They call this campaign BingItOn. Click at the link and you can take a blind search test that compares Google to Bing side-by-side in your own choice of searches. You get to do five searches and choose whether you like the left side, right side, or call it a draw. For the record, I took it, and it came out even for me (one of the results was a draw).
Microsoft apparently felt encouraged to do this promotion when it saw the results of an independent study. Conducted by California-based Answers Research, the study queried an online sample of nearly 1,000 people at least 18 years old, all living in the US. None of the participants in the survey knew Microsoft was involved.
Participants performed 10 searches of their own choosing, and were shown the results from both Bing and Google, side by side, with all the the branding removed. Additionally, notes Microsoft, “The test did not include ads or content in other parts of the page such as Bing’s Snapshot and Social Search panes and Google’s Knowledge Graph.” For each search, participants chose which side showed better results, or could call it a tie.
Of the participants surveyed, 57.4 percent chose Bing more often, 30.2 percent chose Google more often, and 12.4 percent didn’t prefer one over the other. (Apparently, I am among the 12.4 percent). That’s very close to the two to one preference claimed by Microsoft, but are those numbers really fair? Given that both search engines offer a certain amount of customization, one has to ask if the test truly duplicated the effect of using each engine “in the wild.” I’ve used Google a lot more than I’ve used Bing; I’d expect the former to know me better than the latter. Doesn’t that mean my search results on Google would be more relevant than my results on Bing, even if I’m using personalization features on both of them?
Chris Crum over at WebProNews points out that Microsoft is hardly breaking new ground with its BingItOn promotion. About fifteen months ago, the Blekko search engine invited everyone to play “three engine monte.” Perform a search, and you get three sets of results side by side: Bing, Google, and Blekko. Again, you don’t see the branding until after you pick the best result. Blekko still offers it, in fact; you can play three engine monte for yourself.
This may be a clever promotional move by Microsoft, but will it truly win converts? It’s hard to say. Old habits are hard to break. And if I’m right about the way personalized searches work, regular Google users may notice that Bing isn’t living up to its side of the bargain, and go back to their old friend. Bing certainly won’t get any special treatment from SEOs until they win more market share, and that’s proving to be slow going.