We always knew search engines would eventually incorporate more social network buzz in their results – an evolution in search that businesses need to know about and leverage.
We just thought it would be Google, not Bing, leading the way.
But late this week, Microsoft’s latecomer to the search market announced that it would soon be launching a new, improved version of Bing that sticks a social “sidebar” on the right-hand side of search results. “Whether it’s making a purchase, deciding on a vacation destination, choosing a great restaurant, or figuring out which movie to see this weekend, the new Bing focuses on bringing friends, experts and enthusiasts into your search experience,” says a post on the Bing blog. (BTW, saying “Bing blog” three times real fast gets our vote for the Tongue-Twister of the Week).
The Sidebar does that by including relevant information to your search queries from Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Foursquare, Quora – and in what has to be a direct dig at the current search engine leader, Google+. You know what Google search results turn up right now when you click on its “social” tab? Google+. And that’s it. That clanging sound you hear is Microsoft throwing down a big search engine optimization-friendly gauntlet in Google’s direction.
Yes, Bing is making other changes, boosting its algorithms to provide more relevant web results and introducing Snapshot, the center third of its results page that puts related information like maps, reviews and e-commerce links out front. Bing says this will make it easy for users to take the next step after searching, such as booking flights, buying products, etc. But let’s be clear; integrating social network results into regular Bing results is a giant step for Microsoft and the search industry. It also should be obvious now to businesses that they have to monitor their online reputations, put their best social content out there, and start optimizing that content if they’re not doing so already.
The new Bing may not make a widely-used verb out of its product name a la Google. But it should still push businesses to take some positive action regarding their social media profiles. We can expect Google to fire back with its own improved version of social search, but businesses shouldn’t wait until the Google-Bing cold war reaches that level.