Posted by
Rachael Taylor
July 30th, 2009

Bing…. the new sound of search and discover?

by Rachael Taylor


Contrary to myth, Bing is not a recursive acronym ‘Bing is not Google’, nor is it slang for cocaine (as I found out when I presented this to the agency!). It is in fact, the reincarnation of Microsoft Live search, a much publicised, heavily advertised step by Microsoft to finally get it right and rival Google. Bing is actually an onomatopoeic name, designed to represent the sound of the ‘moment of discovery and decision making’.

When you discover Bing, the one thing you’ll notice is the striking imagery which is renewed every day on the home page. You may think I’m waxing lyrical about this, but it really is reason alone to opt out of the Google camp. OK, so the Google doodles hold their own charm, but these images are awesome! So much love is there for the images that you can now get an application that automatically downloads the image every day. In the States, Bing users have image tags to find out facts about the daily image. linking to the appropriate web page, and they can also download Silverlight for a ‘see it again’ function.

Bing Images

One of the striking Bing home page images

It’s just semantics

But the main difference with Bing is the semantic search function which is the heart of what Bing is all about. It aims to direct your search based on your search term to enable you to make decisions quickly and easily about where to go next. Some of the functions you can expect to see include:

Categorised search and explorer panes: Here is where the semantic search really comes in to play. Here’s your chance to put this into action and see what you think about it…

Swine Flu: (you didn’t think you’d go ten minutes without hearing this phrase did you?) If you put in a search for Swine Flu on Google, within 0.11 seconds you get 8,730,000 results on the keywords of Swine Flu. So let’s compare with Bing. In the Explorer pane are neatly classified search areas – Articles, Symptoms, Children, Prevention, Causes, Treatment and News. The search list is categorised in the same order.

In theory this returns an attempt to understand the nature of your search term and returns more than just a list. Julian’s recent blog used a great example which I’ll steal in the absence of feeling creative enough to get my own example:

‘What is the best curry house in Bradford?’: traditional search engines would only see the keywords… those being ‘curry and Bradford’. Instead of just a list of curry houses in Bradford you would indeed receive what are regarded as the best in Julian’s hometown… apparently, it’s the Mumtaz on Great Horton Road. I’ll take his word for that.

And this is why their positioning is ‘Bing & decide’.

Some more smart new features of Bing include:

  • View video in smart motion preview: This means you don’t have to click on a link for it to play, you just scroll your mouse over and it starts automatically. This is not without issues as you can imagine. It has complications for underage browsers (and maybe even office workers) who may unwittingly view pornographic content during a search session. This aside, it’s a good time saving function and is attractive to advertisers wanting to use digital video in their search campaigns.
  • Quick preview boxes: These appear next to the search listing which aims to summarise the link. In theory this is a good way of deciding whether you really want to click in this direction. But in practice, the quick preview box is often not present and if it is there is a tendency for it to repeat the text attached to the link so renders itself useless.
  • Mapping technology is powered by Multimap with some great additions to the offering. Birds eye view gives you some great perspectives (check out the top of the Stratosphere). And in the US, construction sites and traffic congestion are highlighted to make your journey easier. You can also overlay maps with toptable.co.uk and Wikipedia to name but two.

Bing Multimap Stratosphere

  • Travel: Microsoft’s purchase of Farecast last year has enabled Bing to incorporate Farecast technology into its service for Bing Travel. This allows users (currently in the States only) to buy tickets at the most desirable time based on flight cost predictors. It also offers the browser travel tips, reviews and holiday bookings. Bing says that Expedia is an online travel agent, and Bing is an ‘travel search experience’.
  • Wikipedia reference pages: If you search for, say, Gary Barlow a reference tag will appear in the explorer pane. This links directly to a search page served by Wikipedia.

Deciding to Tweet?

Hot off the press is Bing Tweets which lauched on July 15th 09. This Twitter search engine mashes up Twitter search with Bing. The screen grab below shoes the hybrid search experience with Bing on the main screen and real time Twitter feeds scrolling down the left hand side. This is currently running separately to Bing.com and at the moment they have not announced merging the two.

BingTweets homepage which is currently Beta testing

BingTweets homepage which is currently Beta testing

A new advertising strategy?

Bing AdWords have yet to prove their worth in the same way that Google PPC is de rigour for today’s marketer. Negative blogging about their inability to serve up terms unless they are popular, flies in the face of highly targeted Google AdWords. Rewriting the rules we are all used to seems a strange strategy. I suppose as we are only in Beta testing in the UK at the moment, we need to watch this space.

Have I decided on decision engines?

My trip around Bing was good while it lasted. I’m far from a search specialist so I’m not going to give you all the ins and outs of returned search stats, I can only give you Joe Public’s viewpoint. I haven’t converted but may well do so, if only for the daily images (did I tell you I liked them?). From a searchers perspective, any advances in search and attempts to topple Google can only mean further enhancements in our search experience. Which can only be a good thing.

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