Microsoft Concealing True Market Share Potential?

At a recent conference (indeed every conference) that I go to, part of the debate revolves around the question… what does Microsoft need to do to be able to move the dial in terms of its share of the search market. Globally, Hitwise and Marketshare are suggesting that Microsoft accounts for less about 3% or search traffic (http://marketshare.hitslink.com/search-engine-market-share.aspx?qprid=4). In the US alone, the share is about double, at 6% according to Comscore (http://www.accuracast.com/search-daily-news/seo-7471/us-search-engine-market-share-data-jan-2009/).Now both sources are very reputable, but I question what’s under the bonnet at Microsoft. What might they still be able to do to dramatically move that dial?

Can MS change the market share just by a uniformity of message?

When we talk about the search engines, we say “Google, Microsoft and Yahoo”; Not “Google, Live and Yahoo” or “Google, MSN and Yahoo”. Indeed – Microsoft’s Adlab tool confirms the clear relative strengths of the three brand names that I associate with Microsoft’s search product:clip_image002(Source: http://adlab.microsoft.com/Keyword-Forecast/Default.aspx)Now it seems to me that there really shouldn’t be much debate here. Couldn’t Microsoft dramatically increase its profile in search if they simply accepted that they were called “MSN” or “Microsoft” instead of trying to create new brand messages?There is confusion amongst the search community as to where to find Microsoft’s organic search technology. A few years ago, Microsoft had to ask Webmasterworld to change a forum name from “MSN search” to something more appropriate because the product wasn’t “MSN”. They eventually settled on “Microsoft Search Live” to make sure nobody was confused. I am not sure that this isn’t more a case of covering the bases as much as promoting a clear brand message.

Can MS change the market share by changing the paradigm?

Over the last year or so, agencies tracking these things have decided to expand “search” to include social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter. In doing this, they should rightly bring in Instant Messenger and other MSN products. If they do this, then we should really start to see a different model of the search landscape.image(Source: Compete.com)So if Microsoft starts to really mine properties like Microsoft.com and MSN.com, we quite clearly start to see a very different picture of Market Share. Compete suggests that adding MSN usage and Microsoft usage together we en up with similar unique visitors to Google… and we haven’t even included Live.com or other Microsoft owned properties. Of course – the traffic is qualitatively different… people are not at Microsoft.com just for search purposes – but at the moment, all the metrics seem to be judging Microsoft on its core search platforms in terms of market share. If Microsoft can educate the monitoring companies to include much of their other web properties in the calculation, then they start to look like a much more serious contender.About the Author:Dixon Jones is the managing director of Receptional, a UK based Internet Marketing Consultancy. He also runs a personal blog at http://dixonjones.com and can be found on Twitter.

4 thoughts on “Microsoft Concealing True Market Share Potential?

  1. If you open up clicktracks, it splits MSN & Live search as 2 separate engines.

    It’s a very confused mess. I still refer to their Instant Messaging software as ‘MSN’ even though that’s now ‘windows live messenger’ (who knows – it’s probably something else by now, I don’t care I use Pidgin anyway).

    It’s all the more bizarre when you consider you’ll overhear people using the word ‘google’ as a verb – it’s that short and snappy and identified with search that people will say – ‘I’ll just google that!’ There’s no danger of ‘Microsoft Live Search’ entering the public consciousness in a similar way.

    Microsoft’s search strategy has just relied on their monopoly of desktop operating systems/browsers to build awareness, that may get initial traffic but it won’t help them keep visitors who will quickly switch back to using their preferred engine – Google.

    It also reminds me of this excellent article at AListApart which talks about the importants of aesthetics in building usable products:

    http://www.alistapart.com/articles/indefenseofeyecandy/

    The article references a study found at – http://ist.psu.edu/faculty_pages/jjansen/academic/pres/chi2007/jansen_branding_of_search_engines.pdf – I found the following comment particularly interesting:

    “…users judge the relevancy of identical search results from different search engines based on the brand…Participants in the study indicated that the results from Google and Yahoo were superior to identical results found through Windows Live or a generic search engine.”

  2. If MSN and Live are being measured as separate engines, that is indeed confusing. Or at the least it will under represent Microsoft’s share of search.

    The article you list was pretty interesting by the way. Makes a real change to have educated comment rather than a quick link that I simply delete.

  3. Now I’d like to think that Microsoft read my earlier reply and thought – ‘yes Nashie’s right! What we need is a brand that can be used as a verb’, mmmm maybe not but still I thought this an appropriate link to post here, here comes Microsoft’s latest search engine brand: ‘Bing’

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