Monday, July 27, 2009


What Is Old Is New Again

Chitika is making news today around the tech world by reporting their June study which shows Microsoft's Bing is realizing a 55% higher CTR for their paid search ads vs. Google (and 21% higher than Yahoo).

While this is definitely something to note and keep tabs on, it is amazing to see the media pick this up and run with it. Perhaps it is the Microsoft PR machine flexing it's might or just tech reporting that is more PR re-crafting than actual reporting. Where has the critical thought gone? Another topic to cover at a later date.

So, here is what we find at issue with this report:

1. We have no historical reference data to see any delta here between Bing and any previous iteration of the Micrsoft search engine

2. The sample time period encompasses a major brand relaunch with lots of advertising dollars and lots of new folks checking out Bing for the first time, hardly a strong control test

3. That a Microsoft search engine has a higher CTR on paid placements than Yahoo and Google is very old news

Point #3 above is the one we want to dwell on. We remember research going back at least as early as 2004 that basically echos the numbers that came out today in the Chitika report. MSN had the highest rate of clicks on paid ads, Yahoo was in the middle and Google was far 'behind' its rivals.

A lot of this comes down to gender, demographics, psychographics and the general user behavior style of a particular search engine. The other component is of course how the paid ads are displayed relative to the organic listings.

Look at this report on search engine user behavior developed by Harris Interactive in 2005.

"More than 50 percent of men said they know the difference between the two forms of search while about one-third of women said they can tell. Fifty-seven percent of men said they prefer natural listings while 32 percent of women said they don't prefer one over the other."

And here is a late 2007 article quoting a Hitwise study.

"A recent study carried out by Hitwise showed that 55% of Google users are male, whereas 58% of MSN users were female. Did you know that paid search listings are most likely to be clicked on my females and organic ads are most likely by males."

And a data chart from that article.

Click on Organic Ads: 56.9%
Clicked on Paid Ads: 43.1%

Click on Organic Ads: 65.4%
Clicked on Paid Ads: 34.6%

So, it is obvious that a higher paid search ad CTR has been a long running mark of the Microsoft search engines. The only news today seems to be that Bing hasn't changed anything.

And the big question is what does this mean, if anything, to a search marketer? Does MSN require a radically different approach as the CTR delta reported might suggest? Or, do search marketers just need to alter and or optimize their programs toward taking advantage of the higher female market share it provides? We think it is the latter.


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