Keynote: Confluence of Social Data & Search

June 8, 2011
By Lisa Barone in Internet Marketing Conferences

MORNING! Are you awake? Are you? Did you spend just a little too much time at the Bing party last night? No? Okay, then maybe that was only us. I blame those darn Distilled boys. They can be very entertaining. But enough about that. It’s time for a keynote. This morning we have Stefan Weitz the Director Bing sitting for a fireside chat with Danny Sullivan. Only there’s no fire. Well, I guess there’s fire. There’s two small candles. Does that count?

Stefan calls the candles sitting on a black cloth (we believe a snowboard is under there) an altar and says he feels weird speaking at it.  Yes. We all do. Welcome to SMX.

Stefan wants to start his presentation. I know because he just stood up.

We start talking about honey badger. It’s their code name internally for their new release of the Webmaster Tools. Why are they calling it honey badger? Because it’s fierce, it’s very focused, it blows away obstacles and it’s trying to achieve a singular objective.  Somehow, he thinks that makes sense.

However, unlike that honey badger, their honey badger cares. It’s about giving webmasters more control and more help.

  • Crawl Setting Management: You can tell Bing when to crawl your site.
  • Role Management: You can give folks special access and limit access for others.
  • Toolbox Site Update: Duane Forrester authored 35+ new guides. There’s video, etc.   He says its good training material for new hires.

Read more about the Honey Badger update over at Bing.

Schema.Org: He doesn’t want to talk about the “what”, he wants to talk about the “why”.  The Web is no longer a collection of objects. It’s a proxy for the physical world. Everything IRL is described in ridiculous detail on the Web, but it’s scattered all over the place. They, as search engines, have to do more work if they want to gather that data. They have to go to all the different sites that talk about something and put them back into a singular object.   We don’t live in cyberspace, we all live in the real world. People in search are not just trying to find stuff, they’re trying to do stuff. Luckily, the Web has a lot more services than it did years ago. Today you can do damn near anything and objects lead to actions. They want to expose services to you the moment you need them. They think the best way to do that is to make things objects.

The problem is Brendan Frasier and the bad movies he’s in. Just kidding. The problem is despite the fact that we get tons of feeds, even those feeds have too much information.  The unstructured Web is very messy. And that’s why is so important. It gives you the opportunity to mark up the properties on your page so you can describe that red stapler in all its glory. How do you extend it? You can add things.

Why Social? Why is it so important?

From a Bing perspective, they want to be a decision engine.  They tried to work on core search and to add a layer of organization on top of that. They were pretty happy with that. One thing they forgot was that people are very emotional when making decisions. They had a great sense of logic, but not a great ability to put emotion into that.

  • 90 percent of people seek advice from family and friends before making a decision.
  • 80 percent of people delay making a purchase online before they talk to someone.

The Case For Social

The amount of data the poor engines have to consume every day is crazy. From the dawn of civilization to 2003, we created 5 billion gigs of data.  We now create that much data every two days.  Part of that is because we have all these new services like Flickr, Facebook, Twitter, etc.  We can’t take much more of this because the signals are so small. The problem is also that we don’t do well with data overload.  When we’re presented with too many options, we make no decision at all.  Your brain thinks if there’s a lot of options, it must be an important decision, even if you’re just buying apple juice.

Humanity is leaving its traces everywhere. Billions of updates and data is being pushed out on the Web every single day. Our relationships with each other, things that were previously locked away, are now available for a system to go and understand. The engines can look at who we know in the world and use that at a systemic level. The problem with this is we have all this data, systems kjnow all these relationships, but when we want to go use that information we have to do a lot of work.

Bing: Power of People

Focusing on three areas:

  1. How can they bring trusted friends into the SERPs?
  2. Collective IQ – they think they can make search better by tapping into the wisdom of the crowd.
  3. Enabling Conversation inside the search

Who Cares?

  • Humans are a pack creature.  We like social interaction between we need it for safety.
  • People who communicate in packs, when they work together they increase their profits.
  • We are happier in our decisions when we follow the path of someone else with a similar problem.

Social search isn’t a fantasy, it’s one piece of the core search puzzle.

Stefan says now its time for Danny to grill him.  They pull the candles off the “altar” and Danny’s going to reveal what’s under the sheet.  It’s a Bing snowboard. Danny says he needed a new snowboard and this is a business expense.  The candles are going back on the snowboard now.

All of a sudden a woman’s voice is heard on the loudspeaker. And then it goes away. No one knows where it came from. Stefan quickly jokes that he knew God was a woman.

The questions begin:

How are you putting out direct answers? How scalable is that?

Stefan: We do research on the most typical tasks people are trying to do based on the queries. When they look up a city they’re looking for weather, traffic, maps, etc. They build a framework of information sources that provide a great answer. It depends really on the type of answer. What you’re seeing now is more than just data. We take a service like Open Table and embed that module directly into the search page.  It’s pretty scalable. Information queries like Emmy winners are updated manually.  Even if they have to do some manual work up front to expose the power of Bing, it’s worth it.

Stefan pulls out a stuff honey badger and starts petting it on his knee. Stefan says if Danny asks a hard question the honey badger will attack him.

Danny talks about Bing’s deal with Facebook that was announced back in October. Now it’s finally starting to roll out. Is this a big shift now?

The decision engine we built initially was based on data and knowledge. We took vast amounts of data and made sense of them some way. We know that people are looking to their network when they make decisions.  The social aspect to Bing compliments that, it rounds out the decision engine. We use data, but we also use our buddies. They’re seeing an increased interaction.

Can you see not only who people are friends with, but who they really interact with/have deeper connections with?

He’s not sure.

You spoke about the schema thing, aren’t you guys just supposed to do that FOR us? [people clap, Stefan yells at them not to clap]

Language is a complicated thing. The opportunity for people out there with a lot of content is for certain things you’ll be allowed to give us much better data about what it is you have on your page. You don’t HAVE to do it, but if you do, we’ll be able to do more things with it.

Will schema affect rankings?

No right now, but potentially. It’s one of the signals.


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