DETROIT -- If you're an automotive marketer who buys search-engine words for Microsoft Corp.'s Bing or Yahoo search, Qi Lu wants to reassure you. He's going to be ready for the Christmas rush by finishing his work by Halloween.
Lu, president of Microsoft's Online Services Division, leads the company's search and online advertising efforts. That puts him on the hot seat as Microsoft prepares for Bing software to take over running searches on all Yahoo sites.
Under a 10-year deal announced July 29, 2009, the switchover to Bing as the driver for Yahoo searches was to take place in the fourth quarter of this year. Lu aims to make it happen by the end of October.
A dealer buys search words, such as "red tag sale," so that his store pops up at the top of the list when online shoppers enter a query for that term.
"The seasonality is important," Lu told Automotive News. "If we migrated 100,000 advertisers from the Yahoo platform to the Microsoft platform" much later in the year, the switchover would "get into the heart of the shopping season." For many retailers, the holiday season accounts for most of their sales.
That may not be true for auto retailers, but it makes sense to switch all searches over at the same time. Someone in the market for a used car may be looking to buy a new set of tools to work on it, too.
Lu, who oversees auto and other advertising on such diverse Microsoft properties as MSN, Bing, Xbox and MSN Mobile, says the deal with Yahoo will bring these benefits:
*By combining, the two engines will receive more search queries, thus improving the quality of the search product. "More traffic draws more advertisers, so users have more ads to choose from," Lu says.
*The pace of innovation will be faster. "Our r&d aims to improve relevance," he says. "The more traffic, the more tests you can do" to fine-tune the search-engine software.
Bing Search had about 12 percent of the search-engine market, Lu says. Add Yahoo, and that jumps to close to 30 percent of the online search audience. Of course, that's still far short of Google, the industry giant.