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BizReport : Search Marketing : June 11, 2009

Will Bing give advertisers more bang for their buck?

It's been barely a fortnight since Microsoft re-launched Bing and already the blogs are buzzing with debate as to whether the search engine is a Google-killer or whether it's actually too early to tell. User Centric, a user experience research firm, has recently released data relating to the amount of visual attention Bing's sponsored ads are getting compared with Google's.

by Helen Leggatt

user centric logo.pngAccording to User Centric, their findings revealed little difference in the amount of visual attention given to organic search results across Google and Bing.

However their research, which involved 21 participants whose eye movements were tracked while performing set tasks on both search engines, found that Bing's sponsored links on the right attracted more visual attention than on Google. Over the course of the study, 42% of participants looked at Bing's sponsored links and just a quarter looked at Google's.

"This finding is especially important to search engine marketers who are paying for these spots," said Gavin Lew, Managing Director of User Centric. "Our results suggest that Bing may be able to give them more bang for their buck."

Related searches also attracted more attention on Bing than on Google - 31% compared with 5%.

However, many believe that these differences in visual attention will lessen once Internet users become more used to the layout of Bing. Right now, they say, users are still learning to navigate the search results, perhaps resulting in the recorded lengthened visual attention times.

Tags: Bing, eyetracking, Google, organic search, related search, search engine, sponsored ads, User Centric

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  • The sample size collected had sufficient power to detect a significant difference. The type of study performed is a common practice in virtually all forms of research practiced in all behavioral science graduate programs in the world (defending dissertations and the like).

    As you will find, User Centric consultants frequently publish papers in peer reviewed journals and publications, as well as present data at professional associations domestic and international. We believe that we run our studies in a sound and rigorous manner that is in line with the scientific method.

    That said, we acknowledge some may argue about the sample size. Yes, we could have run more participants, but that only increases power. Would 30 have been better? 40? 100? While sample size is really a question of power, a majority believe sample size comes down to “this smells large enough”. But, the problem is that this assumes that the speaker says that these results or scores can be generalized to the population. This is not a question of confidence intervals, but a question of difference. Bing and Google’s scores were significantly different. This is an inferential statistics question whether we can infer from the data that the difference is significant. If we were to run the study 20 times what is the likelihood that we could have found this difference by chance alone (p value of .05).

    User Centric did not say that the scores were generalizable, but that the difference between Bing and Google were significant. We are able to make that statement and yes, sample size played a role in the statistical analysis performed.

    Now, we certainly welcome discussions on new research questions or even if we think the result is due to the novelty of the Bing design and whether this will fade away. Valid points where we could run a study with experienced users and other permutations. Please forward topics for research questions to me directly.

    The result is what it is. Let’s talk about the implications, habituation, usefulness of features, whether the options were copied from Google and improved or made worse.



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