I could write my own opinion on how Microsoft could be succesful in Search, but I definitely can’t beat Danny Sullivan at this.
Last week he wrote a very good article about it and names a couple of interesting points and suggestions. I highly recommend reading it: “Tough Love For Microsoft Search“.
Some quotes from the article as a summary:
Take Search serious
For nearly four years now, I’ve diligently tried to get Microsoft to have either Bill Gates or Steve Ballmer do a similar keynote conversation. No luck. I ask well before each major conference. I know the PR folks at Microsoft do the best they can.
But bottom line? Showing up at a search conference I’ve organized hasn’t been deemed worth the time once in four years. Not once.
“Well, I guess we have to do this search thing.”
Microsoft at its core is an operating system and software company. These still generate tons of revenue. Then along comes Google out of nowhere making all this money off of search and starting to encroach into the Microsoft OS/software areas.
You could almost hear the groan from Redmond. “Well, I guess we have to do this search thing.”
Search because of the money
There’s the continued focus on Microsoft’s search efforts being because it wants the advertising money, a repeating theme from various executives. I’ve read quote after quote after quote like this. We get it — Microsoft thinks there’s money in search and wants to grab some of that. But so do lots of people.
Just because you’re Microsoft doesn’t mean that you have some type of manifest destiny to receive it. In particular, it’s a terrible signal to tell the world that this is a primary reason you’re doing search, to grab some of the advertising cash away from Google.
It would be like Apple trying to sell Macs by telling the world too much money is being spent on Windows PCs.
Search isn’t software
Another difference I’ve noted between Google and Microsoft is that is that Microsoft seems to think of search as a software. Live Search has features that come out according to release schedules, as if search is a software product that gets regular upgrades.
There was a time in the late 90s when other search engines operated this way — Inktomi most of all. But that largely died off.
Fix the Brand!
The brand needs to be fixed, and fast. Sadly, there’s no signs that this is going to happen.
The strongest universal brand that Microsoft has is its own name, “Microsoft.” Why doesn’t the company just go with this? Everyone knows Microsoft. It’s instantly recognizable. It has far more chance of winning than Live.
Search is a long term game
Microsoft is not 5 years into its challenge to win at search, a figure you often hear. It’s now 11 years into it (see Microsoft’s “Third Era” Of Search Begins).
The 5 year figure marks when the company made the mistake, in my view, of deciding to build its own technology from scratch rather than enter the race by buying someone else’s car (Yahoo or Ask would have worked). It has lost years of time it couldn’t afford because of that decision.
Show you care about Search!
More than anything else, I want that clear signal that Microsoft is fully in the fight. Don’t tell me; show me. We’ve had enough being told about all the grand things to come. Do it. Change the brand; give the home page a search focus; stop talking about those ad dollars and talk more about providing better search for consumers. This would show me that as an entire company, Microsoft really is competing with all its heart-and-soul, a corporate shift I feel it must make to succeed.
Now go and read the full article “Tough Love For Microsoft Search“!