Microsoft & AOL Enter Significant New Deal

Microsoft and AOL have just completed the finishing touches on a significant new deal that will have AOL searches powered by Bing (up till now they were powered by Google).  In addition, the ad inventory on Microsoft properties such as Outlook, Skype, x-box, MSN and more will be sold through AOL rather than through Microsoft directly.

Silicon valley word cloud concept

Silicon valley word cloud concept

Different parts of the deal will be put in place between now and January of 2016, with some of the most significant changes coming in the next few weeks.  The deal is set to last ten years, and future changes agreed upon by both companies can extend that out further.

This deal will remind many of the deal between Yahoo and Microsoft, which had Microsoft powering the Yahoo search results.  While that arrangement has been bumpy, it seems to have benefitted both companies overall.

AOL Search Results

The part of the agreement that is likely to get the most attention is the fact that AOL search will now be powered by Bing.  AOL has long used Google, so this change will take the AOL market share away from Google and give it directly to Bing.  While AOL really only has 1% of the US search market, this is still important.  Removing one percent from Google and giving it to Bing will look like a 2% swing on the stats.

Google has not commented on the move yet.  They aren’t likely to since this really is a small loss for them overall, but a loss none the less.  For Microsoft, however, it can be seen as fairly important.  They only recently passed the 20% mark for total share of the US search market, so this will take them a little bit closer to reaching the 25% mark, which will be a major milestone for them.

Display Ads

While it won’t get the same amount of press, this is actually likely to be a more important part of the deal.  Having AOL sell the ad space for Microsoft is going to be quite a change for marketers as well as Microsoft and AOL.  AOL already has an effective team in place since they own many popular web properties, so they may be able to use this to drive additional ad buyers to not only the Microsoft properties but also their own.

The deal is effective for Google’s top nine global markets including US, UK, Canada, France, Brazil, Germany, Italy, Spain and Japan.  In addition, Microsoft will begin using AppNexus to programmatically sell display inventory in other smaller markets including Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Ireland, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Sweden and Switzerland.

The Microsoft display ad team won’t be losing their jobs, fortunately.  Many of them will, however, have to begin working for AOL rather than Microsoft.  The specific number is not known yet, but most people say it will be between 500 and 1200 employees.

These changes are small overall, but are likely the first of many between Microsoft and AOL.  These two companies are in good positions to partner up to improve things like search, ad inventory and much more.  Marketers will be wise to keep a close eye on how Microsoft and AOL’s relationship evolves.

Headlines Essential to Driving Traffic from Search & Social

While it might not be surprising to many, the headline of a story is the most important factor when attempting to drive traffic to it from either social sites or search engines.  This is according to a new study by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism.  The study analyzed the habits of 20,000 people in 12 different countries and learned a lot of important information.  The following are some of the key points that are covered in the study, and how they can be used by marketers.

Headlines More Important for Search than Social

While a good headline is essential for a successful story no matter where it is published, the study found that it is significantly more important when people see it on search results compared to social media.  For search results, the study showed that more than 50% of people in each country (well more than 50% in some countries) said that the headline was the most important factor when determining which stories they click on.  For social, on the other hand, that number dropped to an average of 37% for most countries, with the highest being just under 50% in Ireland.

Other Factors that Encourage Clicks

The other factors that were ranked were ‘content that comes from a site I know and trust’ which was the second most popular option and ‘content that comes from a person I know and trust.’  For search, not surprisingly, content that comes from a person I know and trust only got a few percentage of the people.  On social, however, it was nearly 25% in most countries.  This is, of course, because people see their friends and family sharing a post so they assume it is going to be interesting or engaging.

For search, having a site that is from a trusted site that people recognize is far more important than having a site that comes from people they trust.  In most cases, Google and the other search engines will rank trusted and/or recognizable sites such as well known news sites, YouTube, WikiPedia and things like that.  For marketers, building a brand can help drive traffic by building trust in the brand name.  Of course, that takes time.

Using Proper Headlines

While it may be obvious that using great headlines is essential to driving the most traffic you can, it isn’t always as easy as people would like.  Figuring out what types of headlines work best for your specific site or product can be difficult.  Some things are proven to drive traffic, but they don’t convert very well.  On the other hand, some types of headlines may not get as much traffic but will convert at higher rates because of the fact that it attracts more motivated buyers.

Finding the right balance can take some experimentation and learning about your target customers.  This is well worth the effort and over time will allow you to write high quality headlines for your posts, videos and other types of content.  If you are interested in seeing the full study from Reuters, you can see it HERE.