Microsoft says manipulating search results affects traffic, stares disapprovingly at Google

Microsoft is continuing to go after Google with claims that the company manipulates its search results for its own gain. It has done so in the past with its Scroogled campaign which claims Google's shopping results are affected by paid ads and are not truly objective search results.

This week, a new post on its Microsoft on the Issues blog was written by Susan Athey, a Microsoft consultant and a Professor of Economics at Stanford University Graduate School of Business. In the post, Athey stated she worked with Microsoft's Bing team to show how placement of search results affect traffic to those search links.

Basically, the experiment, which ran for a few weeks in the US and overseas, put in the links that would normally be first in objective search results lower on the list. According to Athey, moving a search result link from first to third cut down the traffic to that site by half. She added:

The diversion effect becomes much more pronounced as a site is moved further down the page. A site that is moved from the first position to the tenth position typically will lose about 85 percent of its traffic. A site that is moved from the second position to the ninth loses about 75 percent of its traffic. And the results were similar for all users, regardless of the amount of time they spent searching on the site.

Athey also claims that placing a search result higher on the list than it normally would has an even bigger effect on its traffic, claiming that moving a search result link from fifth to first caused a massive 340 percent increase in its traffic. Athey says that Microsoft has sent its study results to the European Commission, which is currently making a decision on if it should punish Google on its search practices. Athey says:

While the results of this study quantify the impact of what most people know intuitively, they demonstrate that the order and manner in which a search engine presents results powerfully affects how much traffic websites will receive.

Source: Microsoft | Image via Microsoft

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26 Comments

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I've been trying bing for a couple of weeks now, its come along way since is rather lacklustre launch, it finds what i need, in fact it finds some products that didn't show up on google which was great as i was giving up hope and hence the switch, Layout is great, i might just stick with it.

Please, whatever MS and Google have going, competition is a good thing. Google's domination in so many market sucks. I still use it, but I wish there were at least an alternative. Bing could be that, so I don't blame MS for trying. At least they aren't going all Apple and suing every 5 seconds.

Zagadka said,
Please, whatever MS and Google have going, competition is a good thing. Google's domination in so many market sucks. I still use it, but I wish there were at least an alternative. Bing could be that, so I don't blame MS for trying. At least they aren't going all Apple and suing every 5 seconds.

I totally agree, but this advertisement campaign would more harm Microsoft than anything else.

Zagadka said,
Please, whatever MS and Google have going, competition is a good thing. Google's domination in so many market sucks. I still use it, but I wish there were at least an alternative. Bing could be that, so I don't blame MS for trying. At least they aren't going all Apple and suing every 5 seconds.

What? Microsoft sues all the time...

dead.cell said,

What? Microsoft sues all the time...


Often as a last resort. Microsoft is a massive company don't forget that. Most of their divisions are passive-aggressive. Look at how Microsoft handled Motorola. They gave them plenty of chances to avoid going to court. This isn't a unique case with MS, far from actually.
And offcourse if they think they are right, they will go after it. So would anyone of us or any company.

I'm not saying it isn't justified. I'm well aware of how businesses work; my point being that apparently others don't, and think that Apple is the only one that files lawsuits.

wahoospa said,
Why doesn't Microsoft STFU. They're only putting rotten eggs on their own face.

They are just trying to get ahead. It used to be that MS products sold themselves on how they were advertised and what they can do. Now, since MS is behind in a lot of areas, they are resorting to this and their scroogled campaigns to gain an edge. Apple has done it and I am sure Google would probably do it as well if they were behind.

wahoospa said,
Why doesn't Microsoft STFU. They're only putting rotten eggs on their own face.

Did you have the same opinion when Apple launched the Mac vs PC ads? I think not.

I'm sure you realise there's a difference between intuition and actually quantifying something with proof.

(Something that unfortunately a lot of people just don't seem to understand about science.)

Cyberkiller said,
So Microsoft just realized that search engine rankings effect traffic?

Uh, the point was to quantify it. Even the original article spelled this out exactly.

But no, no, don't let me stand in the way of having a knee-jerk opinion.

Cyberkiller said,
So Microsoft just realized that search engine rankings effect traffic?

Microsoft should request more traffic from Google ! That's so unfair !
More traffic for bing.

bigmehdi said,

Microsoft should request more traffic from Google ! That's so unfair !
More traffic for bing.

They are pretty butthurt about Google. Microsoft is resorting to attacks on Google now since they can't compete with them. Google does everything better than them... Android, Chrome, Drive, Search, Gmail, Nexus, etc.

onionjuice said,

They are pretty butthurt about Google. Microsoft is resorting to attacks on Google now since they can't compete with them. Google does everything better than them... Android, Chrome, Drive, Search, Gmail, Nexus, etc.


Android? Before this MS dominated the smart phone realm. And if Samsung drops Android for its own OS. You can expect Android to become one of the smaller players.
Chrome... It did boost the WWW at first, but in recent years has only been holding back the WWW by battling every single standard that comes from MS and/or Apple.
Gdrive isn't doing that great compared to Skydrive.
Search, yes one. Kudo's mate.
Gmail? Uhm IIRC Hotmail/Outlook still has a higher active user base.
Nexus isn't doing that great.

onionjuice said,

They are pretty butthurt about Google. Microsoft is resorting to attacks on Google now since they can't compete with them. Google does everything better than them... Android, Chrome, Drive, Search, Gmail, Nexus, etc.

Besides Search, I don't see where Google's products are better than Microsoft.

Shadowzz said,

Android? Before this MS dominated the smart phone realm. And if Samsung drops Android for its own OS. You can expect Android to become one of the smaller players.
Chrome... It did boost the WWW at first, but in recent years has only been holding back the WWW by battling every single standard that comes from MS and/or Apple.
Gdrive isn't doing that great compared to Skydrive.
Search, yes one. Kudo's mate.
Gmail? Uhm IIRC Hotmail/Outlook still has a higher active user base.
Nexus isn't doing that great.

Oh yea MS dominated the smartphone realm, population: 2 devices in 2002 am I right? Do you not count Blackberry as a smartphone? I must be living under a rock then. And IF samsung drops? Lol you make me laugh. Why would Samsung do such a thing. Well let me tell you this... If Nokia drops Windows Phone, WP would be NON EXISTENT.

Browser Standards that come out from Apple/Msft? What are you talking about. That doesn't even make sense... what standards created by APPLE and MSFT? Silverlight? Quicktime?

I've been a member of Skydrive since beta and surely I can tell you Gdocs is better

Gmail is the #1 email provider in the world, your Outlook/Hotmail lost their spot because Gmail is superior.

Yah you're right Nexus hasn't sold more than 400k units unlike the BEST TABLET IN THE WORLD, Surface Pro.

Didnt MS lose a case against Google for this? Or was it something/someone else? I seem to remember something a few months ago.

EDIT: It was the FTC that recommended the government sue Google for them manipulating search for their own products. But I believe Google was cleared in the US. Would be interesting to see how the EU handles this and hopefully they conduct their own report and not take MS' word for it.