Bing Netnography

Niraj Sharma |
 06/30/11 |
4 min read

Bing advertises itself as a “decision engine” rather than a search engine and claims to help users avoid “search overload syndrome.” Online consumers didn’t comment on that, but they do like Bing’s great home page photos and funny commercials (for the most part). On the down side, they’re not raving about the search results Bing delivers.

There was no “About Bing” on the Bing website, so here’s some background information from the Wikipedia entry: Bing (formerly Live Search, Windows Live Search, and MSN Search) is a web search engine (advertised as a ”decision engine”) from Microsoft. It went fully online in June 2009. In July 2009, Microsoft and Yahoo! announced a deal in which Bing would power Yahoo! Search. In March 2011, Bing-powered search accounted for over 30 percent of U.S. searches, up 5 percent over February. In the same period, Google fell 3 percent. (source)

Positive Themes

The largest positive theme by quite a margin is “homepage images.” Users like the daily pictures for a variety of reasons—some even say they use the service because of the pictures.

  • has the most beautiful photos. And they change it everyday. Makes me wish I’d majored in Photography in High School. (source)
  • has the best background pics. I use them for my avatar pics because it reminds me of what God created just for us. (source)
  • I like more then google because it got pretty pictures. (source)
  • @NixiePixel I like’s daily pictures, but I can’t make myself actually use the search engine. (source)
  • The wallpaper on is just sensational. Im totally committing a 180 from #google to @bing. (source)

People really like Bing’s funny TV commercials.

  • has such #awesome commercials… Am tempted to replace my google. (source)
  • I think has come up with some of the best commercials lately. This recent one is my fav by so far. (source)

The information Bing provides on travel and airfares is a popular feature.

  • is the best tool for traveling. It has a price predictor. I’m looking at flight to Denver right now. (source)
  • It also offered a free upgrade from a compact to a midsize car. Use Bing’s Price Predictor Who hasn’t read about a major fare sale the day after putting down a nonrefundable deposit on a reservation? helps you decide when to pull the trigger. After you put in your desired flight itinerary, the site tells you whether to buy your ticket now or to wait, based on historical fare data and price trends. (The site claims to have about a 75 percent accuracy rate, which independent experts don’t dispute.) (source)

Negative Themes

The most important capability of a search engine is consistently delivering relevant results. However, complaints about Bing’s search results were the biggest negative theme, including “finds nothing, useless,” “bad results/links,” and “irrelevant results.”

  • I hate so much. I seriously just knew exactly what I wanted, tried to bing it, couldn’t find it, typed in and it was 1st. (source)
  • is really hating, I looked up something in newfoundland and for some reason it gave me the first 3 picks as something to do with new and used cars in the usa, the second one was a random lost and found site and the third was a third party site asking you “do you want Land?, and fast?”…. I rest my case… on a brighter note, I am about to start playing Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of a New World. (source)
  • is a WASTE of time and browser space. i <3 google geo-prioritized searching. (source)

Bing commercials: some people love ‘em, some hate ‘em.

  • The commercials drive me crazy. If search overload is so bad, why is it 3/4 of your ad? (source)
  • I can’t stand comercials! I refuse to use the site. (source)

“Controlling the computer” is a common negative theme.

  • i dont like the fact that the first time i go to it makes me an account and signs me in using my facebook without me touching a button. (source)
  • I hate … it since clicking an add it has decided to control my internet…. (source)

“Browser issues” was frequently cited as a source of frustration for users.

  • RT @ChrisSoyars: Note to self – does not work in IE5. (source)
  • @SvenSemmler if you mean it doesn’t support chrome. that sux. (source)


Bing is growing in popularity, but the reasons for that may not be that it’s a great search engine. The Wikipedia entry provides this context for their growth:

“One possible cause for Bing’s growing market share is the fact that on all Windows 7 computers sold in retail, Internet Explorer comes preinstalled with the Bing toolbar and with Bing set as the default Internet Explorer homepage and default search engine. Another possible cause is Bing’s reward program, which offers Amazon gift cards and other incentives for people to use the Bing search engine.”

The most important capability for a search engine—highly relevant results—was only fourth in our list of most-common positive themes for Bing and was cited far less often than homepage images and commercials. Compare that to the prevalence of negative sentiment about search results, which was the single biggest negative theme in our sample.

There’s nothing wrong with having great photography on your home page—that alone attracts some users—or with having fun commercials—that also attracts some users—but those attributes are really beside the point. So is the travel/airfare feature—it’s nice, but does Bing really want to compete against dedicated travel websites? The problem for Bing is that when your product’s core capability is found to be lacking by so many users, your prospects for maintaining and growing market share are not good.

Bing wants to position itself as a “decision engine,” but to earn that positioning, it has to do a better job of consistently serving up highly relevant search results that help consumers make decisions. Bing is an example of a brand whose perceived equity is quite different from its intended equity.

About Our Approach

To write this netnography, we analyzed thousands of posts from consumers about Bing and identified the top positive and negative themes. The large-scale analysis is performed by a natural language processing (NLP) engine, then refined by human sampling.

To summarize our netnographies, we distill our findings into useful insights about how the brand we studied is positioned and perceived. We can provide our source data and confidence intervals for the percentages in the theme charts upon request.

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