A simple look at search market share in Europe shows that Europe is a Google continent. Though the search giant’s headquarters are physically based in Silicon Valley, a huge part of their community is based in Europe. Only Yandex in Russia and Seznam in Czech are able to compete with Google, but only on a very limited basis: in their country only.
And what about Bing and Yahoo? The runners-up who finally are integrating their search results? Bing and Yahoo are very small players in Europe. Except for the UK, Bing nowhere has a market share larger than a few percent. And to be completely honest, at this moment they don’t deserve more market share than they have now.
When you look at Bing in the US you can see all sorts of great stuff. Bing Maps wins it over Google Maps in my view. Bing has much more focus on user behavior and is really trying to be the “decision engine” it claims it is.
Using Bing in Europe offers a very different experience, however. In the UK Bing “kind of” looks like Bing in the US. Some of the features you can enjoy in the US are present, but not all of them. Across the channel in mainland Europe things are worse. In Europe, Bing just is Live Search with a Bing Logo pasted on it. No nice features, no decision engine, nothing.
The fact that Microsoft decided to rebrand Live Search as Bing, even without updated indexes and algorithms for all the different European countries, indicates they have plans for it. But so far nothing happened.
Rebranding a site rises expectations. With the talk of the new Bing, and announcements of new features like Bing Street Slide, people are expecting Bing in Europe to have the same features as the US version. And when they go to Bing, they don’t see it. At least, not enough. And that is hurting Bing’s reputation.
Personally, I like Bing, but maybe thats because I’m using Bing over a proxy as if I was in the US. I’m getting the full experience. Most users in Europe however aren’t, and when asked most of them will say “its not good enough.”
When Bing finally decides it will roll out a fully featured version in Europe, the damage might have already been done. How will people who visited Bing when it wasn’t good be convinced that Bing has changed? Chances are the longer Microsoft waits to get its act together in Europe, the harder its going to be to gain the market share they need.
Does Bing need Europe?
There are a few reasons Microsoft is taking so long to introduce the fully functional Bing decision engines to the different countries in Europe. First of all it takes time to set up the specific country databases, and Microsoft needs to close all sorts of deals with European content providers. But more importantly: Microsoft first wants to get things “perfect” in the US so it won’t be making any mistakes in Europe.
At first sight it looks like Microsoft doesn’t need Europe. It seems happy with gaining the market share in the US. But Bing is missing out on great opportunities in Europe. Even though their market share now is low, with all the privacy issues Google is running into there are chances to gain share.
But do they need it? Yes they do. To actually gain ground, even in the US, they need the European market share. Plus, why shouldn’t they? Europe is big, it would be unwise to ignore an entire continent. As a Dutch blogger pointed out recently, “focusing on one thing doesn’t mean you have to totally neglect the rest.”
Does Europe need Bing?
Yes it does. Europe needs Bing to come through very much. Having only Google as a search engine is bad for quality search results across the board. Having Bing as an alternative will not only improve the search engines, it will improve the “web-savvy-ness” of Europeans.
Competition is good, and there should be more choice. It is very bad for a market to just have one search engine. A business gets vulnerable if it has to rely on just one provider. And that is what is happening now. Businesses are relying more and more on Google. They either make money through AdSense or, more importantly, get their clients by having a well optimized website. If Google decided to pull the plug their business would be ruined.
Those companies need an alternative, and Bing is the only one who can conceivably compete with Google. Microsoft is a big enough company, and they have the knowledge and a proven decision engine which is already working and gaining market share in the US.
For now Bing doesn’t seem to be making any rapid moves towards Europe. If all goes according to plan probably France and Germany will be the next countries to enjoy Bing rather than a cosmetically rebranded Live Search. But even that will take a while. And the UK is still waiting for the “full” Bing experience.
For now if you want to go and optimize for Europe putting much effort into Bing is not worth it, unless you are focusing on the UK. However, when Microsoft does fully enable Bing in Europe, you should be optimizing for a presence there too. So set up your Bing Webmaster tools account and be ready.
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