Microsoft Says “Don’t Get Scroogled”
Rita is a member of The Motley Fool Blog Network -- entries represent the personal opinion of the blogger and are not formally edited.
When I look at Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) and Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) or Apple and Samsung, I totally forget that holidays are supposed to be fun filled times when you get to spend some quality moments with your loved ones. For these poor companies the holiday season is the most painful time of the year when they put all they have got in to keeping customers flocking towards them and not their opponents.
It seems Microsoft is performing this strategy brilliantly by coming up with some really catchy ads and a whole new website to keep customers away from the largest online search provider, Google, and use its Bing instead. Microsoft is all in the common-man’s favor and is trying to save the search engine users from getting “Scroogled.” For all those who don’t know what “Scroogled” is, here is something to enlighten you.
As Slate News Channel points out, “Scroogled” is Microsoft’s holiday spin in its bitter search battle with Google. These two giants have been battling it out for years now for gaining supremacy in the online search space and the internet browser space. Now, as we all know, the fight has moved on to the mobile and tablet operating system space too.
According to NetMarketshare.com, as a global search provider, Google still holds the ace position with 84.49% of the market, and Bing is a distant third with a hold over only 4.72% of the market.
With hundreds and thousands of people using the search engine every day, Google has been extremely successful and it recently underwent a lot of changes in terms of its content offerings. In mid-October, Google updated its shopping search offering to include results that are most relevant so that the company can deliver the best shopping experience. This is where Microsoft has objections.
According to the Windows maker, Google has betrayed its founding principles of providing unbiased search results by showing shopping results from paid advertisers only. As a result, the shoppers are not getting the best deals on the products and are thus being “Scroogled.” Microsoft went further and playfully compared “Scroogled” with bamboozled, befuddled, duped, flimflammed, hoodwinked, and hornswoggled. Scroogled.com also has contradictory quotes from Google’s management – quotes from almost a decade ago where the company was against accepting payments for inclusion in search results and ranking, and quotes from the present day where the company is pro accepting payments.
Microsoft’s claim is absolutely not false as Google’s own website explains on what basis it shortlists the results. The website clearly states “Payment is one of several factors used to rank these results.” However, according to Google, though the amount of money paid by a manufacturer is a deciding point, it still lists options giving highest priority to the listing’s relevance to a search request.
The point is not just about Google favoring those who are paying for the ads. The point is that Google as a search engine is a very influential entity and its results can actually stifle competition by giving special preference to a selected few, especially its own offerings. CNET’s Chris Matyszczyk jokingly commented that Microsoft’s Surface isn’t doing that great may be because “Too many people are searching for it on Google.”
However, even Microsoft’s Bing is not providing genuine and organic search contents. Bing’s results consist of ads for which manufacturers had to pay while they registered themselves with Shopping.com. However, on this note, Bing’s senior director Stefan Weitz accepted that its results also show paid ads, but also added that most of the results are from manufacturers who have signed up for free. One noteworthy point here is, as pointed out by CNN, Bing has now closed free registrations for the holiday season, and now anyone new interested in registering will be directed to Shopping.com, where they will have to pay to be included in search results.
So, basically, you either get “Scroogled” or you get “Scroobinged.” Neither of the search providers is actually showing results on the basis of just relevance; or maybe the definition of relevance is different in their books and depends on how much they are getting paid for the ads. However, from a business point of view, there is nothing illegal in ranking search results on the basis of the amount paid by advertisers. This is how the online search and shopping business works and will work. Though Microsoft’s timing with the campaign has been perfect, just ahead of Christmas and New Years, the effectiveness of the same can get diluted because of Bing’s involvement in displaying ads for which manufacturers had to pay. This is just another battle in the raging war between the two great tech giants for supremacy and ultimate control. Microsoft’s initiative has already received a good amount of popularity, and it will be interesting to see how Google plans the counter-attack.
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