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Tim Peter

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September 22, 2011

What Google vs. FairSearch.org and the US Senate Means to You

September 22, 2011 | By | No Comments

Google vs. competitionWell, it finally happened. Yesterday, Google and members of “industry watchdog” FairSearch.org testified before the Antitrust, Competition Policy and Consumer Rights subcommittee of the United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary. (The subcommittee could sure use some lessons in naming from that watchdog group, couldn’t they?) Search Engine Land has an excellent recap and also live-blogged Google chairman Eric Schmidt’s and the rebuttal testimony.

I put “watchdog group” above in quotes because, despite raising some excellent questions about Google’s practices, FairSearch was founded by Google competitors such as Microsoft, Expedia, TripAdvisor, Travelocity and Kayak (the latter three feel threatened by Google’s purchase of ITA Software and subsequent Flight Search product launch. I should also point out that I use Google AdSense for some of the ads displayed on this blog and conduct business on behalf of some clients with TripAdvisor, Expedia and other FairSearch sponsors—standard disclosures apply).

In any case, as Chris Sherman from Search Engine Land writes about a recent FairSearch study:

“Fairsearch.org has released findings from a new study that raises serious and important issues about Google, its influence on searcher behavior and whether the search giant’s actions are deliberately hindering competition. Unfortunately, the study results are tainted by flawed methodology and a blatant anti-Google bias, implicitly favoring the agendas of the companies that sponsored the research.”

The article concludes:

“Like most consumer watchdog groups, Fairsearch.org deserves credit for raising awareness on important issues that cry out for rational discussion. Unfortunately, the organization’s apparent single-minded goal to cripple Google, coupled with its disingenuous argument that this hobbling will be good for consumers (rather than helping the interests of its own patron companies) make it a source most people should eye with considerable skepticism.” [Emphasis mine]

I think the Search Engine Land folks are right. Some of Google’s practices are worth looking into. For instance, their approach to review sites isn’t entirely fair to those sources, no matter the benefit to consumers. I’m just not sure that government is well positioned to regulate such a dynamic market. After listening to some of the questions yesterday—and ridiculous pandering for broadband by several senators—I’m not sure our elected officials remotely understand the market they’re investigating. And the actions of FairSearch are, to quote Search Engine Land, as well as my friends Robert Cole and Henry Harteveldt, disingenuous at best.

Long term, increased access to information—whether provided by Google or others—creates increased price transparency for consumers. As I have noted for some time, Google’s antitrust trouble was inevitable. One company with that much power can harm the industry—and potentially your business. Which is why, I’ve also offered recommendations on what you should do about Google’s antitrust worries, including how to grow your business in a world without Google.

I’m not suggesting that we’re there yet.

But, given the lack of understanding of displayed by members of Congress (including, in a couple of cases, what looked like obvious bias against Big G), and Google’s less-than-stellar transparency in its responses, nothing would surprise me. It’s time you’re ready no matter what happens.


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Tim Peter

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October 14, 2010

Bing and Facebook "Like" one another. Should you "Like" this deal?

October 14, 2010 | By | No Comments

Facebook and Bing partner for searchBig news in the social search sphere yesterday, as Microsoft and Facebook announced that Bing search results will include things your friends “Liked” on Facebook. They’re also working on including Facebook profile information into people searches on Bing. All of which is pretty cool stuff.

But here’s the question: Should you care? Will this matter to your business? Let’s look at the facts:

  1. According to Comscore, Bing increased its search share in September to 11.2%, a 1 percent gain. Google also increased its search share 1 percent – from 65.4% to 66.1%. Advantage: Google.
  2. Bing plans to grow its share by partnering with Yahoo. Of course, with both Bing and Google gaining share in the last month, guess where that share came from? You got it: Yahoo. In fact, Yahoo might be selling itself to AOL. Oh, and AOL’s search is powered by Google. While it’s too soon to say how this shakes out (I could easily see M$ buying AOL out of its deal if they do pony up for Yahoo), I’d still say the advantage leans in Google’s favor.
  3. Facebook’s “Like” data is a really big deal. Mashable reports that the “Like” button is used on over 2 million sites, to say nothing of Facebook’s half-a-billion users clicking their preferences everyday. Advantage: Microsoft. Big time.

So, who wins? Well, loads of folks out on the Web think this is a huge deal for Microsoft and Facebook. And, I definitely agree that this is a big step forward for how search engines rank results. But, this deal only makes sense for Microsoft and Facbook if consumers use Bing. If even a small percentage of Facebook’s 500 million friends start using Bing regularly for searches, either inside Facebook or on the site itself, then Google ought to be worried. At the same time, given its enormous share, I wouldn’t end your Google AdWords campaign just yet.

I always like to give you a conclusive answer. But, in this case, time – and customers – will tell. The real takeaway here is to stay tuned. I think social search isn’t remotely settled yet.

What do you think? Should Google’s geeks be quaking in their sandals and socks? Or is this nothing but a bunch of hot air? Tell us what you think in the comments.



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Tim Peter

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November 25, 2009

5 random thoughts for hump day…

November 25, 2009 | By | No Comments

Last day of the work week here at thinks Central, so I thought I’d just clean up a couple of items in the inbox that don’t seem to justify full posts.

In no particular order, here we go:

  1. With publishers hemorrhaging cash, why don’t publishers include affiliate links in their e-books’ cited works? As an avid Kindle reader, it would be really handy to be able to buy certain books – or, better yet, a given chapter of a cited work – from within the book I’m already reading. You’re guaranteed a qualified audience, plus extra revenue.
  2. Gizmodo claims Google is trying out a new search interface. Cool.
  3. I love Google Insights for Search. Where else can you learn things like the fact that apple pie is more popular than pumpkin pie or stuffing, except for right around Thanksgiving:

    Now go and apply that type of thinking to your business.

  4. Want one example? OK. I was curious how many people searched Google for Bing, Bing.com, and Google.com (I also had just “Google” in there, but the scale was absurd. Try it for yourself):

  5. And, just for fun, you’ve got to watch the Muppets do Bohemian Rhapsody. It’s a riot:

  6. Have a Happy Thanksgiving, Big Thinkers. We’ll catch you next time around.



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Tim Peter

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July 28, 2009

Bing users click on more ads than Google's. What does that mean to you?

July 28, 2009 | By | No Comments

You’ve really got to hand it Microsoft. Their new search engine, Bing, is getting lots of love from both customers and the media in its first couple months of life. Now comes a report that claims customers click on ads on Bing much more often than on Google. For anyone looking to get involved in search marketing – or any type of marketing at all – those are “sit up and take notice” kind of numbers.

Even more impressive is its relative share of clicks. Erick Schonfeld does a good job of breaking down the data in the report and for me, this is the interesting bit:

  • 78% of all clicks came from Google.
  • 12% from Yahoo!
  • 10% from Bing

Considering they’ve only been around a handful of weeks, that’s very good news for Bing. Relative to their share of impressions (7%), they’re getting a disproportionately large chunk of the clicks. So, opportunities definitely exist, so long as they fit with your business.

What do I mean by that?

Well, Bing’s demographics – much like Microsoft’s historical averages – skew a little older and a little lower on measures of education and income when compared with Google. For instance, here’s a comparison of income statistics:

Bing Demographics [Source: Quantcast.com]

Google demographics [Source: Quantcast.com]

While that may not matter in all categories, some businesses may find that Bing’s users don’t fit their demographic profile. Or, they might fit the profile well, but not drive enough traffic to generate meaningful income. Back when I was selling an economy-priced product, MSN significantly outperformed Google on a cost-per-acquisition basis. The flip-side is that Google crushed MSN from a traffic perspective. Ah, the joys of trade-offs.

Clearly, you should always pay attention to items growing this fast. And there’s no doubt Bing makes the cut here. But it needs to make sense for your business, too. Don’t follow the herd just because they’re chasing a popular story.

If any of this sounds familiar to you, it should. It’s very much in line with our advice when Bing first launched: make sure it’s covering your basics first, then test for added benefit.

We’ll keep our eyes on Bing and keep you posted over time. In the meanwhile, how’s Bing working for you? Tell us about it in the comments.



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Tim Peter

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July 10, 2009

Looking backwards to look forward (Small Business E-Commerce Link Digest – July 10, 2009)

July 10, 2009 | By | No Comments

“History will be kind to me for I intend to write it.” – Winston Churchill

Ah… good old Winnie. You’ve gotta love him. That’s one of my all-time favorite quotes and largely because it demonstrates how you need to consider both the past and the present when planning for the future. What does that have to do with this week’s links? Well, Big thinker, read on…

Linda Bustos kicks things off by taking us back to the Summer… er, I mean, the Internet of ’69. It seems we have come so far. But Mike Moran argues we’re still in the early days of internet marketing. And I agree. We’ll look back at this period some day as the “cave painting” period of online marketing. Sure, there are some great converting sites, but the overall experience online has a long way to go before it consistently meets customer expectations. Sure, as we saw earlier this week, offline customer service can suck, too. But, customers don’t stick around for the companies that don’t take care of them offline or online.

The best companies understand this and are changing to address customers’ expectations. Heck, the whole Bing marketing campaign assumes customers hate search engine results and positions itself as a better alternative. For that matter, all the search engines are changing, so maybe there’s something to Bing’s push.

What’s ironic is that these efforts show the road to improvement relies on setting the right goals, putting in the time, fixing what needs to be fixed. Yes, it’s definitely more important in the long run to work smarter. But, sometimes it’s equally important to be willing to work harder.



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Tim Peter

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June 8, 2009

What you should do about Bing

June 8, 2009 | By | No Comments

bing-logo.pngOne of the biggest bits of news over the last week or two has been Microsoft’s introduction of a new search engine called Bing. Microsoft is so set on stealing share from Google that it selected the name in hopes users would turn it into a verb, much as with Google. It’s received so much buzz that, at least for now, Bing has passed Yahoo as the number 2 search engine. And, Bing works pretty well, both in my informal tests and in SearchEngineLand’s more rigorous look.

But, does it matter to your business? Should you care?

Yes. Well, kind of, anyway.

Clearly, Bing is getting lots of attention right now. Between the media blitz and the estimated $100 million in advertising Microsoft has thrown behind Bing, it’s likely your customers will at least kick the tires. So, do what you should be doing for your top search sites anyway:

  • Ensure you rank for your most important keywords in Bing. Just do a quick search on those top keywords via the search engine and note your ranking.
  • Continue to monitor the amount of traffic you receive from the search engine. Pay attention to your traffic sources reports (Bing shows up under Referring Sites – not Search Engines – within Google Analytics at the moment). For instance, sites I monitor see Bing driving between 0.5% and 1.5% of traffic. Not too shabby for a starting point. But not a huge number, either.
  • Listen to your customers. If your customers are using Bing, then its importance grows; otherwise, put your focus first on Google – or other sources of traffic – that matter to your customers.

Those in specific markets – travel, restaurants and other “map-dependent” businesses, where Microsoft looks to focus Bing (see the search results for “UP” in SearchEngineLand’s test as an example) – would do especially well to ensure they show up as expected. But, again, put your energies where they matter most. If you’re ranking on Bing, good. If not, it’s likely a problem on other search engines, too, and something you should address right away.

Are you seeing any traffic from Bing? Come across good tips for getting more from it? Let us know in the comments.



Are you getting enough value out of your small business website? Want to make sure your business makes the most of the local, mobile, social web? thinks helps you understand how to grow your business via the web, every day. Get more than just news. Get understanding. Add thinks to your feed reader today.

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