While Google will inevitably be able to use Google+ as a barometer to test the effectiveness of its algorithm, it's clear that the social network is an abysmal failure in comparison to Facebook. Users spend only 3 minutes a month on the site, compared with six or seven hours on Facebook. But none of that means Google will lose its place as the champion of search, right?
Bing, essentially the only search rival, recently released an update that could shake the foundations of search. They linked Facebook with their search results. While Google has been doing everything they can to transform their search engine into a social experience, without Facebook's data they have been scrambling with very little to work off of.
A new column on the right-hand side of the search results could change everything. Here's what it does so far.
- Ask Friends - If you're having trouble finding something in the search results, Bing now allows you to ask your friends a question on Facebook, right from the search results page.
- Friends Who Might Know - Whenever you do a search for something that your friend's might know about, Bing will tell you which friends might be able to help.
- Activity - On the left side of each search result is a new link icon. Now you can click on this to share the results with your friends on Facebook. The "Activity" section in the right column shows these posts from you and your friends while you search. It's like Google's +1 button, only it's much more powerful, because it's linked with a social network that most people actually use.
- Rewards - Bing has gamified their search engine by offering rewards for using it. These rewards can be redeemed in various ways, with coupons and similar offers. This will give people an incentive to start using the new tools and get things moving.
Effects on SEO
In combination with Microsoft's stellar new version of Webmaster Tools (complete with inbound link data), SEOs now have very good reasons to start paying attention to Bing. The important thing to realize is that just about anything Google can do is something that Bing can copy, but unless Google manages to strike a deal with Facebook, they will not be able to copy moves like this made by Bing. I am now entertaining the possibility that Bing really could surpass Google as the most popular search engine.
How should SEOs respond to these changes?
- Everything that was said about Google's "Search Plus Your World," only more - This could be the straw that breaks the camel's back. Tying Facebook into Bing means that search really has gone social. How things will go from here is just a question of degree. The more you get shared by real people on Facebook, the more the search results will call special attention to you.
- Prepare for more - Google and Bing are in an arms race now. Google is going to do everything in its power to respond with more humanized results. Bing is going to continue to find new ways to leverage its partnership with Facebook. Inevitably, this data is going to be used to tune the algorithm, even if it doesn't get used to directly influence the results.
- Master Facebook - If you still aren't doing anything to generate or attract activity on Facebook, this has never been more important. It's not going to be long before a Facebook strategy is just par for the course. And, of course, if you have any kind of foresight, you should also recognize that this incorporation of Facebook with Bing won't be the end of the process. The other social networks are ripe for the picking, by both search engines.
These changes, plus Microsoft's acquisition of Skype, plus the fact that they own the default operating system and web browser, could stack the card's in Microsoft's favor. If they play their cards right and find a way to unify these services in just the right way, they could deliver Google's final blow within the next few years.
Can Bing genuinely take on Google now? How will these changes affect your strategy in the years to come?
Image credit: Goiabarea