Key to Bing Success: Breaking ‘Google Habit’?

Even with last month’s revelation that Microsoft and Yahoo will combine their search efforts, Microsoft has a long haul to gain a significant leg up over its arch competitor.

To do that, according to a leading search analytics firm, Bing must break users’ Google reflex.

Although combined traffic to Microsoft’s (NASDAQ: MSFT) and Yahoo’s (NASDAQ: YHOO) search engines comes to only about half the traffic garnered by Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) in June, comScore’s latest analysis shows the upstarts have a real opportunity in breaking users’ subconscious loyalty to the search giant.

Late last month, Microsoft and Yahoo finally struck a long-awaited deal, which will see Microsoft merge and manage the companies’ technology platforms, while Yahoo will handle the global ad-sales operation.

The key to success, comScore said in its analysis, is to target users’ secondary searches.

“While they are still looking up at Google in terms of market share, they [Microsoft and Yahoo] have a real opportunity to make headway given that nearly three-quarters of all searchers conduct at least one search on these engines every month,” Eli Goodman, comScore’s search evangelist, said in a statement.

“The challenge will be to create a search experience compelling enough to convert lighter searchers into regular searchers, which is generally easier than converting new users,” he added.

So the idea is to lure away searchers who do not already have a strong subconscious bond with Google — what Goodman called “lighter searchers.”

The question is how to do that.

In June, Google netted 65 percent of U.S. searches, while Microsoft and Yahoo’s combined share stayed at a fairly consistent 28 percent. Microsoft’s Bing pulled 8.4 percent of searches, while Yahoo, in second place behind Google, pulled in 19.6 percent, comScore said last month.

The introduction of Bing at the end of May has given Microsoft a small jump in market share.

In its analysis of searchers’ habits, comScore found that Google inspires the most loyalty of the three engines. However, that doesn’t mean that all Google users are so bonded to their primary search engine that they can’t be converted.

In order to “disrupt the Google habit,” however, Microsoft and Yahoo need to provide a motivation for users to do “the cognitive heavy lifting required to break a subconscious habit,” comScore said.

One way to do that is to provide “a significantly differentiated and superior search experience,” the analysis concludes.

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