Microsoft Bing Readies Travel, Daily Deals To Sting Google

Last Updated Mar 7, 2011 7:10 PM EST

Microsoft (MSFT) has been busy doing business deals for its Bing search engine. It will run a daily deal service, like Groupon, with The Dealmap. And Bing also has a new partnership with Kayak for travel-related search.

The target is not only consumers, but Google (GOOG). Microsoft has pushed Bing into directions specifically of interest to Google, but where the search giant has had setbacks. But this is far beyond a Microsoft attempt to thumb its nose at its rival. The entire search business is changing, and both Microsoft and Google are racing to get ahead of the shift.

Three major factors have an influence on the changes, and can help predict what both companies will do:
  • People Can't Find What They Want -- Using a search engine effectively means knowledge about how to frame your query and how to pick a combination of terms that will more likely than not turn up results you want. Most people don't know how to do this, and so they get an overwhelming number of potential answers. If what they need isn't in the first page or two of links, they will give up.
  • Crap Content -- Companies see search as an important mechanism to reach customers, and so do what they can to game rankings and appear higher in the results. But high in search rankings doesn't necessarily mean high in applicability to what consumers seek. That's why Google implemented a content-farm algorithm change.
  • People Want To Be Told the Answer -- The search engines are scared because they realize that most people would rather take suggestions and answers from friends and acquaintances. That gives Facebook, Twitter, and other social media a potentially large advantage.
Google and Microsoft both need to shift how they approach search, and even what search means. Instead of serving up pages of links, they both need to provide answers. That's one reason why Google wanted to acquire travel information company ITA -- and why multiple major travel sites oppose the deal. Many airlines and travel web sites -- including both Kayak and Bing -- use ITA software. They worry that Google could potentially cut them out of the loop.

A partnership with Kayak allows Microsoft to help increase the antitrust regulatory turbulence that the Google-ITA deal already faces while getting a focused travel search capability into place.

This is a philosophical difference between Google wanting to acquire a company and build its own offering and Microsoft looking to partner with an aggregation service to quickly get results. The same split has happened on the daily deal front. After Groupon turned down Google's acquisition offer, Google to create its own service.

Microsoft chose The Dealmap, which aggregates offers from many sources, including Groupon, LivingSocial, and Restaurant.com. In doing so, it passes the potentially large amount of money that such a business could generate. And yet, Microsoft has other sources of revenue, so simply making a wider range of deals available to consumers might be just enough to keep users happy.

Related: Image: morgueFile user xandert, site standard license.
  • Erik Sherman On Twitter»

    Erik Sherman is a widely published writer and editor who also does select ghosting and corporate work. The views expressed in this column belong to Sherman and do not represent the views of CBS Interactive. Follow him on Twitter at @ErikSherman or on Facebook.

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