Microsoft Bing's Derrick Connell talks to Danny Sullivan at the SMX Advanced conference in Seattle this morning.

Microsoft’s internal testing shows that Bing’s search results are quantifiably as relevant or, in some cases, more relevant than those from Google’s search engine.

But Microsoft says its own consumer testing shows that Google’s powerful brand still makes consumers think that the search giant’s results are better, even in cases where they aren’t.

Speaking at the SMX Advanced conference in Seattle this morning, Microsoft vice president Derrick Connell described a series of user experiments conducted by the company. The experiments showed Bing and Google search results with the correct branding, the search results with no branding, and results with the brands flip-flopped.

He said the Bing results incorrectly labeled as Google results looked significantly better in the eyes of consumers who thought they were looking at Google’s results.

“There is a perception gap,” Connell said. “There’s a consumer perception that Google’s results are better than they are, or maybe our results are not as good as they are.”

The company plans to amp up its marketing in the coming months in attempt to bridge that gap, Connell said. Conference organizer Danny Sullivan joked that Microsoft would need to go into everyone’s homes and change the defaults to make a noticeable impact on that perception.

Connell said he hopes that an independent group will conduct similar testing to verify what Microsoft has found, doing something along the lines of a Pepsi vs. Coke challenge.

Like what you're reading? Subscribe to GeekWire's free newsletters to catch every headline


  • Victor

    Businesses used to be able to compete with me-too or good enough product by undercutting the competition with price, but how do you do that when your competition is offering their product for free and has an entrenched install base like Google? Is this something marketing can solve? Microsoft has tried and failed miserably in the past trying to do the exact same thing with products like Zune and so on. The only way out is differentiate, or die. 

    I do not question Bing is as good as Google, unfortunately for Microsoft to win, it needs to be vastly better. 

  • RichardLAnderson
  • Guest

    Microsoft’s senior management seem to be serially incapable of understanding two elementary business principles.

    1) In order to win against the #1 player, particularly one with as dominant a share as Google (90%+ in most parts of the world), you can’t just be “as good or better”. You have to be dramatically better or else most won’t bother switching. That’s the minimum bar for success. Indeed, ideally you’re so different and so much better that you reinvent the category rather than just one-upping the current incumbent (e.g. iPhone, iPad).  

    2) Having achieved that, you can’t rely on it to gain share; the industry is littered with better products that nonetheless failed. You need to also be able to tell your story via effective marketing.

    Connell is basically admitting that more than five years and $8 billion in losses later, MS still hasn’t completed even the most basic steps required to effectively compete. And in typical MS fashion, rather than go back and address those, it’s just going to throw more money at its perennially ineffective marketing and hope that’s sufficient to overcome a fundamentally flawed business strategy.

    Fire Ballmer. Fire Connell. Start over.

    • Guest

      agree – history shows that the #2 is always obsessed with the #1 and tries to improve their strategy while #3 and lower think outside and change the game to unseat the #1 ( and the unfortunate #2 )

      brand is all that matters in today’s world of content abundance – bing has become a good brand – not sure why MS thinks that this kind of “marketing” strengthens the bing brand – marketing by pity? – select a search category and kill it and brag about it – this kind of talk is simply sad

      investing whatever it costs into competing with Google makes total sense for MS – keeping G’s resources focused on search and away from going after all the other cash-cow businesses is crucial – think Office or Server&Tools etc – G can undermine them easily with their ad focused / “free” business model – so the business strategy makes perfect sense 

  • swayda

    Google allows me to easily sort by date and bing does not. When using bing, it is difficult to identify out dated information. Plus the Bing ui is distracting.

    • Henry Edwards

      If you are using the new US version of Bing. They found that the majority of the users don’t use the narrow by date. also they are going to be adding it on certain results where people did use it.

      • swayda

        Well those users can use Bing then, but I use it so I will use Google. Even when I don’t explicitly narrow, Google almost always provides a date for every result, which I find useful.

        • Jillxz

          Google results rarely gives me a recent result unless I use a time frame for it.

          Bing the same , results of both engines are from 2008 , 2009 , even as far back as 2004 . Bing needs this feature really bad. But Google is just
          as bad unless you use the time frame in your Google search

      • ChrisRS

        OK. I have never seen the anrrow by date pption on an search that want to use it for

  • Rfade

    Derrick is kidding himself – in real world use – quick find me that business location or phone number – or find me that topic whic is trending on the web – Bing is NOT better…
    Hands down the Google experience is still stronger – the market is a very efficient thing – especially for a “free” product – if Bing were better – its uptake would be higher.

    MS is in a tough spot – they have to be materially better than Google and – they just aren’t.

  • Michael Brandstetter

    By now they ought to understand a thing or two about brand-building: a) Google has been building its search brand for much long than Microsoft; b) if it’s only ‘as good as’, rather than ‘consistenly better across all areas of the product”, then why bother to change the brand? As to ‘better’ search results, Google puts you into a search ‘bubble’, because of preference tracking. True, many users hate this, but hasn’t Microsoft built the very same idea into their ‘decision engine’? So, once again they look to emulate, rather than innovate, and put the blame somwhere else.

  • eknirb

    absolutely true.  Tried Bing and it’s just as good if not better in some instances.

  • Guest

    Oh, they’re going to start *marketing* it. Some good old MS marketing muscle should fix it.


  • Forrest

    Microsoft has given itself a bad name. Too many times have they been incredibly arrogant (eg holding a funeral for the iPhone) and then failed to deliver. Just follow the marketing spew in their partner program for a few years and it’ll be even more clear – “Product X is the best and everyone and their puppy needs it!” followed by a year or two later “Product X is being discontinued because no one liked it and finally people started refusing to pay for it. It was so bad there’s no transition path to another product, and we’re getting out of the market it altogether since we’re all full of hype and fail.”

    Perception is king. Microsoft has one a great job of turning perception against itself. They have no one to blame for their failures but themselves. They’re all bark and no bite.

    And I have actually tried to use Bing to see if it was better (I’m not tied to Google), but apparently my “googlefu” doesn’t translate to Bing and I couldn’t get relavant results.

  • NerdMuscles

    I’ll just leave this here:

    I’m pulling for another search engine to become competitive. When it finally happens, it’s going to come from a technology innovation and not a marketing strategy though…

  • Jillxz

    Well , Danny Sullivan , if Microsoft came to my home to change my search results , Microsoft would find their Search engine Bing as the default search.

    I think Microsoft is right. people’s perception of more relevant in Google , is because of the Google brand. In reality , Bing results are just as relevant as Google’s

  • Pvblivs

    The old saying goes “you never get a second chance to make a good first impression.” Well, my first experience with bing was when a site that I sometimes use switched from google to bing for internal searches. Bing came up empty every single time (this condition lasted for several weeks.) Picture how annoying it is to have to go out to google’s global search page to find something internal to a site you are already on. To me, bing is damaged goods and always will be.

Job Listings on GeekWork