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Quite a lot is being made of Microsoft’s newest attempt to take on Google as it tries to build its  rather petite market share. Billing it as a ‘Google killer’ certainly seems overly optimistic to say the least. However, the increased media attention is certainly driving more traffic to and via Bing with advertising impressions up since its launch on June 1st.

The question is, can Bing attract AND retain users and will a new interface really be enough to chip away at its rival’s market share? Only time will tell but some research is giving Bing’s new interface an encouraging push in the right direction.

Across the pond at a user research firm in Chicago (http://www.usercentric.com), they have been using eye tracking technology to research people responses to Bing Vs Google’s SERP’s. 

Using 21 participants they captured their eye movements as they completed two informational tasks such as learning about healthy eating and two transactional tasks such as booking a last minute holiday. The aims of this research were (1) to compare the distribution of attention on equivalent areas of Bing and Google and (2) to assess how much attention is captured by elements that are unique to Bing’. In this article, we’re focusing on point one for now to see what impact the findings might have on PPC advertising on these engines.

The Findings:

There was no real difference in how much attention users paid to the organic search results with participants spending an average of seven seconds scanning the organic results. The level of attention given to the sponsored ‘banner’ links at the head of the page were similarly high for both engines with over 90% of the participants looking in this area during a search.

It was found that during transactional searches, participants would spend more time looking at the sponsored results on top (~2.5 seconds) than they did on informational searches (~1.5 seconds). This is interesting in itself, but what is most interesting to us as marketers, is that  the sponsored links on the right hand side of the SERPs (also known as right-rail ads) attracted more attention on Bing (~42% of participants per search) than they did on Google (~25% of participants per search). These participants spent approximately 2.5 seconds looking at this area during transactional searches and 2 seconds during informational searches with the lengths of time being similar for both engines.

Another difference between the two engines involved the related searches function with Bing displaying related searches on the right hand side of the page and Google below the main search results, towards the foot of the page. UserCentric fount that Bing’s related searches had a much higher visibility than Google’s, attracting the attention of 31% of participants per search whilst Google’s related searches attracted the attention of only 5% of participants per search.

Heat mapping and eye tracking technology has been of interest to online marketers for a relatively short period of time and it is certainly getting more interest as user behaviour beings to guide our online advertising strategies.

Many online marketers typically found MSN traffic to convert reasonably well for certain industries and verticals, despite the low volume so who knows, this is only preliminary data from a small sample group but if this result remains consistent after further testing, it may indicate that PPC advertising on Bing might get more value per impression. This is certainly something we will be monitoring to see what potential opportunities it will provide for our clients.

Read the full article here- http://www.usercentric.com/about/news_item.php?m_id=4&s_id=4&id=227