Vice President of Bing Program Management Derrick Connell visited SMX Advanced 2012 today to talk about some of Bing's recent changes as well as a sit-down Danny Sullivan and Michelle Robbins of Search Engine Land for a Q&A session about more Bingness.
He began by talking about some of the upgrades that the Microsoft-owned search engine has received lately, most notably the new three-column format of search results that feature a middle column of quick facts, called Snapshot, and a third column of results culled from online social networks like Twitter and Facebook. He mentioned that since the Bing Team overhauled the search engine's design, the results load about 20% faster due to some fixes they made on the script.
During the Q&A with Sullivan and Robbins, Connell indicated that it might be possible in the future to add a fourth and maybe even fifth column to the search results given the space allocation in the new design, possibly even developing a horizontal column to fit somewhere on the page.
In what may have been a slight dig at Google Search Plus Your World, Connell explained that the social results in Bing are sequestered to the right-hand column because "putting people into the algorithm results is just unnatural." He brings up a good point asking how you rank a person as opposed to a page, adding that the social content is off to the side merely as an auxiliary feature in case Bing users want to browse it. The primary value of the social content, Connell said, was that it adds some freshness to search results that might have, for example, a review for a restaurant that was created a year ago whereas a recent Facebook update or Tweet might have more immediate information for a search.
The SEL duo then asked Connell about Bing's relevancy scoring and how it tested pretty very well against other search engines. Connell went on to explain that one goal of Bing is to improve its marketing strategy in order to convince more people that Bing is at least on par with Google, if not better in some respects. Here's what he said concerning a comparison of relevancy in the results of the two search engines:
In our more recent studies, we’re just ahead, but it’s statistical. We did a test where we went out and showed consumers up against Google’s. The surprising thing was in branded results, we did really well. But when we switched the brand, our results were far better than Google’s. So it shows there’s a perception gap. There’s a consumer perception that Google’s results are better than they actually are. We’ll do some perception marketing over the summer. And I think there’s a need to have an independent, third-party group for that.
He goes on to welcome the challenge to eventually build a brand that could rival Google, comparing the competition to a Coke versus Pepsi choice (he did not, however, care to talk about the Faygo of the soda-search engine market, Facebook). In essence, Connell at this point reiterated that goal isn't so much to build a search engine that can keep up with Google, but convince people that Bing can and does keep up with Google. Connell pointed out how Bing has slowly gnawed into Google's dominance of the search market, passing up Yahoo recently and capturing around 17% of the market. "I’ll be happy on the journey when we get to 20%," he said. "I think that’s a tipping point."
Finally, Connell announced a new version of Bing Webmaster Tools, the Phoenix update, that will give webmasters an array of new tools and features to play with so as to get a deeper analysis of SEO and link data.
The full transcript is available over at Outspoken Media per Michelle Lowery.