In the midst of all of the brouhaha with Microsoft and Google pointing fingers at each other, there’s a few key points that need to be brought to bear.
Yes, this is the online world where an original idea is like a spark from a fire in the night, brilliantly bright and hot and burning out in seconds. That doesn’t mean however that in working in an additional business model, plagiarism is the best route forward. The “sting operation” as it’s been called, which Google used to confirm their suspicions that Bing was directly copying their search results were based around gibberish searches. Around a search term of “mbzrxpgjys” for example. Google ensured from the get go that the term returned no search results in either engine, and when a few weeks later after setting up the trap the same results appeared, the evidence was, well, evident.
The other main argument that’s being circulated in the news and blogs around the web is similar to the first, that all Bing did was keep up the pace with the big dog in the (search) game. It’s easy to concede the point that when you see a successful business model, with room for more in the same field, that it should be somewhat free game to copy a step here and there. Take Groupon and the plethora of clones which have been springing up using the same business model. Bing however, went over the line in copying a step or two. The point which is being left out in the stories as of late, the Bing results were populated via click through data pulled from users of Internet Explorer searching via Google. Users of Internet Explorer, used Google to search for the term “mbzrxpgjys”, and that click through data was used to populate Bing results.
Microsoft Internet Explorer tracks your search query, your click through data and then uses that data from a competing search engine to build their own (Bing) search results page.
Gee, and people worry about Google keeping things private.
The internet was born out of the idea of collaboration. That you could work on an idea and have your coworker be from the other side of the globe and it would make everything seem that much closer to home and cozy. It’s not a huge surprise that technologies are borrowed and repackaged and used as companies own, but it’s rare that one gets caught with their hand in the cookie jar so to speak. And yet Bing, has just been caught.
Google has come out and said pointedly that Microsoft Bing has been cheating in their search results, and stealing Googles results pages and displaying them as their own. Normally this kind of finger pointing can be downplayed as a type of borrowing, as it’s mainly the idea that’s been used, but in this case Microsoft actually admitted it.
Stefan Weitz, director of Microsoft’s Bing
As you might imagine, we use multiple signals and approaches when we think about ranking, but like the rest of the players in this industry, we’re not going to go deep and detailed in how we do it. Clearly, the overarching goal is to do a better job determining the intent of the search, so we can guess at the best and most relevant answer to a given query.
Opt-in programs like the [Bing] toolbar help us with clickstream data, one of many input signals we and other search engines use to help rank sites. This “Google experiment” seems like a hack to confuse and manipulate some of these signals.
How did Google work out what was going on? Aside from doing individual searches and directly comparing results, Google started noticing a rapidly rising overlap in top 10 results pages with Bing. So in order to verify their suspicions, Google rigged some searches. They created a bunch of fake searches which returned little to no results in Google and in Bing, and then placed a page at the top of those results in order to catch them with their hand in the jar. Because the pages were artificially placed in the results, it would be easy to confirm or deny their suspicions. The full fledged experiment began in mid December, and in just a couple of weeks the results began showing up in the Bing results.
In the end, Bing isn’t really really doing anything illegal, if anything it’s like they’re cheating on their math test. Google does all of the work, Bing reaps the same reward as their search opposition. Because no action could realistically be taken, the decision is in the hands of the users, and it puts a taint on all searches performed in Bing. Are they genuine search returns? Or are they just what they’ve managed to snag from the Google results pages.
What is the greatest guessing game you ask? It’s the game which has made Google, Microsoft and Yahoo, as well as other search engine start ups and even failures, piles of money just by mention of the word. Search, is the greatest guessing game.
What happened when Google took the game and applied it’s own rules, was dominate the online community as it propelled itself forward, clawing and fighting for all of the infomation it could find. There are various illustrations of the web which come to mind when it’s pictured. Firstly as a web of course, of interconnecting websites and pages, all of which the search bots, spiders naturally, navigate their way around and build up this interconnectability between them. I’ve seen pictures of the internet visualized as planets in galaxies and solar systems, as continents on a map and even as a DNA strand at one point. The best visualization I can come up with is that of an ocean, and all of the websites and pages of the internet are just kind of floating around. People are like little fish, darting around from point to point, sometimes finding what they want, sometimes not. But it’s a fluid environment, never the same from day to day and always on the move.
An article written about which search engine is better at delivering relevant results was the inspiration for today. It tried to demonstrate that by using identical results in different search engines, that one could clearly deliver better and more relevant results than the other. The reality is I believe, much murkier than that. Google is absolutely a brand name, and used extensively in all walks of life. Bing is working hard on branding itself as a decision engine and not a search engine, but in the end both algorithms do primarily the same thing. They guess at what you’re looking for, they guess that they’re delivering you what you want to see and they guess mostly correct only because you’ve already told them what you want to see. Whether it’s via your search history, cookies saved on your computer or even your directly typed search query. Search is still just a game, and for now Google still plays it best. The internet and online technology being what it is, we’ll revisit the topic in a year and everything may be upside down.
Facebook killers, Google killers, Bing killers.. it’s a wonder we have an internet experience at all with all of thie violence online. The most interesting part about all of the ‘killers’ out there however, is that none of it’s true. At least, not in the plainest definition of the word ‘killer’.
Facebook isn’t out to kill or replace Google, and Google isn’t out to kill Bing or Facebook or any other online entity out there. Everyone of those sites are players online, and for the most part have captivated the audience in their respective arena. Google has search and advertising, Facebook is the global social network, and Bing tries to be a little bit of both while propping up Yahoo with their results. Competition breeds creativity and provides a marketplace for other businesses and entrepreneurs to make a name for themselves, whether by carving out a niche for themselves, or being unique, and good enough at what they do, to be gulped up by the larger fish. Facebook, Google and Bing all play by much the same rulebook: if it can’t be built in house, either buy it or find it and adapt. The one key point that those big players all agree on as well, is they want to make the internet a more engaging place to be. Facebook has their games, groups and pages, Google has maps, places and search marketing, and Bing has social search, maps and a unique search page.
So when you’re reading your paper in the moring, watching the news or going through your emails for the day and the words ‘Facbook/Google killer’ are in the subject or title line, take the thoughts with a grain of salt. There isn’t any new tech out there which will just swoop in and replace everyone, nor will there be any massive swings of usage online. All of the major players each provide much different services, and while Bing and Google remain the closest in terms of the ‘competitor’ angle, even they will admit they do things differently with different focus.
Search Engine Results Pages or SERPs as it’s less of a mouthful, is the organic listing of relevant results returned from a search query. Or even simpler put, it’s the list you get when you search in Google, Bing or any other search engine. Google states that they have more than 200 different ranking factors which determine the results pages. Criteria ranging from anchor text, titles, incoming links and so on down the list. Bing, while they have a different algorith, hence different results, works upon the same principles as Googles. There needs to be some backbone, or authority to the people linking to your site to really have any significant driving force. Growing your site, and letting your information onto the web is akin to sprinkling seeds to contribute to your growth, it’s where the term organic results comes from. And now to muddy things up a tad, Google and Bing have started with a new layer of criteria, social factors.
It’s one thing for a robot to navigate the web, and rank websites according to which sites have the most content, or relevant content and return those results to you. But it’s another when you add into the mix that your Facebook friends (presumably) enjoy the same things as you do and ‘Like’ a site with that dastardly Facebook button. Bing is riding on this wagon, as when you’re signed into Facebook and search on Bing, you’ll receive results with your Facebook friends list helping to determine what’s relevant to your search as well. Google social, grabs the trending social information out there, and if it’s relevant to your query returns it as well, primarily in a scrolling box as new results come in.
As I mentioned in yesterdays blog post, social media will not be going away. The web is a social environment, encompassing the globe for anyone and everyone to say their piece. How you use that to assist in leveraging your business can’t be a half though out idea. If social media marketing is important to you, you will need to put hours of your time, or someone who knows your business to help push it in the social arena. Everything from tweeting sales and upcoming deals, to answering customers questions and concerns on Facebook. There was a decent Q&A by Danny Sullivan about how Google and Bing are starting to use social media as search leverage of sorts, an interesting read but the answers weren’t surprising.
In the not so new news, the death of SEO is being cried again. The cause this time is the Facebook and Bing partnership. I’ve read about the social search changes that have been incorporated, and just as Google shrugged it off, I’m inclined to do the same.
The changes that Bing and Facebook bring together is definitely interesting, no doubt. However, the idea that the entire industry of search marketing, search engine optimization and search engine rankings being dealt a deathblow by this partnership is laughable. If anything, the new partnership relies on SEO and SEM to function appropriately.
For another perspective, imagine going into a hardware store, and seeing all of the isles and rows numbered and having short labels for the contents of each row. Makes your shopping trip quick and efficient to know that you can find power drills and skill saws in the power tools isle. This would be a very basic example of SEO. Now applying the new Facebook/Bing method, you’re in that same hardware store, nothing is labelled or itemized (because it’s killed SEO remember) but you know there’s a power drill in there that your friend likes and owns. Great to know that your buddy has a favorite tool that you were thinking about, but how do you go about finding it?
Two very basic examples, but they illustrate the interpretation of the new personalized search Bing and Facebook are rolling out. Social Media Optimization (SMO) isn’t a new idea, it’s not revolutionary, it’s adwords on a more personal level. It displays information relative and relavant to your account and what it knows about you, not for your searchs. One last point to consider and digest, without search engine optimization, social media optimization wouldn’t exist, and without SEO, SMO will disappear.
There was the big conference today from Microsoft Bing and Facebook, and from the sounds of things they’re trying to give the world of search a stiff shake. The partnership idea that’s been rolled out (very small snippet) is when you search for an item or topic on Bing, your socially relevant searches would appear first. Your friends likes/dislikes on a subject or topic that you’ve plugged in. Some good questions have been asked from the conference, items of privacy of course what with Facebooks infamous history thus far, and of course someone asked about the money incentive (no answer on that last one). The far reaching goal is that your search is tailored exclusively for you. It’s personalization of the SERPs for *everyone* who uses Bing.
About the privacy factor, the social search angle is functioning like a module within Bing. A module, which can be turned off should you choose to shut it.
Zuckerberg stated : “We have this idea. 500 million people can look you up on Facebook. We think why shouldn’t applications be able to do this to?”
Because everyone is searchable on Facebook, set to private or not, the train of thought is to allow applications the same level of trust. Bascially you’re allowing Bing, to see all of your informationg you’ve made public on Facebook, and makes that information searchable to your friends list.
The social search angle isn’t meant to completely remove the traditional SERPs page you’re accustomed to seeing, it’s being added to help personalize your queries and provide you with unique results, relevant to you. It’s an updated twist on the personalized search results you start to see within Google for example, minus the cookie saving sessions. The negative side I personally see at this juncture, would be the fact that you need to Opt-out of the service should you choose not to use it. Some would think Facebook learned their opt-in, opt-out lessons by now. Only time now will be the determining factor on this new idea.
Bing and Yahoo have officially come together, with the results on the Yahoo SERPs being fully “Powered by Bing”. The process began 6+ weeks ago, with it finally being completed this past week.
Slowly and surely, Bing has replaced Yahoos results page with their own, so maybe it’s just me but, the recent market share numbers posted by Nielsen stats don’t make a difference in the search engine world. Google was sitting at 64% market share, while Yahoo and Bing have a combined 27% share. Sensationalizing results, is a method of the press, and what better way to grab attention than to say ‘BING UP 50%!!”
Now, Nielsen has Bing sitting at 13.6% market share on it’s own merit. This time, last year Bing (a repacked, remarketd Live search) was in it’s infancy at 2 months old, which at the time, Bing had 9% of the search market share. Here’s the sensationalizing part, 9% increased to 13.6%, is 4.6%, yay math. But since 4.6 is just a hair over half of 9, that means Bing grew by 51%!
In the end, the numbers don’t lie. Yahoo’s “market share” will essentially decrease over time until it’s just finally lumped in with Bing, and we’ll end up with Google on top, YaBing in second, and everyone else coming in respectively after the two major players. Online PC based search is slowing down a tad as well, with the advent of more intelligent and handy smart phones, but that’s a whole other ball of wax.
It’s another step closer, the Micro(Ya)hoo results are starting to show on their SERPs. In a press announcement from July 20th, Yahoo outlined some tips and strategies that businesses and webmasters could follow to assist the transition into the new results pages.
This is an important step toward our goal of improving the overall relevance of Yahoo! organic search results and attracting a larger audience to Yahoo! Search, to ultimately put your ads in front of more potential customers.
Both Yahoo and Bing trail Google in the search wars, and with this new step in their alliance, they’ve closed the gap a little by joining forces. A quick check to see if you’re getting a brand new SERP page or not, is if a “powered by Bing” message is present at the bottom of the page. Yahoo is also working out the kinks and testing they’re beginning a limited test of the paid account transitions.
As well as their Site Explorer available until 2012, and Search Money available until October 2010, tools will still be available. And to add to the mix, as per their agreement, Yahoo and Bing will be exchanging information in order to just make everything work better. Being in the US or Canada, your search experience just got a little bit better because of the movement forward.
Another D-Day is looming on the horizon, and website owners are going to be learning another step to the SEO dance. It’s been in the works for the last while, the Yahoo-Bing search results merger, and in a recent press release from Bing, the proverbial trigger was pulled.
For webmasters, it’s important to be familiar with how the Bing crawler interacts with your site. After the full algorithmic transition is complete, you only need to optimize for one crawler (Bing), as we will provide Yahoo! with results from our index.
All of the little tricks, optimizations and tweaks that we’ve learned over the last year, can be trimmed down to the Bing bones as it were. In other words, don’t be surprised if your site shuffles and changes in ranking on Bing abd Yahoo, depending on which secondary search you work with.
You can find the entire press release issued, from their senior VP of their online services division, here.