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Do Bing’s New Facebook Features Make it a Better Search Engine Than Google?

Bing Does More To Differentiate Itself with Social Search Features

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Do Bing’s New Facebook Features Make it a Better Search Engine Than Google?
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Bing has been steadily increasing its integration with Facebook, and while that’s likely far from over, they’ve launched some significant new features. We’ve written plenty about social search in the past, and from the comments we’ve received, it’s clear that there are a lot of people out there who don’t think there is any value in it. Others acknowledge that there might be value there, but still have a hard time finding it. Bing says half of people (based on its own research) say seeing their friends “likes” with search results could help them make better decisions.

Is there value to having info from your Facebook friends in search results? Comment here.

Microsoft Corporate Vice President Yusuf Mehdi talks about the company’s line of reasoning on the Bing Search Blog:

“Research tells us that 90% of people seek advice from family and friends as part of the decision making process. This ‘Friend Effect’ is apparent in most of our decisions and often outweighs other facts because people feel more confident, smarter and safer with the wisdom of their trusted circle. A movie critic may pan the latest summer block buster, but your friends say it’s the feel good movie of the year, so you ignore the critic and go (and wholeheartedly agree). Historically, search hasn’t incorporated this ‘Friend Effect’ – and 80% of people will delay making a decision until they can get a friend’s stamp of approval. This decision delay, or period of time it takes to hunt down a friend for advice, can last anywhere from a few minutes to days, whether you’re waiting for a call back, text, email or tweet.”

With the new update, users will get more personalized search results on Bing based on the opinions of Facebook friends. You have to be signed into Facebook. “New features make it easier to see what your Facebook friends ‘like’ across the Web, incorporate the collective know-how of the Web into your search results, and begin adding a more conversational aspect to your searches,” says Mehdi.

What Exactly is Bing Doing?

  • Displaying “likes” from news stories, celebrities, movies, bands, brands, etc. in search results, where applicable
  • Displaying actual sites your friends have “liked” – not just individual pieces of content. Bing says if you’re looking for a TV, and you have a friend that has “liked” overstock.com, you might see that in your results.
  • A very important element of this update is that it is actually influencing the rankings of content (on a personalized basis). Mehdi says, “Bing will surface results, which may typically have been on page three or four, higher in its results based on stuff your friends have liked. And, how often do you go beyond page one of the results?”
  • Bing is using Facebook data to show “well-liked content, including trending topics, articles and Facebook fan pages, from sites across the web”.
  • Bing is showing Facebook posts from brands when the brand is searched for. Search for Avis and you’ll see recent updates from the Avis Facebook page (in theory. I couldn’t get that to actually work).
  • Bing now has a feature that will let you have conversations with Facebook friends who live where you’re traveling.
  • They also recently launched a feature that lets you share shopping lists with friends.
  • When you search for a specific person, Bing will use Facebook to provide location, education, and employment details.
  • A “Travel Wishlist” feature lets you compare trips with Facebook friends, suggest new destinations, and learn more about locations. When you pick a travel destination, Bing will show you friends that live or have lived there.
  • If you “like” a city on Bing, Bing will send deals for flights to that city to your Facebook news feed.

Turning it on/off

The beauty of the feature is that if you don’t like it, you don’t have to use it. Just don’t sign into Facebook. It’s as simple as that.

For the first five times you use Bing in this way, you’ll see a note at the top right of the screen saying that it is using your Facebook friends, and has a link to “learn more” and a “disable’ button. You can always connect to Facebook again under the sign-in menu.

Will it deliver better search results?

There are plenty of questions that surround the execution of social search, which is probably why nobody has really gotten it 100% right yet. For example, should Bing be focusing on friends that have similar interests to you rather than your whole body of friends? Perhaps it depends on the query.

There’s no question that most Facebook users have friends they interact with more and some they don’t even really know that well. Maybe you’re friends with someone you went to middle school with and haven’t talked to since. Without measuring the level of friendship or common interests, can data from these more obscure “friends” really be valuable? If Bing found a way to identify the people you really interact with and/or have common interests beyond just being your Facebook friend, search results could improve for certain queries.

What’s missing?

As with some past Bing announcements, the execution doesn’t seem to quite live up to the hype. That doesn’t mean it won’t get better, but the features are not perfect by any means.

I do notice that “like” information is incomplete. For example, if I search for the band Converge, Bing shows me that I have two friends that like it, when in fact, Facebook shows that I have four friends that like it. This has to improve, because which friends like certain things can make all the difference in the world. This is a critical element of social search.

Facebook Likes in Bing

Facebook LIkes in Facebook - Different than Bing

I think I still prefer the Wajam approach to social search. They add all of the stuff from your friends right at the top, so it’s always easy to distinguish it from the natural results. It’s also easy to get a friend-by-friend break down on any given query, and see which friends have mentioned certain things.

In fact, that’s a big element still missing in Bing’s experience, as far as I can tell. Conversations happen on Facebook itself. It’s not all just people liking content around the web. My friend that lives in Chicago may have mentioned a great hot dog shop in casual dialog, without “liking” it on the web or “liking” its Facebook page. Will Bing show me that when I search for a place to eat in Chicago?

If I’m thinking about buying a new album, will it show me the comment my friend made about how much it sucks? Facebook is a treasure trove of data, and while these new features may be an improvement to the experience, there is a lot more that can be done (much of which Wajam, for one, has already made significant strides in).

Challenging Google

Google has made no secret of the fact that it considers Microsoft and Bing to be its main competitor. Bing, while it still has a ways to go before it gets into Google territory, has been steadily increasing search market share since it launched. The latest comScore data had both Bing and Yahoo gaining a little ground in April (with Bing of course powering the back-end of Yahoo’s search results).

Bing has things in motion that should only increase its share significantly. These include deals with Nokia and RIM, which will put Bing as the default search engine in the pockets of a great many devices. While this is only speculation, I still expect Microsoft to eventually integrate Bing into Xbox in a major way, as the web and the living room become more integrated. Google is not shying away from this area, and Microsoft already has a significant edge with its gaming console. The recent follies of the Sony Playstation (the Xbox’s main rival) can’t hurt either.

Google has been doing social search for quite some time, but really how social is it? How many conversations does it start? How often do the results influence your decisions? There has long been one major hole in Google’s offering, and that is Facebook data. This is simply because most people online that do any kind of social networking use Facebook. If they used Google Buzz, Google would have an enormous edge, but they use Facebook. As long as that’s the case, and Google is not tapping into that, its social-based results simply can’t be as good as they would be otherwise.

The Facebook Like vs. the Google +1 Button

Google has of course unveiled its strategy of using friends to influence search results with the +1 button, which is set to be rolled out in the coming weeks. There is a great deal of skepticism around this, however, and Bing has upped the ante. The strategies are similar in that both require friends hitting a button to influence the search rankings of content.

Where Google is starting from the ground up, Bing is harvesting the data from a very well established system that we know works. Frankly, Google is going to have a hard time topping this.

For one thing, people aren’t clicking the “like” button with the intent to influence search rankings (at least not the average person, though I suspect we’ll see people trying to game this). They’re clicking it because they use Facebook and they genuinely like things. That works.

To most users, Google is still a search engine. It’s not where their friends are. Sure, maybe they use all kinds of Google services, but it’s still not their main social network of choice. We’re still waiting for Google to tie this whole social strategy together in a more cohesive way (that’s a whole other conversation) , but until that gets accomplished, the average user is just going to consider Facebook the place where their friends are going to see their “liking”. Who’s going to see their “+1ing”? Are they just going to click that button because they want other people to have a better chance of finding it for some search query that they may or may not ever enter?

Less of the Same

All of that said, it might be best that Google and Bing remain significantly different in their strategies. It is a good thing for Bing to differentiate itself more as a search engine. The less alike Bing and Google are, the more options users have. It’s even possible to use both. I know. Crazy, right?

Google’s Matt Cutts is even encouraging users to check out other search engines like Blekko and DuckDuckGo. “I love when new search engines launch. I think competition is great,” he said in a recent webmaster video. “It keeps us on our toes. It makes sure that we’re doing the right things. I highly encourage people to check out both Blekko and DuckDuckGo. See what you like, see what you don’t like.”

He has a point about Google “making sure it’s doing the right things”. We’ve certainly seen Google borrow some ideas from Bing in the past. We’ll see if Google and Facebook can ever come to an understanding. Don’t forget, Microsoft is an investor in Facebook.

From a marketing perspective, Bing needs to find ways to stand out by leveraging its business relationships with Facebook. I wonder if we’ll start seeing more about this in Bing commercials. Microsoft is certainly spending a lot more on marketing Bing than Google is on its search engine. Perhaps that will change if Bing’s market share doesn’t stop growing.

Which is the better search engine: Google or Bing? Tell us what you think.

Do Bing’s New Facebook Features Make it a Better Search Engine Than Google?
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  • Mac

    I love Bing. I can’t find anything on Google lately unless I dig to page 2-3, so frustrating. I search/research mostly products, and their ever changing prices, for my business. Apparently products have short descriptions so listings are buried. In Bing things apparently don’t change too much. The results are there in first page. I love it. I’ll keep checking Google from time to time but for now Bing is my default search engine.

  • http://wredlich.com Warren Redlich

    Interesting idea. I tried it out. For most searches I didn’t see any likes so it probably will matter in a small percentage of searches.

  • http://www.epalmspringsrealestate.com Abraham

    It seems that Facebook always end up at the core of discussions when it comes to search and search engines.

    Are there any statistics or numbers anywhere that show from the millions of Facebook account holders how many are actually active, using Facebook on a daily basis and for purposes that actually do bring credible search results to the net.

    I honestly do not understand why Google should be worried. When people want answers they google it!

    • http://www.webpronews.com/ Chris Crum

      I wouldn’t mind seeing these stats either, but I know enough people personally who use Facebook pretty actively, and I know that I have enough friends whose opinions on certain things I care enough about to lend credibility (on a personalized level) to certain kinds of search results.

  • http://www.zadees.com zadees

    Never been a fan of Bing. I did a review on it a while back comparing search results for Microsoft.com information. Google almost always had the relevent content on the first or 2nd link, Bing usually got it on the first page, but it was rarely in the top 5 listings.

    Bing seems to be a poor product with extreme marketing, where Google seems to be an excellent product with little marketing. Business 101 will tell you that it is never a good strategy to spend more than you can make. Microsoft is just so desperate to be involved in the web, but unfortunately they just aren’t good at it.

    Is partnering with facebook going to help them? I doubt it. It is Microsoft afterall, so they will find a way to mess it up.

    I’ve had my browser default search changed to bing over and over again by different services but i still find it worth taking the time to restore it to Google.com and I don’t see that changing anytime soon.

    • http://www.webpronews.com/ Chris Crum

      I wonder how many people will bother to change the default search option as they’re presented with Bing on new devices.

      • Robert Armstrong

        Removing Bing as default search is one of the first things done in our shop for mobile and pc clients. Not hard to do, but you ask a good question.

  • http://www.mrmediagroup.com Misae

    Facebook has several years to go before it becomes “you” on the internet. Whilst I know they’ve done a good job at all that creepy data collection stuff they do like logging what you visit whilst you’re logged in, most folks I know (and they’re all pretty forward thinking, early adopting tech/social media/marketing types) don’t ‘like’ half of the things I know they’d endorse if I asked them.

    Why?

    A ‘like’ is also an open invitation to spam.

    I think Facebook is part of the answer. To do social search well, we’re going to need to look at a lot more publically available sources of information including profiling and authority of individuals, interaction between you and the ‘friend’ and interaction between the friend and the thing you’re searching for. Those data sets aren’t all their yet and where they are they aren’t all rich enough to draw too much inference from, as in the case of ‘like’.

    • http://www.webpronews.com/ Chris Crum

      I think some interesting data could be gleaned from Facebook’s Friendship Pages, which show your past interactions with a specific friend, as well as the things that you both “like”.

      • http://www.mrmediagroup.com Misae

        Right but it also needs to understand their authority on that subject. After all most of us know technology to some degree these days. However just because an old school mate likes Facebook, should I value their opinion over yours, a seasoned tech editor?

        Until we have enough data to determine what is a meaningful person-to-person referral it’s primitive, although don’t doubt me, I think it’s a great idea with lots to get excited about.

  • http://www.practicalsports.com Camping Tent Dude

    All of this is ripe for manipulation, can’t see putting much weight toward this kind of feature.

    • http://www.webpronews.com/ Chris Crum

      Being how it’s personalized, I think the gaming could only go so far.

  • http://www.replicacafe.com A. Watch

    Not sure what will be tomorrow, but today nothing does any search engine better than Google. Any information just published in the internet will be indexed by G in a few hours. I run a website which appears on first page of search results of Bing and Yahoo (on main keywords) and it is only on third page on Google. But organic traffic from google is about 5 times higher than traffic I receive from all other search engines together

  • http://Saltcityculinary.weebly.com Jason Nakonechni

    There comes a point in life where you stop making decisions based on your friends opinions. Facebook “friends” are people I would not know or care about anylonger. Its cool my first girlfriend/kiss said hello, but that was when I was 11. Once the initial laugh and trip down memory lane was over my interest was as well.
    The last time I checked the internet is still a land of make believe. Social networks are where you can play all is perfect in life, when chances are they suck. Lets worry more about children, human rights, and how we regain control from sick greedy corporations that rule our every move.

    • http://www.webpronews.com/ Chris Crum

      I think a lot of people have enough real friends (and family) in their Facebook networks for there to be plenty of value for the decision making process, at least for a significant amount of people for a significant amount of queries.

      • Robert Armstrong

        So how long have you worked for microsoft, Chris?

  • http://www.riftsuccess.com RIFT SUCCESS

    It is certainly a great concept to be able to connect to sites that have been approved by connections, friends, and family. This process gives the search a bit more of a personal feel and can only help businesses with word of mouth. Bing understands that concept and has carried it through with their Facebook alliance. The like button has become a necessity to businesses for public relations. Google has the take of the old way of doing things, which is a given, but we wouldn’t count them out. What would happen if Google aligned with Twitter? Twoogle would perhaps change the face of search engine finesse.

  • http://www.webartistuk.com/seo.html SEO service

    I think the slash ideah is good but the thing is, will ordinary people be able to find it simple enough to use? some people barely know how to use normal search engines, so in theory its a good idea but in reality it may not be so…however it may become pupular amongst the computer literate people therefore could have a market there for it

  • http://www.mlmconsultant.com Rod Cook

    Facebook searches will clutter up hard core searches. Bet it does not catch on! Time will tell!

  • http://validtravel.com Glenn H. Kipps

    Bing all the way. Google is too conceited. They need to be dropped a notch or two.

  • http://www.puamanawebdesign.com/ puamana

    In response to your article I’d like to suggest you watch Eli Pariser’s Ted Talk regarding ‘personalized’ search…. here’s a link to the video:

    http://front.moveon.org/eli-pariser-filter-bubble-ted-talk/?sms_ss=facebook&at_xt=4dd17d44ef3b5c1f,0

  • http://www.insurancequotesrus.com.au Jacqui

    Google seems to be where the action is today. But with development happening sooo quick – who can predict!

  • http://www.lawyer-advertising-blog.com Phil

    I was thinking a long time ago that if I owned Facebook, I would develop a search engine to correlate search results with sites that friends like. I think this is good for Facebook and a good search engine niche. However, this is not something that I would like in a search engine that I use.

    Google has also transitioned from a search engine that I liked using and want to use to a yellow page type site with local listings that I have no interest in using. When I want local search results, I go to a yellow page site.

    With the Google and Bing transitions from a traditional search engine, this leaves the door wide open for a company to take Google’s original place. Currently, I just go straight to the second page of search results when I see the local listings. But, I am eagerly looking for a Google replacement and several other people I know are as well.

  • http://www.trafficfundi.com Traffic Fundi

    Honestly. Why don’t bing ang google stick to what they know, search and stop trying to bring all this new clutter to the fold.

    What happened to permission marketing??? That was the power of search not interruption marketing which is forcing crap into people’s faces when you don’t want it.

    Let facebook bring out a proper search engine and market that as social search!!! Let bing and the likes stick to good old fashioned web search results.

    Personal feeling

  • http://www.marlonphoto.com Marlon G

    Microsoft is relying on Facebook at this time for marketing info based solely on the fact that Facebook is an overnight giant. I would not put all my fate in Facebook with all the controversy surrounding how your information is shared. If Facebook needs us to fuel their growth why are they always looking over our shoulders and threatening us for voicing our opinions or just being free. The internet was based on the idea you were free to connect and share information in unlimited ways and your daily usage was not regulated or monitored unless you were breaking the law. I now only visit my Facebook page once or twice a week because I don’t feel quite comfortable whenever I’m on my page visiting my friends. You know that feeling we get now when we’re at the airport or in a government building. The feeling that we better do the right thing or we’ll look suspicious or get into trouble without even trying. Thats how I feel on Facebook.

    The public has a way of turning the tides when it comes to their freedom or being over regulated or even sharing of too much personal information on individuals. I honestly think it is only a matter of time before the information giant, Facebook stops growing as fast as they are presently.

    I don’t know if they are really helping Bing to provide better searches but why does Microsoft need them anyway. Microsoft has more money than God and they can certainly develop other methods of gathering information which can be as competitive as any. Take a look at other sites like Diaspora Social Network which I feel has potential to give you the freedom to control everything you place on their pages. Will the Diaspora Social Network be the next big thing? We’ll just have to wait and see. They are certainly starting to attract attention since the public is always looking for a better way to communicate safely with flexibility. Remember MYSPACE? Will we be saying, “Remember Facebook?” in a couple of years. Who knows, we’ll just have to wait and see.

    I have friends who tell me that Facebook is starting to annoy them. It’s makes them have spend too much time talking with people they did not normally talk to in the past. So you respond to one message and then 50 people respond as well and you get all of their posts in your email box and so on. Sometimes it’s useless chatter but then again “Seinfeld” the show about nothing was one of the biggest hits on television but it did not have to collect information on the general public on a daily basis just to sell it to Bing for tens of millions monthly. I was told by SEO experts that my website, http://www.marlonphoto.com would rank higher if it had a lot more information to offer and many more pages. I was also told by my clients that my site was simple, clean and provided just the right amount of information based on the services I offered. So the SEO guys are like Facebook, Google and Microsoft and my clients are just the average person. Who is really the better critic? hmm!

    Enough about my chatter. The information age just has too much information in my opinion and the public just does not want to sift through the piles of documents before them. We’ll see if Facebook and Microsoft benefits from their relationship or will Google still be the leader in search for a long time. You can tell I’m a little frustrated with all of the information giants. It’s just too much information for the average person.

  • http://www.reellawnmowerreviews.com reel lawn mower reviews

    Thai’s cool. Bing become #1 Search Engine.

  • http://pleasley.com S Lacey

    I think it totally irrelevant. Personally I don’t use social networks as I’m quite capable of making my own decisions unaided. I’m not interested in what opinions other people have on things that concern me. I feel that being “one of the flock” is a dangerous way to go and can lead to bigotry and intolerance.

    • http://www.webpronews.com/ Chris Crum

      Even if it’s a friend saying that some restaurant makes a good hamburger?

    • http://www.ientry.com/ Josh Wolford

      A Facebook “like” is basically the same thing as your friend telling you that they recommend something IRL. Surely taking suggestions from friends doesn’t equate to accepting a “flock” mentality, does it?

      • Frank Buchan

        For many people, given that their vast list of “friends” are past acquaintances that they probably haven’t seen in decades, and never had anything much in common to start with, putting too much weight on those “likes” probably is a perfect representation of herding mentality. I’m not dismissing the possible value of the mechanism, but realistically it will only work for those who manage the friend lists with regard to real relationships…and I’m not sure how many people actually do.

  • http://www.hedgehogdigital.co.uk/ SEO Bedford

    I think Bing in on the right tracks but I don’t think it will challenge Google’s market share anytime soon. Until “Bing it” doesn’t become a common expression Google will still be a better search engine. But Bing is doing all the right things to get more and more people to make it their default search engine and I think that is the way forward if it wants to challenge Google one day.

    • http://www.webpronews.com/ Chris Crum

      I don’t know if it will be close to Google any time soon, but it does continue to grow and there are some things in motion that could give it a significant boost.

  • http://www.futureskills.com Hassan

    I don’t think the Facebook deal is a game changer for Microsoft. Microsoft is no longer in the driver’s seat. They are not investing enough in their R & D. Good examples are their line of hardware. They all failed to impress the end users. The majorities of internet users are used to Google and stay with Google. Otherwise, we would have seen improvement in Microsoft’s shares which are idling for the last 10 years.

    • http://www.webpronews.com/ Chris Crum

      The real game changers might be the deals with Nokia and RIM (not to mention Skype).

  • http://www.futureskills.com Hassan

    I don’t think the Facebook deal is a game changer for Microsoft. Microsoft is no longer in the driver’s seat. They are not investing enough in the R & D. Good examples are their line of hardware. They all have failed to impress the end users. The majorities of the internet users (lime myself) are used to Google and stay with Google. Otherwise, we would have seen improvement in Microsoft’s shares which are idling for the last 10 years.

  • http://blokeinthekitchen.blogspot.com Peter

    Most of the stuff on Facebook isn’t worth reading. I don’t understand what all the urgency is for this to be indexed. It’ll only dilute useful results with inane rubbish.

  • Tim Abraham

    Now Skype have been taken over by Microsoft, Bing could really shine. Read my article here http://tinyurl.com/5vmw7y4

  • http://www.seonorthamerica.com Tom Aikins

    Why do I care, particularly, whether my “friends” on Facebook, all 2900 of them, like a product or service or website? I want the most relevant, best information I can find about a certain subject. Does the fact that my friends like something mean it is what I’m looking for? I don’t think so and I think this whole idea could blow up in Bing’s face.

    • http://www.xgenseo.com Kiky Tse

      You have to remember that the average Facebook user has around 130 friends according to Facebook Stats not 2900 friends. These would be comprised of family, friends and generally people whose opinions they value enough to consider in their decision making process (as the author previously pointed out). I personally like the direction they’re taking with this. Though I don’t think people should be forced to see these results just because they are logged into Facebook as many people tend to stay logged in 24/7. I think they should have an option on the left hand side for users to click on if they want to see what results their friends have liked.

  • brad

    do not appreciate being logged on to facebook without my permission. do not see anywhere in preferences this can be turned off.

    • http://www.webpronews.com/ Chris Crum

      If you’re not already logged into Facebook when you go to Bing, you should be fine.

  • http://feltbeats.com/forum/index.php?action=profile%3Bu=72515 used bass guitars

    Exactly where do these crazy folks come from?

  • MaxH

    I chose bing over google about 9 months ago when i noticed that bing gives you instant answers quickly rather than just looking them up on wbsites, for example type in “define” and the word and the dictionary comes up quickly, idk if google does this now or not, also the page preview was bing’s idea at first, google went on and made it more mainstream with their small magnifying glass icon. I’m just saying, there’s a reason why bing is gaining up on google and competition is nice to see, i’m not all for world domination lol.