Bing threw the latest punch this week in its ongoing battle against Google to socialize search. On Bing, searchers who sync their Facebook accounts can now see personalized search results based on their friends’ opinions. Bing’s enhancements—which come on the heels of Google’s launch of the +1 Button—showcase Microsoft’s powerful partnership with Facebook. Bing’s search engine results page (SERP) now highlights “Liked” results from people in the searcher’s Facebook network. For instance, the below search for “Threadless” shows that three of the searcher’s friends “Like” Threadless:
Bing is also using “Likes” as a ranking signal for natural search results, pushing sites “Liked” by the searcher’s friends higher in the natural results. Thus, each searcher can see different, highly-personalized results. Even if a searcher doesn’t have friends who have “Liked” results for a particular query, Bing will surface collective Facebook opinions from the entire Web. Other enhancements include the Bing Travel Wish List, which allows people to compare trips with Facebook friends; and Shared Shopping Lists, which allow people to build, compare and discuss shopping lists with Facebook friends.
IMPLICATIONS FOR ADVERTISERS
Both Bing and Google have been squarely focused on socializing the SERP to make it more relevant. When a searcher sees that other searchers—particularly their friends—have “Liked” a certain result, that result is perceived as more relevant and will garner more clicks. Everyday, people are exposed to an overwhelming flow of advertisements. The social SERP is unique in that it allows searchers to break through the clutter. Highly-relevant search results—those recommended by friends—float to the top and stand out with friends’ pictures and the Facebook “thumb” symbol. It’s easier for a searcher to find exactly what he’s looking for with some help from his friends.
Bing’s enhancements continue the trend of giving searchers more influence over a brand’s SERP goodwill. Brand owners still control their paid search ads and can optimize their sites to rank well in natural search, but participants—by “Liking” certain pages—are now influencing whether a result gets clicked. For a brand to create the ideal SERP, it must understand that it needs its customers’ help. An ideal SERP is the result of a mutual investment between the brand and its customers. To get more “Likes” and subsequently more Bing visibility, brand owners must encourage participants to not only buy their brands, but join their brands.
Strategies for Encouraging Participation
The key to influencing Bing’s social SERP is encouraging participation at the source—on Facebook or with the “Like” button associated with your own content. The more people who “Like” your brand or content, the more likely Bing searchers will see the Facebook-enhanced results. Advertisers should:
THE FUTURE OF SOCIAL SEARCH
Of course, Bing is relying on users to sync their Facebook and Bing accounts so that they can see Facebook-enhanced results. Many users may have privacy concerns, and some may want control over exactly what they share out to the SERP. But if privacy concerns can be allayed, the social SERP will catapult search to a whole new level. For instance, people could actively share gift ideas, shopping lists and purchases through Bing Shopping with Facebook friends, and this sharing could influence search results. And Bing—with its Facebook partnership—is well positioned against Google in social search. Unlike Bing, Google has been unable to take advantage of Facebook’s wealth of data and user information. Google’s +1 Button requires users to adopt a new button, while—in Bing’s case—users have already adopted the “Like” button, in droves.