Bing and Decide. You've heard the slogan. You've noticed the extra results for things like shopping, restaurants, or even finding deals. Bing is taking decisions a step further into actions with the introduction of Action Buttons in search results.
Bing has been trying to leverage the semantic Web to deliver more than just 10 simple blue links in their results. Bing director Stefan Weitz refers to this as "the web of objects versus the web of just pages."
The idea behind action buttons is to allow people to complete targeted tasks based around their search query. Bing uses its algorithm to help predict what tasks a user is using search to try to accomplish.
Weitz tells Search Engine Watch "Initially, these buttons will surface for major sites in seven popular search categories, which include: airlines, couriers (e.g. Federal Express), restaurants, banks, rental cars, software downloads and hotels. Based on internal data of searches and the actions taken on those searches, we determine the most popular actions people take within those sites and surface them in the SERP."
Action buttons will attempt to go beyond simple site links to drill into a site's deeper content. In some cases, the action buttons are the same. However in other cases, they are all new links. For example, checking in to or viewing the status of your flight are both site links and action buttons, yet Book a flightis an action button that does not exist in extended site links.
The overlap of extra site links versus action buttons may seem unclear on the surface. Additionally, for airline searches, Bing offers an inserted form result to search flights from date. Weitz suggests to think of it as a difference between popularity of links to a site's deep content and the popularity of an action you might perform while on that respective site.
This is an interesting start that should only get better as Bing adds more actions to the fold. Bing's partnership with other social sites, like OpenTable, seems to suggest that restaurant reservations might be actionable from a restaurant search. However none of these actions exist. Why?
Weitz states, “We use a combination of algorithms for site categorization, site structure determination and click log analysis to determine the top actions for each of the sites. And we will be constantly looking at new ‘verbs’ or actions we can add – stay tuned.”