Microsoft is formally launching its much improved MSN portal today. I wrote about the preview version and the wide range of improvements when it first came out in November. There are lots of interesting elements to the site, including the “local edition,” which is basically a collection of persistent Bing search queries presented in a structured and browse-able way.
Bob Visse, GM for MSN at Microsoft, told me that over the course of the beta period, the company had tweaked the Bing search box and its presentation at the top of the page — the blue outline; the subtle blue gradient at the top of the page — to make it more prominent, with good results.
Microsoft previously told me in November that globally MSN has approximately 600 million users. In the US it falls between Yahoo and AOL in terms of traffic.
It’s a tremendous asset, driving, according to Visse, almost 50 percent of Bing’s search query volume. It offers a way for Microsoft to expose Bing over time and get people comfortable with the brand and with trying it. To that end, Visse told me that Microsoft was going to launch a major online ad campaign for MSN (which is also indirectly a campaign for Bing) in the next few months.
Among the many things I discussed with Visse was the degree to which search queries coming from MSN were influenced by display ads on the portal and/or the content on the MSN pages from which the searches were launched. He didn’t have any specific numbers to share with me but said that there was a definite correlation and influence that they observed.
He said, humorously, that there’s often a Bing tile ad on the MSN homepage and that you see the query “Bing” in the Bing search box. But he quickly added that these were probably navigational queries — consumers trying to get to Bing.