I'm freshly back from SES New York and eager to make good use of the new information I've discovered. Surprisingly, the first thing I'm most eager to try out is not a marketing tactic or new social media concept. I'm ready to rediscover Bing.
During the week of crazy networking that SES truly delivers on, I met up with Stefan Weitz, Director of Bing Search who showed me some pretty neat features. Bing has been making moves that have gone widely under the radar.
Leveraging the Semantic Web
Bing added many features at the end of last year that were under-reported, but very cool. Search has become more and more interactive. However, in the end it all has been coming down to blue links.
Sometimes there are 10; sometimes there are more or less. There's one boxes and all kinds of other in-line helpers, but they all have blue links. No more.
Microsoft is leveraging social sites and user-generated data to create a more unique experience than most people generally expect from a search result page. For example, Bing recently started including data from two major social sites into its results.
OpenTable integration into Bing local search allows people to book reservations from the restaurant details page directly from a Bing result page. Similarly FanSnap widgets are also integrated into Bing local search, allowing users to view and purchase tickets for concerts, shows and sporting events right from within the search experience.
Keying in on their goal to be the decision engine, Bing is attempting to leverage the semantic Web to not only guess the type of data people are looking for, but also to make follow-up steps more convenient. Not only is Bing trying to better understand the average searcher's behavior, they are also visually organizing search results in a useful way to help people accomplish tasks faster.
Bing is cautious of negatively affecting click throughs. Leveraging content from other publishers is useful for both Bing and the publishers to better interact with users, thereby driving more qualified traffic that will engage more deeply with the publishers, rather than sending visitors who will only stay for a brief visit. Bing looks at this as a win-win situation for everyone.
While their focus continues to be promoting the search user's experience by shortening the time it takes to perform actions based on their search, Microsoft will be continuing to monitor click-through rates to ensure there is no negative impact on content publishers.
Deals on Bing Mobile
Another innovative way Bing is leveraging content from across the semantic Web is by including information on over 200,000 deals from Groupon, Living Social and other daily deal sites. By incorporating this information into Bing Mobile, it allows you to find deals immediately in your vicinity.
While in New York for SES, this was a big deal. Bing took deals from over 14,000 cities and narrowed them down to show me deals specifically in and around Midtown Manhattan.
If you haven't seen Bing mobile lately, it has undergone some major changes. The entire mobile site feels more like an app than a mobile page in a browser. In fact, when I first hit the site I had to do a double-take because it made my browser look like a Windows phone, complete with large fonts that afford the touch interface.
These are just a few of the innovative advancements Bing is doing to improve search beyond the basic 10 blue links. In my 2010 Search Recap, I said Bing would have to get innovative to gain search share. They seem to be well on their way.
For a different search experience, join me in giving Bing a second look, then post your comments here!