By Cedric Chambaz, Marketing Manager Search & SMB, Microsoft Advertising

If you are a regular reader of the Fresh Business Thinking blog, you have certainly stumbled upon numerous articles explaining why search marketing is such a critical digital marketing technique for small and medium businesses.

Today, we are in fact at a pivotal date as a competitive alternative in search marketing is about to be offered to British advertisers. Microsoft and Yahoo! have indeed agreed on a search alliance, whereby Microsoft will globally power Yahoo!’s organic search and search advertising. This means that advertisers will soon be able to promote their business to a larger combined audience through the convenience of a single search marketing platform, Microsoft Advertising adCenter.

Yahoo! and Microsoft have already achieved some major milestones. In August 2010, Bing began powering the English-language organic search results for Yahoo! Search in North America. Soon after this it powered the Yahoo! Search Spanish-language organic search results in the United States and the French-language organic search results in Canada. Late October, we announced that adCenter began powering all of the paid search advertisements on Yahoo!’s owned and operated properties and its publisher network in the U.S. and Canadian markets.

This means that in North America, Microsoft now provides the organic search results for all web, image and video searches, and the paid search advertisements on Yahoo! Search, Bing and Yahoo! publisher network.

Both companies anticipate starting the organic and paid search transitions in select markets in Europe early 2011, and plan to complete the transitions with quality in all European markets by early 2012. In particular we intend to start with the UK, France and Ireland, with other markets to follow. If both companies feel that it would improve the overall experience, we may adjust the timing of the transitions. For more information, you may want to keep an eye on www.searchalliance.com/uk

Today, more and more advertisers are already capitalising on Bing’s momentum to drive great return on their advertising spend. As mentioned in an earlier article, SMBs tend to see that Bing converts more for less. In fact the latest Nielsen NetRating report states that Bing users are 48% more likely to purchase than the average British searcher. To help you benefit from this great audience, and maximise your advertising impact, our team of search experts have published recently a series of 5 great essential tutorials. They should help you address most of your questions around search advertising, from targeting to copy writing or bidding strategies… In perfect timing for the Year End seasonal peak.