which saw Google allow keyword bidding on previously trademarked terms across the UK and Europe. 

Kimuyu adds that after May 2008 many large brands were taken advantage of by their competitors, who almost abused the use of other brands in some cases, which resulted in a significant loss in brand visibility and ownership.

A further problem, she says, is counterfeiters, who will be able to pose as the genuine product in their ads.

'I expect this to be rolled out in the UK before long. Our advice would be to get some brand protection in place. That way, when the trademark policy does change you'll know exactly who is targeting you and can apply the appropriate strategy.'

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