Keynote with Bing's Derrick Connell - SMX Advanced 2012Here we are—SMX Advanced 2012, Day Two! If you followed any of yesterday’s coverage, you know this conference packs a wallop, especially when Matt Cutts is throwing penguins at people, as he is apparently wont to do. What’s that about, you ask? You’ll just have to read the post from yesterday!

But before you do that, let’s get through today’s sessions. It’s a new day with just as much search marketing goodness to be had. We’re kicking things off today with a keynote from the corporate vice president of Bing’s Search Program Management team, Derrick Connell, in the form of a discussion with Danny Sullivan while Michelle Robbins moderates. The back-and-forth Q&As are my favorite sessions to liveblog, so let’s get to it.

Derrick starts out talking about some changes that are launching on Bing today.

We on Friday went to 100% availability for the new service. So here’s a demo of some of the features. It’s a big change for us, the start of a new era for Bing. Things were getting overloaded, particularly social. We learned some things needed to change, and one thing was that people should be treated specially. We’re introducing a sidebar where we show all the people who are relevant to a query. It’s awkward to stick people in with Web pages, but we learned from it.

In the middle, a new piece of real estate has an interaction module. If we know something that may be useful to the user about that page, maybe reviews about a restaurant, but that aren’t from the restaurant’s page, we’ll display them. It’s called Snapshot.

And then core search is on the left, still the most important part of the page, but we cleaned it up. We cleand up the topopgraphy, the fonts, etc. The page is about 20% faster than before because we cleaned up the scripting.

Then he does a live demo, which proves once again that you can get more from being here than reading about it! :-) But if it’s been a while since you used Bing, head on over to check out the new features. Here’s a search I did.

Derrick says, if you haven’t tried it, please give it a go. They’re very excited about it.

Now Danny begins asking questions.

I saw the preview before it came out, and you guys were saying that because screens are wider, you could add more stuff, maybe four columns or five.

Well, columns are interesting, but separating them will be key, whether it’s vertical, stacked, or whatever. We’ll see.

You guys have taken this approach where the social is all off to the side rather than in the main bar. Why does Bing feel that separation is the better route?

Putting people into the algo results is just unnatural. Consumers just don’t get it. How do you rank a person as opposed to a page? And they just deserve their own real estate. The algo results are what people will look for most, and if you want it, the social is there off to the right, too. Ranking people is different.

Even though you have that separation, there’s still social signals you’re using. I’m wondering, is that going to get heavier? Do you see the social signals as somehow taking over from links going forward?

I don’t see them taking over. I do think they’re important. New links can show up on Facebook or Twitter, but I don’t see them taking over.

It seems like you’d have more social signals you could measure. The idea of links as votes, right? Linking is a lot of work to reward someone. In contrast, if I have a good experience at a store, I can just tweet a thank-you. It seems like that would have more weight.

The thing you just described is about freshness. You’re giving a recent signal that the store is good or bad. Restaurants change over time. The reviews from a year ago aren’t as important as reviews from a year ago. The freshness signal is very strong.

Among the signals you’re pulling in, you’re even looking at Google+, not just Facebook.

We don’t build a social network. Our job is to go find all the signals from the social networks, get the content, and rank it, versus building one.

What about Facebook? Should they be building a search engine?

Don’t go there.

When you have the announcement, one of the things you talked about was relevancy scoring, and internal testing was showing that you’re…better?

As good.

As good as the other ones. How do you convince people of that?

Some marketing is needed. The good news is that we have our own internal judging of the relevancy of our results, relative to our own current, and to the competition. We’ve been closing the gap. In our more recent studies, we’re just ahead, but it’s statistical. We did a test where we went out and showed consumers up against Google’s. The surprising thing was in branded results, we did really well. But when we switched the brand, our results were far better than Google’s. So it shows there’s a perception gap. There’s a consumer perception that Google’s results are better than they actually are. We’ll do some perception marketing over the summer. And I think there’s a need to have an independent, third-party group for that.

I switched my default over to Bing, and it was horrible! No, actually it was the opposite. The first day, I kept doing a search, and then running back to Google because I felt I must be missing something. But I could visually tell I really wasn’t missing things. By the end of the week, I did a search, and couldn’t remember which search engine I had used, which was remarkable to me. I’ve seen your studies, but here it was really registering with me. Can you talk more about changing those perceptions? Do you just have to go into everyone’s homes and change their default?

I think our marketing team is coming up with great ideas. I think doing the sort of Pepsi/Coke challenge is great. We’re at the point where we’re comparable, so we just have to get that out there. We do have some reasons why you should use us vs. Google.

We released the brand three years ago, so then it was just about getting the brand out there. This conference was a great way to position the brand. So over the first three years, it was about brand awareness. Now we know it, so we have to take it to “I’m going to use it.” The marketing for the next two years will be taking the awareness and trying to transform it into usage.

So I was watching Gossip Girl…no, not really. I was watching Up All Night, and then searching on Bing because [I think Danny says here that he saw a Bing commercial].

Those brand placements have been good. We’ll keep spending on all those channels, and keep all the channels open.

Maybe you need to ask Don Draper how he would market Bing. And then I’ll take a 15% cut. We can talk about that later. Let’s talk about your market growth in the U.S. I think the last figures I saw, you have about 17%, on par with Yahoo!, so what’s the goal?

I’ll be happy on the journey when we get to 20%. I think that’s a tipping point, but we want to keep growing. 20% will be a big milestone. Getting to 16% and passing Yahoo! was big.

People seemed to be using Yahoo because they didn’t want to use Google, and they seem to now be turning to Bing.

If you go back three years, Google has grown. I think they’ve stalled. They’re probably happy at their 65%.

I don’t want to confess how many Xboxes I have (it’s three), but I don’t like my kids seeing what I’m doing because they kill me, so they have to go in other rooms to play. So I use the Xbox a little, and you had a big update happen. But it’s not Bing, right? It’s Bing as a brand for doing search, even though I’m not using Bing as a search engine. If I decide to search my desktop, will there be a Bing application?

It’s not as broad as that. Xbox is a great example. Bing is for doing, and on the Xbox it’s about finding music, video, etc. We use some of the Web signals for ranking, but we don’t need a lot of it because the catalog is small. The speech part of it is built my Bing. Same on the Windows phone. The button is powered by Bing. We’re looking for ways to improve.

If I ask Bing right now if it’s raining, can it tell me that, and wehre to get tomato soup? Google had voice search, but no one remembered you could do that. Then Apple came along with Siri, and now everyone’s asking it things. You guys had voice search before Google.

You’re a search guy, so you get the complexities of it. You still have to go to the same index for the query. People are using longer queries. Normal language queries are very hard for the engine to process and come back with results. The Xbox is giving us a good signal.

Are you seeing more searches from the Xbox rather than the phone?

We’re getting a lot more structured queries on the Xbox, like for movies and such.

I’m assuming you’re seeing the same growth in mobile search?

We’re seeing a lot of usage of the button.

What about Windows 8? What impact will that have?

More of in industry thing. It’s exciting for the consumer. The response was great. This is going to be a big year. On the Bing side, like every big tech change, we’ll be figuring out how to make the most of it.

There’ll be a default search in Windows 8, but I assume if I upgrade, does it just look at your old stuff?

I don’t know. I try to stay away from that side of things.

You talked about the social signals. Apparently, yesterday Matt said you don’t need to worry about Google+. You don’t have a social network. What should I be doing as a publisher to tie entities into my site?

You don’t need to do anymore than you’re already doing. Make sure you’re on Twitter, have a Facebook fan page. When I think about the next couple of years, as the sidebar evolves, those recommendations from friends will become more important. Go through the channels, get your products liked, they’ll still be ranked. There’s nothing particular you need to do to optimize for us.

One last thing. Earlier this year, I wrote an article about what Google and Bing took away from SEOs. Google decided they couldn’t share keywords with us. I thought that was kind of sucky. And then Yahoo! Killed Yahoo! Site explorer. So people were like why don’t you launch Bing site explorer?

We listened. Thank you!

If you have any news to share with us…

Today, we’re announcing an upgrade, a new version of our Webmaster Tools, and we’re introducing link explorer and SEO analysis tools. It’s a significant upgrade to our toolkit. We want to give you as much insight as possible. The post goes out at 10am. It’s a big day for us.

Is it true you’re going to call it the Penguin Site Explorer?

The team is calling it Phoenix, which may be apt. It’s like a rebirth.

Audience Questions

Are you using schema.org?

For the sidebar, yes.

You talked about tags. Where are you using those?

If you use tags on Facebook, we’re using those. If you want to see your friends’ tags, you just hover, and you’ll see them. [He’s talking about the social sidebar in the engine.]

How is the new Bing UI integrating social results affecting load time?

On average, we’re about 20% faster than the previous experience, including the sidebar. It’s perceived to be faster, but it actually is faster.

Why is Facebook giving Bing special access? Is it because of the special relationship Facebook has with Bing? And why doesn’t Facebook just build its own search engine?

We have a strong partnership with Facebook. We’ve talked with them about our strategy, how we wan to use the social networks, and they like it. They like the fact that’s it’s open because they feel it’s a good indicator of how they’re the most relevant. On the second question, it takes time and money to build a search engine. When you think about how much data it takes…it’s a big investment. I think they’re happy with partnerships.

Can content owners provide additional information to Bing?

This goes back to schema.org. If you make your data available to the engines can pick it up…we take the data in, we store it in a structured index, associate it with an entity, and when the entity shows up, the data will show up. If you have more structured data, it will show up more often.

Why is it so hard to get into Bing News? Have you considered paid inclusion, perhaps?

We’re not big fans of paid inclusion. If you want to be part of Bing News and you have a news site, and you’re not showing up, that’s surprising. We do try to be comprehensive. [He recommends talking to another Bing employee who is speaking here later today.]

And that’s a wrap! An excellent conversation, I think. I hope you got a lot of great info out of it. Go check out the new Bing and see what you think!

Get all the SMX Advanced 2012 coverage here!


About the Author

Michelle Lowery

Michelle Lowery is an ardent word nerd, but is also known to say "y'all" from time to time.



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