By Nate Ford and Peter Semetis
With this month’s announcement that Bing will begin powering AOL search in 2016—the result of a 10-year deal that has Bing replacing Google as the engine handling both AOL’s organic search results and paid search ads—Microsoft once again signals that it’s not to be considered an also-ran.
According to comScore, AOL accounts for only about 1% of the U.S. desktop search engine market share. So while the shift is rather inconsequential for Google, it is significant for Microsoft, which continues to make moves to increase its influence in the search space.
However, while the chart above shows a clearly dominant Google, there is another way of viewing the data:
This certainly changes nothing about Google’s dominance. But while the details of Bing’s new partnership vary somewhat from its partnership with Yahoo, the deal shows just how substantial Microsoft’s influence in search really is.
So what is the takeaway? Not much in the short run. Google should still be the first priority to focus on from an SEO perspective because of its large dominance in the U.S. and many other countries. Additionally, Bing looks for most of the same signals as Google. So by optimizing for Google, your site should be optimized for Bing.
Nonetheless, marketers should pay close attention to Bing Webmaster Tools and continuously monitor it for any diagnostic errors, while watching for any increases in clicks and impressions once this has been fully rolled out.
Longer term, the impact is difficult to determine, but it is important to note that any deal with AOL is now also a deal with America’s largest wireless carrier, Verizon, which could result in additional exposure.
The new partnership certainly strengthens Bing Ads’ display network, giving advertisers access to media powerhouses like the Huffington Post, TechCrunch, and Engadget. Additionally, Microsoft has indirectly aligned itself with a media giant in Verizon. Microsoft continues to show its knack for creating key partnerships to grow Bing usage, making the engine nearly impossible to ignore on the web.
The paid search aspect is a little less clear, as we must see how Verizon plans to manage AOL.com going forward.