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Bing Doesn’t Want You To Get Scroogled
The world of search is generally a very nice place where everyone is super keen to provide clarity on everything (when it suits them), to ensure that the web is filled with wonderful content (so long as it suits a particular set of guidelines) and making sure those unscrupulous black hat sorts are kept well away from the sacred SERPS (most of the time).
Occasionally, though, the facade drops and the search titans we thought we knew and loved reveal their true colours. It happened a few months back when Google, the purveyors of ‘Don’t Be Evil’ and magical ultra-creative workspaces with stupid names, decided that they’d had enough of all that nonsense and quite fancied making a bit of hard cash instead. So they rebranded ‘Google Product Search’ as ‘Google Shopping’ (slogan: ‘Evil’s alright, actually’) and decided merchants had to pay to be included.
It also happened yesterday, when Bing – the Ken to Google’s Ryu – decided to invite Google to step outside and have it out about this whole paid inclusion malarky. Well, not exactly have it out. Instead, Bing have launched a mean website and decided to warn everyone about the imminent threat of being ‘scroogled’.
When they eventually stopped guffawing about how brilliant that term was and not researching the fact that the term Scroogle was actually used by another anti-Google website for the past nine years, Bing were keen to let everyone know just how evil Google were and how Bing would totally never do that paid inclusion stuff to you so you should totally use Bing this Christmas.
Have Bing Scroo(gl)ed Themselves?
At first glance, it actually seems like a pretty good marketing campaign. The transition from Product Feed to Shopping has been widely criticised, with Google receiving a lot of criticism for going against their own widely-publicised mantra and being ‘evil’.
Google’s public image has also been taking a bit of a battering recently with antitrust suits and all manner of other legal trouble, so it makes sense that Bing should throw a few digs in while Google is down.
Note ‘at first glance’ two paragraphs ago though, because anything more than that and the ‘Scroogled’ campaign starts to fall apart. Danny Sullivan went into some detail on the hypocrisy of Bing’s accusations on Search Engine Land, pointing out that Bing lists merchants who pay to register on Shopping.com and seem to offer prominence to those who fork out (although Bing point out that this isn’t quite the same as what Google are proposing).
The Scroogled campaign also commits the cardinal sin of any campaign designed to attack a competitor – it focuses too much on what the other side has done wrong without actually talking too much about what the accuser does right. The campaign is designed to promote Bing’s commitment to honest search yet goes about doing this by solely talking about how evil Google are. It’s like me trying to convince you I’m a nice guy simply because I’m not John Terry.
Targeting a direct competitor is somewhat of a double edged sword; on the one hand, the sheer audacity of openly attacking a rival with a blog post or even an entire site is good way of grabbing attention, driving traffic and gaining a lot of links – good SEO-wise, then. But the kind of move Bing has made rarely works out well for a brand and a wave of backlash for being a tell-tale is always inevitable – especially in the age of social media.
The other issue with the Scroogled campaign is how much the average man on the street really cares that Google is only displaying paid results. Sure, an SEO might be pretty peeved about it but I can say with 99% confidence that my mum and dad would not give a damn whether a company has paid for their listing or not so long as they could find all the presents they’re going to buy me for Christmas at the lowest price. It seems to be forgotten quite often that beyond our little bubble of algorithm dissection, there’s a whole audience out there who don’t care how Google does what it does, they just want it to.
So all in all, it seems like another misfire by Bing. Poor old Bing – it really is the Sideshow Bob of search engines, longing to be loved but destined to walk through a field of rakes forever.