By now I’m assuming you know that Microsoft and Yahoo have signed a groundbreaking 10 year deal that sees Microsoft’s Bing search technology replacing Yahoo’s search engine and Yahoo’s sales team taking the lead on high-end search sales for both channels. This is just the kind of news that sends us into our search geek clubhouse here at Reprise Media, where beers are opened, feet are kicked up, and opinions start flying around the room like mosquitoes in a swamp (apologies to Dan Rather.)
One of the most interesting takes was an offhand comment from Vice President of Media John Chan. While sipping on his 40 he pointed out that for many of our paid search campaigns, campaign performance was noticeably better on Bing than on Yahoo. There are three reasons this might be:
1) Bing has better technology than Yahoo, leading to more efficient campaign performance
2) Bing and Yahoo users differ significantly in how they use each platform and Bing is simply a better platform for pure search
3) Some unknown combination of 1) and 2)
Furthermore, this deal shows that both Yahoo and Microsoft, despite some lip service paid to Yahoo’s current technology during the press conference, are firmly in the 1) camp. Better technology (in this case Bing’s) will have a positive effect on campaign performance on Yahoo.
Before Google became so dominant the question of what drove results on different search engines was an important component of campaign brainstorming. Is Google so efficient because their technology is the best, or is it because they have the broadest base of users? It’s the nature (inherent platform usage is unaffected by underlying technology) versus nurture (underlying technology drives usage) debate.
So here we have Microsoft and Yahoo coming down on the nurture side, betting that just as in the 1983 Eddie Murphy and Dan Ackroyd classic Trading Places, outfitting search loser Yahoo with the right trappings will give it the tools for success. Unlike the film though, Microsoft doesn’t have to be stripped of what it has to prove the point.
What will be especially interesting will be to see if the Bing search technology lifts Yahoo almost, but not quite up to the level of campaign efficiency that exists on Bing itself. That difference could lead to 3), the idea that it’s some mixture of nature and nurture. Yahoo’s portal like design and the type of users attracted to it could still lead to different behavior than a “purer” search engine environment like Bing.
Obviously, we at Reprise Media are all fascinated to see how this grand experiment in nature versus nurture plays out.