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In a recent conversation with a client, I was asked: “Does it really matter if I buy ad space in Bing and Yahoo! search results? Doesn’t everyone just use Google?”

This got me thinking. In terms of organic search, following SEO best practice will help you rank in other search engines and not just the mighty Google. So a well-optimised page will score highly with all the major search engines.

But what’s best when it comes to buying paid ad space alongside search results? Should all your budget and analytical efforts be focused on Google?

Number crunching

According to Hitwise, in the month ending 17th April, 87.63% of UK searches were conducted through Google.co.uk and 3.57% through Google.com.

Compared to that enormous figure, Bing had 2.97% of the search share, Yahoo! 2.45% and Ask had a mere 1.40% of searches.

That’s a pretty compelling reason to focus your efforts on Google.

A customer is a customer


Of course, no matter where they come from, a customer is a customer.

The point to remember is that, with pay-per-click advertising, you only pay when a searcher clicks through to your pages. That means it doesn’t matter if there are more people using Google - you’re paying for customers that arrive at your pages.

Less popular search engines will still funnel customers to you.

The only cost that you might consider disproportionate is the analytics. It will take more of your SEO team’s time to manage paid search listings across several search engines, rather than simply Google – but there won’t necessarily be any additional financial benefit.

Brand awareness


Although it may not make any difference to your income whether you’re gathering customers from one, two or more search engines, it will affect brand awareness.

People tend to stick with one search engine, only a very tiny minority switch around. That means that if you focus all your energy into Google, you leave a wide number of people who will simply never be exposed to your brand online.

Of course, that doesn’t matter for smaller businesses that simply want to get as many online customers as possible for the lowest amount of cash. However, bigger brands simply cannot afford to ignore a sizable minority of consumers in this way.

Imagine if McDonald’s utterly ignored Bing. Thousands of hungry non-Googlers would only ever see Burger King online, damaging the dominance of Ronald’s restaurants.

What’s right for you?


Like so many things in the search sector, what’s right for you depends on what you need. If your sole ambition is to get as many customers as quickly as possible for the least amount of effort and money, then sticking with Google is fine.

However, if you want to expand and grow in the online environment in order to build your brand, you should advertise on every possible platform.

The good news is that if your pages are well optimised then you’ll be visible organically across all the main search engines. That’s one investment that pays off every time, making it one of the best ways to spend your online budget.

Kevin Gibbons

Published 29 April, 2010 by Kevin Gibbons

Kevin Gibbons is UK Managing Director at digital marketing agency BlueGlass. He is also known as an SEO speaker and can be found on Twitter and Google+.

102 more posts from this author

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Komal Helyer, Head of Marketing at Pure360

Good question and would be interested to hear of other people's experience as we've started with Adcentre due to Google getting rather pricey on keywords and the search volumes don't seem to be there yet. We'll give it some more time but if Microsoft can't compete and provide even half the volume of searches then we'll be turning our full attention (and unds) back to the Google monster!

over 6 years ago

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Depesh Mandalia, Head of Digital Marketing at Lost My Name

Another point worth thinking about is demographics - the more web savvy, perhaps younger user may more than likely be using Google. Those slightly older users may just settle with whatever they have setup in the web browser, so for example for a 60yr old user with a standard PC and Internet Explorer, their homepage will more than likely be MSN (hence a Bing search).

I've also found in the past that at the granular keyword level there are some big variances in which engines send over the most traffic - in a 100k keyword account perhaps that won't matter but for an SME where you feel the impact of every click (good or bad) this can make a big difference.

And as you've pointed out, if you can manage it then there is no harm in targetting multiple engines to spread your 'display advertising' (PPC ads with no clickthrough) as the constant occupying nature of PPC ads sometimes helps build brand awareness....

Your final point on organic is important - as you say good SEO spans all search engines and once you find certain keywords performing in the 'other' engines you can look at potential PPC strategies for those engines....

over 6 years ago

Paula Barclay

Paula Barclay, Head of Digital Production at The Walker Agency

It’s definitely worth considering using Bing and Yahoo to drive additional traffic, as we have found that CPCs and acquisition costs tend to be lower (particularly in Bing) but this will obviously vary for each client/sector etc. However, the volumes are far lower than from Google so I agree with Kevin that you do have to factor in the time involved to assess whether it’s worth the extra effort. Some third party paid search management tools can apply changes across multiple search engines, which negates the need to login to each of the search engines to make account changes, so are definitely looking into if you decide to expand beyond Google.

over 6 years ago

Julian Grainger

Julian Grainger, Director of Media Strategy at Unique Digital

Don't forget YouTube. If you have good video content ranking on YouTube is mandatory, even before Google.

over 6 years ago

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Petra Taseva

"...if you want to expand and grow in the online environment in order to build your brand, you should advertise on every possible platform." Completly agree with this.

over 6 years ago

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Jamie Jackson

Although our site ranks well for most of our keywords in Yahoo, and Google and now Bing we still see that google is the major traffic driver to our site. Yahoo and bing are well below the amount of traffic we get via google

over 6 years ago

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Depesh Mandalia, Head of Digital Marketing at Lost My Name

@Jamie - I agree with the holistic view but my experience is that when delving into the details of an Organic/PPC campaign you can sometimes find a higher bias towards non-Google engines, both at the head and tail-end of searches. Really depends on your vertical, differentiation, audience, quality of SEO,SEM etc etc etc

over 6 years ago

Jon Vlahhos

Jon Vlahhos, Manager at Coming

Easy answer - Just Google.

The web analytics show this on any site.

Furthermore, how many times do each of us use Bing or Yahoo to search for something? I would think not too often...

Jon

over 6 years ago

Rob Mclaughlin

Rob Mclaughlin, VP, Digital Analytics at Barclays

Whilst the lower CPC may be an attraction for some, it is a symtom of a more compelling reason to consider non-Google search engines. Each search engine will have a specific competitor landscape for your brand - if only a few or none of your competitors are advertising on Bing/Yahoo/Ask etc then your ad is much more visible.

over 6 years ago

Roland Reinhart

Roland Reinhart, Marketing Consultant, President at Reinhart Marketing Group

Depesh makes a good point. Many users will never change the default search engine of their computer's web browser simply because they don't realize there are alternatives available. Similarly, the Internet Service Providers often force your browser to display their own search page, powered by Yahoo (or Bing or Google) depending on the partnership deal they've arranged. (I use Verizon and it irritates me when a mistype a URL and a Verizon page powered by Yahoo appears.)

If your budget allows, it may be in your best interest to properly test campaigns across search engines to determine where to get your best sales conversions.

over 6 years ago

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Clark Schultz

Isn't this really a question of ROI? If $1,000 delivers better results in Yahoo than other search sites, then focus on Yahoo campaigns. In terms of organic search, spend the SEO time on the strategy that delivers the highest ROI.

over 6 years ago

Magnus Nilsson

Magnus Nilsson, Managing Director at RED PerformanceSmall Business

The branding aspect is interesting as makes it easier to justify other engines as well. From a DR perspective, depending on how the campaign is managed the extra management/reporting etc... multi-engine approach might eat up any incremental ROI and optimision time of where the volume is (i.e. Google).

over 6 years ago

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Sam Leung

Unless you're buying CPM, there is no reason why you shouldn't pursue any of the other engines. In fact, I highly recommend that practice simply because of ROI.

Furthermore, while Google still has the lion's share of the search volume, it comes down to demographics [to a certain degree]. I know that an older demographic would still tend to use Yahoo! over the other engines, mostly out of force of habit, and if you want to target that demo, you better be there. On the other hand, there are also a number of niche engines that are specific to industry and vertical. While the volumes aren't always there from either raw searches or conversions, the ROI and engagement is typically much better on the back end.

over 6 years ago

Matt Isaacs

Matt Isaacs, Founding Partner & CEO at EssenceEnterprise

In a world of infinite resources you should of course do as many search engines as you possibly can.

In a world of very limited resources you should just do Google.

The reality is of course often somewhere in between.  So what then?

A pragmatic approach is often to test things on Google first.  This helps refine keyword strategies and adcopy in an environment where you can get the learning fast.  The implication of Google.co.uk having 30 times more search volume than the nearest competitor - Bing - is that it would take 30 times longer to get a valid test result on Bing.  Once you've settled on an approach you can then roll out.

Is this perfect?  Of course not.  The audiences on the engines may differ substantially and so learnings on Google may not truly be applicable to Bing, Yahoo or anywhere else for that matter.  And of course the sponsored search algorithms differ too. But it may well be the best approach possible with the kind of skew a dominant market player such as Google creates.

over 6 years ago

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Gulsene

Is this perfect? Of course not. The audiences on the engines may differ substantially and so learnings on Google may not truly be applicable to Bing, Yahoo or anywhere else for that matter. And of course the sponsored search algorithms differ too. But it may well be the best approach possible with the kind of skew a dominant market player such as Google creates.

over 6 years ago

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Simon Paterson

"According to Hitwise, in the month ending 17th April, 87.63% of UK searches were conducted through Google.co.uk and 3.57% through Google.com. Compared to that enormous figure, Bing had 2.97% of the search share, Yahoo! 2.45% and Ask had a mere 1.40% of searches." Well with these figures in mind, perhaps it is best that you should spend 87.63% of your time working on Google.co.uk, 3.57% of your time on Google.com, 2.97% on Bing... This way you are still working with every platform, however priortising the more important ones.

about 6 years ago

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Ed Baxter

I find that with a good link building campaign and good on-site optimisation you can do well in all search engines without much changing of tactics for each engine, of course each one has its own little variations but like Clark said above it all comes down to ROI and any campaign should be evaluated on how much it brings in. 

Great article!

almost 6 years ago

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Brett Widmann

This is a very interesting article. I always turn to google out of habbit, but it would be interesting to see what come up on other search engines.

almost 6 years ago

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