With its msnNOW site barely two weeks old, Microsoft is already reaping benefits on another property: increased traffic to its Bing search engine. But the way it’s happening may also lead to artificial increases in Bing’s market share numbers.
First, the traffic stats:
That’s in line with a separate report from Compete that says 23 percent of msnNOW users that didn’t visit Bing in the week before launch did visit Bing after using msnNOW. Compete says the largest group of new or re-engaged Bing users are in the 25-34 age group.
msnNOW, if you’re not familiar with it, is a editor-curated site that reports the day’s hot/trending news by tracking the hottest topics that “people are talking about, searching for, and sharing the most” on Facebook, Twitter, Bing and Breakingnews.com (which is an independent unit inside Microsoft’s MSNBC.com service).
One reason it’s driving more traffic to Bing is that, in some of its story coverage, it includes links to get more information via Bing searches. Here’s an example:
This story about the car that Kanye West and Jay-Z used in a music video was on the msnNOW home page last night. Users that clicked-thru got a brief summary of the story (shown above). And that link in the first sentence for the video sends users to watch the video on Bing Videos — ergo, more traffic to Bing.
But Is That Real Search Activity?
Bing may be seeing more traffic thanks to msnNOW, but there’s an issue that will likely come up in the future when we talk about search engine market share. The URL of the msnNOW link is essentially a Bing search URL:
So, even though a user is clicking from one site to watch a video on Bing, it looks like a search was conducted. That’s similar to how both Yahoo and Bing have used slideshows as searches to artificially inflate their share of overall search activity. That practice eventually prompted comScore to separate its tracking into “core search” and “explicit core search.” The latter doesn’t include activity like slideshows and, presumably, video plays (like shown above) as searches.
To be fair, links like the above aren’t the only way msnNOW users are able to access Bing. Every page on msnNOW, including the home page, has a very noticeable Bing search box at the top.
We may get a better picture of msnNOW’s impact on Bing’s search volume when the next set of statistics comes out, which should be in a couple weeks. Whether the increased traffic from msnNOW equates to Bing gaining in search market share, it is at least getting people onto Bing — the first step toward converting them into actual Bing users.