Bing Is the Past, Copilot Is the Future

After more than a year of BingGPT, it's clear that the new experience is not going to take meaningful share from Google. While Microsoft's revamped search engine may have captured a point or so, there's no real momentum. Google retains 87% search market share in the US and has over 91% globally. Bing has gained a little over a point in the past year. And while that may be worth $2 billion in ad revenue, it's not particularly meaningful to the world's most valuable company, which brought in $212 billion in fiscal 2023. However, Microsoft's Copilot offers a new and interesting opportunity for the company. Presented not as a "search engine" but as your "everyday AI companion," Microsoft will be promoting Copilot during the Super Bowl. This is the perfect use of a $7 million Super Bowl commercial: to expose a massive audience to a new product or brand. The Microsoft ad below focuses on younger users and offers a broader value proposition than search: accomplish things you want/need to do in your life. Bing is now arguably a stale brand that has run its course. Copilot looks like the future of search for Microsoft.

Our take:

  • Based on survey data and anecdotal information, many younger users appear to want something different than Google's search experience.
  • Microsoft isn't positioning Copilot as a "search engine," but it includes search capability. Its broader utility and quasi-personalization are keys to its appeal to a younger generation of users.
  • Microsoft should maintain Bing but focus its marketing and feature development on Copilot – and eventually retire the Bing brand.

MLBs Neglect Local SEO

The majority (86%) of multi-location brands say they have dedicated local marketing strategies. Yet, compared with other tactics, local SEO is mostly neglected by these companies, including reputation management. That's according to a new Brand Beacon Report from BrightLocal, based on a survey of "200 marketing decision-makers for multi-location and franchise businesses" in the US (60%), UK and Canada. The survey measures what channels and tactics are being used and how they perform. BrightLocal also sought to understand respondents' local SEO sophistication. Companies were divided up by number of locations and also rated as "high performers" (HPs) and "average performers" (APs). Among the key findings, "94% of high-performing brands have a dedicated local marketing strategy" and "88% of multi-location marketers are already using generative AI." Social media, email and paid ads were the top local marketing channels. Among HPs, 54% said they had a good/very good understanding of local SEO vs. 49% for APs. Yet, when it comes to understanding differences between SEO and local SEO, 94% of HPs answered yes, but only 49% of APs. Local content, ranking optimization, reputation and citation management were not high priorities for most of these brands vs. other channels and tactics.

Source: BrightLocal survey

Our take:

  • Revenue growth was a goal for everyone. After that c-sat, brand awareness and retention were priorities for HPs, APs focused on customer acquisition.
  • Social, paid ads and email beat local SEO and related tactics (e.g., reputation management) to reach local audiences. Local SEO was used by only 30% to 40% of marketers across categories.
  • The lack of emphasis on local SEO may be a function of not fully understanding the differences between traditional and local SEO.

Jihad vs. McWorld

This is the title of a 1995 book that seeks to explain the post-Cold War world order and terrorism's threat to democracy. But it also suggests the next phase of the internet: chaos vs. blandness. But humans vs. machines is probably be more accurate. More and more online content will be AI-generated, with varying degrees of human input and oversight. As we saw from the recent Semrush report, people often prefer AI-written content to that created by actual humans. And that content appears to be succeeding and ranking for marketers according to the same report. Separately, there was a widely discussed profile in Wired of Nebojša Vujinović Vujo, who operates a network of sites that were once recognized (minor) brands with built-in audiences. He now populates those URLs with lower quality AI-generated content and programmatic ads – content farm 2.0. Google has backed away from its early prohibition and is now agnostic toward AI-generated content. If it's "helpful" and meets other ranking criteria it can rank and apparently does. There's nothing wrong with using AI in support of content creation or marketing. However, it will be used to create a lot of marginal content and spam. Google is preparing for that partly by elevating short video, social media and forums where it's clear that humans are the sources of information.

Source: Gemini

Our take:

  • AI content generation works better in some categories vs. others. Over the next two years we'll see how that plays out.
  • The financial argument for AI content is powerful: create more content, faster and for less money. In some cases quality may improve.
  • The proliferation of AI-generated content, much of which will be readable yet insipid, may drive people toward those corners of the internet that feature more personality, empathy and genuine human experiences.

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