Microsoft's Bing targets UK users

Microsoft's new search engine Bing is expected to help the software giant surpass Yahoo and AOL as the number-two ranked UK search player behind Google.

However, its impact on UK search is likely to be initially diminished, as Microsoft, led by chief executive Steve Ballmer, sets about populating Bing with sufficient data to make its UK search results relevant to local users.

The goal is to make Bing a relevant localised search engine in each market. As such, it has a 60-strong "built-for-Britain" team, which will manually optimise Bing algorithms.

Bing, which goes live in the UK tomorrow (Wednesday), aims to iron out these issues to allow it to have full impact on the local market.

However, a UK marketing push is not expected until Q4, six months after its $100m US marketing effort.

Microsoft doesn't expect to make significant inroads into Google's dominant market share in the UK and global search market for up to five years, aiming initially to strengthen a position as the second-biggest player in the search market behind Google, according to Cedric Chambaz, marketing manager, Microsoft Advertising.

The search engine, already live in the US, will replace MSN's Live Search. Chambaz said: "There was low agency awareness with Live Search, so we needed to address that. We thought a new brand name and functionality would do that. Although existing traffic for Live Search is compelling, agencies were saying bring more traffic."

Bing's commercial model centres on a mix of display and search revenue. It will also serve up an enhanced layer of localised results and has been designed to help people find information quickly, by using tabbed browsing for categories such as shopping, travel, news, maps, video and images.

With Google taking 84% of the UK search market, according to April data from Nielsen Online, many expected a Microsoft partnership with Yahoo or AOL to erode this dominance.

But Chambaz said previous negotiations with Yahoo were not critical to Microsoft's search strategy.

"A partnership would have accelerated taking market share. However, it wasn't a vision for Microsoft," he added.

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