Friday, June 12, 2009

Search Insider: RAMALAMABingBONG


When I sat down to write this column today, I had to choose between my two current favorite topics: Twitter and Bing. Both of which have been written about ad nauseam by now, so I decided to do a bit of crowd sourcing and see what the masses wanted. By masses I mean the handful of real people that follow me on Twitter (it's @oilman btw, if you're not following yet). Here are a couple responses I received:

elisabethos@oilman bing-- write about bloggers that don't get it ;)
geekgiant@oilman Bing. Mac truck theory. Ready, go

Bloggers That Don't Get It
Last week the Bing crew invited a bunch of search marketers and bloggers and some other "influential" folks out to Bellevue for a two-day (indoctrination) demo/feedback event.  It's always an interesting mix when you put bloggers and SEOs in the same room -- kinda like mixing gasoline vapor and a box of lit matches, really. You can decide who is who in that analogy.

Where the sparks really started to fly was when all the one-box and instant-answer functionality was being demonstrated.  It didn't take long for one of the bloggers to ask why Bing was trying to steal their traffic by keeping people on Bing. It got really heated when we saw that Bing Health results are actually content in Bing. Search for diabetes or other ailments to see what I mean. Bing is actually reproducing content from a variety of sources right on You do not get sent to the source site. (insert blogger outrage.)

OK -- two things. First, all that health content is licensed, vetted and authoritative and is exactly the kind of result a search engine should return. Second, the other instant-answer stuff is based on highly structured and categorized data like flight status and ticket prices as well as product search. There's really not much new here. Google's been doing this stuff for ages, but we all line up for our daily cup of Kool-aid. I'm more bothered by the four sponsored listings above the main results than about any of the other stuff.

Mack Truck Theory
I honestly believe that Bing is doing a lot of things better than they've been done before (read: better than Google does them). The key behind most of it is categorization and easy search refinement. Bing shopping is better, if for no other reason than you can get cash back from over 1,000 vendors. I talked to a Binger that has $400 in his cashback account right now. It's a nice little forced savings account. Bing travel? They bought FareCast -- 'nuff said. Bing Health? Vetted content = trust. Bing Video? Downright awesome and has been for the two years it's been out. Bing Images? Infinite scroll rocks.

So what's the Mack Truck Theory? Well, to put it mildly... Bing's algo for regular search results has holes in it big enough to drive a Mack Truck through.  The Bing supporter in me wants to help fix this, but the spammer SEO in me wants to stay very quiet and keep my fingers crossed that Bing can get to 15-20% market share. Yes, I'm going to leave you hanging on what exactly those holes are for now (he says as his Twitter follower count takes a dive).

I'm on a Bing adventure right now, trying to use just Bing for all my personal searching for the next couple weeks. So far these are just my initial thoughts. Stay tuned for more. You never know when I might share....

Todd Friesen is the vice president of search at Position Technologies, a search marketing technology company based in Illinois. You can reach Todd at todd@positiontech or @oilman on Twitter.

Search Insider for Friday, June 12, 2009:

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