Tis’ the Season… to get Scroogled or Binged?!

Online shopping is becoming more prevalent than ever before.  According to Google, 80% of holiday shoppers will research online prior to making a purchase this season.  Research will begin with leading search engines and according to comScore’s November Explicit Core Search Report – approximately 69.4 percent of organic search results are from Google.  Coming in second, was Microsoft’s Bing with 25.4 percent of searches powered by Bing.  The rest of the search engines are rather insignificant.  So, while Google and Bing aren’t neck and neck, they seem to be the consumer’s search engines of choice and in turn will be most used to aid in holiday shopping.

Which brings me to Scroogled.  Yes, that’s right:

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A campaign recently launched by Bing to educate the average consumer about what Google has done with their shopping site.  To get a general idea – check out: T’was the story of Scroogled and Are you getting Scroogled?

Here Bing is essentially attacking Google over its shift to a pay-to-play shopping search model.  With a start of October 17th merchants had no other choice but to pay in order to “play” or appear in the search engine within the US (said to go international to select countries in February 2013).  Payment is decided upon the number of clicks and the amount the merchant is willing to pay for a click.  So, if a merchant is bidding a higher amount, the ad (yes ad) is more likely to appear first on the SERP (assuming that the keywords are relevant to the search query).  But what if the merchant is not bidding at all?

Which is exactly what Scroogled is all about and what the concerns were back in May 2012 when Google announced it’s paid inclusion shopping model.

Questions arose such as:  If all merchants weren’t bidding then weren’t shopping results going to be skewed?  Is there suddenly a bias to Google search engine results pages?  Would merchants have to increase the product price to make up for the new pay-to-play model?  And what about previous comments made by Google founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page?

“In general, it could be argued from the consumer point of view that the better the search engine is, the fewer advertisements will be needed for the consumer to find what they want.”

“Furthermore, advertising income often provides an incentive to provide poor quality search results.”

Not to mention that later, many found that Google shopping did not increase the user experience as origionaly promised but seemed to become one giant mess.

So, essentially what I am getting at here – is it’s not really a big surprise that Bing decided to jump on this opportunity to knock Google.  The reality of Bing’s Scroogled campaign however, is that Bing isn’t in the right either.  The truth is, Bing hardly has the right to be lecturing Google about poor disclosure and it’s pay-to-play policy.  In fact, Bing gets it’s own shopping search products from shopping.com and in order to be listed on shopping.com the merchant must agree to pay.  So is Bing actually much better than Google?

You decide.  In the mean time, good luck with your holiday shopping.

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