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Bing must go more local to crack SA

Microsoft will need to give search users in South Africa similar features to the ones Bing users in the US enjoy if it is to grow its share of the country’s search market. RICHARD MULLINS, director of digital marketing consultancy Acceleration, makes the argument for localised search content.

With the launch of its rebranded search engine, Bing, Microsoft has signalled that it is going to keep fighting Google for a larger share of the global search market. Just a few short weeks after the launch of Bing, Microsoft already appears to be making some inroads against Google.

By end June, Microsoft grew its share of the US search market to 8.23% up from the 7.8% share it held before the rebranding and revamp of its search engine, according to Internet data firm, StatCounter. In the UK, Bing has also performed well, eclipsing Yahoo! to take second place in the search market (prior to Yahoo! Agreeing to using Bing as its search engine).

But to really starting making a dent in the global search market, Microsoft will need to accelerate the localisation of the Bing search engine for international markets and fight the current perception that most countries outside the US are treated as secondary markets.

Some bloggers have derided the implementations of Bing outside the US as ‘Diet Bing’ – a beta version of the product that offers far less functionality and fewer features than the real deal that American users have access to. This is as true in South Africa as it is in other countries.

Although many search experts and market researchers agree that Bing gets high marks for its interface and visual design and the relevance of its search results, the lack of some of its best features in the versions used by international users could hurt Bing’s growth into the future.

In the US, Microsoft offers a full list of features and search types, including video, news, images and maps. In addition, Bing US offers categorised automated searches such as Bing Health, Bing Mobile, Bing Shopping local and Bing travel, features entirely missing in South Africa and other parts of the world. These are also the features that differentiate it from Google, which dominates the global search market.

Bing has a “search South Africa only”” option, but the list of localised features is small compared to the functionality available in the US. While Microsoft South Africa promises that a fuller-featured version of Bing for South Africa will launch at some point, many early adopters have no doubt been disappointed by the gap between their experience and the one that US Bing users enjoy.

For South African marketers, the emergence of a credible rival to Google could be good news. More heated competition will spur innovation in the market and give agencies, advertisers and consumers more choice. But Microsoft still has a long road ahead of it before it starts making an impact on the local search market.

Microsoft will need to accelerate its localisation efforts and market the features of its Bing search engine aggressively to make inroads against Google’s massive South African presence. Hopefully, some of the South African users who tried the service and found local content to be lacking will give Bing another chance once it matches up to the US version.

About Acceleration

Acceleration provides digital marketing consulting, outsourcing and technology services to clients around the world. They have offices in London and New York, employ expert teams throughout North America, South America, Europe, the Middle East and Africa, and maintains strategic partnerships with industry leaders, including Omniture, DoubleClick and Epsilon. Richard Mullins opened Acceleration’s Johannesburg office in 2000.

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