August 26, 2010, 3:13 PM

Yahoo goes natural on Bing search platform

Microsoft’s Bing is now powering Yahoo’s natural search results in the U.S. and Canada.

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Online marketers now have two major search engines to manage for their natural search marketing campaigns, with this week’s announcement that Microsoft Corp.’s Bing Internet search platform is now powering Yahoo Inc.’s Yahoo natural search results.

Yahoo Search queries in the U.S. and Canada for all types of web content, including product images and videos, are now showing results produced by the Bing platform, Yahoo and Microsoft say. “We are happy to report the transition has gone smoothly,” Satya Nadella, senior vice president in Microsoft’s Online Services Division, wrote in a blog post this week.

The platform migration for now only covers natural or organic search results; Yahoo and Microsoft are also working on migrating Yahoo’s paid-search platform to Bing.

For marketers, the immediate difference is that they can now optimize their sites for natural search results for two, rather than three, primary search engines, experts say. Until now, most marketers would focus their site optimization efforts mostly on Google, which commands an Internet search market share of about 70%, then would decide whether to also focus on either Yahoo or Bing, or both.

Effective site optimization efforts include maintaining fresh content and links pertinent to the content a retailer wants to promote on a web page, then testing to see how the their site shows in natural search results in particular search engines. But for many marketers, it only pays to do this for search market leader Google Inc.

“With Google at about 70% market share it was hard for marketers to justify also focusing on others,” says Nathan Safran, a senior research analyst search engine optimization technology and services firm Conductor Inc. “Now diversifying beyond the Google focus is easier to justify.”

For the four weeks ended Aug. 1, Google’s U.S. search market share was 71.43%, compared to 14.43% for Yahoo and 9.86% for Bing, according to research firm Experian Hitwise. Among leading online retailers, Google also dominates in search marketing, though Bing edges out Yahoo, according to the 2011 edition of the Internet Retailer Search Marketing Guide

Going forward, Yahoo and Microsoft can be expected to better maintain and upgrade the Yahoo search platform to compete against Google with search features and functionality, Safran adds.

The Bing platform, for instance, allows searchers to peruse a menu of additional search categories without leaving the results page. A search for “running shoes” on Yahoo.com, for example, offers a drop-down menu that lets consumers click to pages showing results by particular brands of running shoes.

“Yahoo will continue to drive technology innovation in the search experience to bring more value to users and advertisers alike,” Shasi Seth, senior vice president of Yahoo Search Products, wrote in a recent blog post. “We are focused on creating rich, immersive experiences that foster serendipitous discovery for people across the Yahoo network.”

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