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:(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.(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.