On Wednesday, Bing and Facebook announced a partnership to make search more social by integrating Facebook "likes" into search results. According to the Facebook blog:
When you search for something on Bing or in web results on Facebook (powered by Bing), you'll be able to see your friends' faces next to web pages they've liked. So, you can lean on friends to figure out the best websites for your search.
In theory, if you search for "The Social Network" in Bing, you might see links to reviews or stories about the movie that your Facebook friends have given the thumbs-up. Or if you're searching for a hotel in Santa Monica, you might see that a friend liked a certain hotel's Facebook page. In addition, people in your FB network will be more likely to show up in searches for names.
Mark Zuckerberg said they chose to partner with Bing rather than Google on this because they see Microsoft as the "underdog" in search, and the incumbent leader in a market tends to be less "innovative"; supposedly Microsoft is "in a structural position where they're incentivized to just go all-out and innovate." (Of course, this is only part of the story. As the NYT's DealBook says, this is a way for them to "compete against a common adversary.") Zuckerberg also called the deal "one of the most interesting partnerships we have done recently." Gee, one of the most interesting? Recently? Tone down the hyperbole there, Zucks, or everyone will rush to use it at once.
So what do people think of the new Facebook integration? Danny Sullivan "likes" it – he likes it "a lot." In a long post called "Bing, Now with Extra Facebook," he runs through how this works – when it works, that is. Danny points out that "after running more than 40 searches, fewer than 10 gave me things that my friends liked." And these were investigational, often commercial queries such as "best gps," "best twitter client, and "iphone 4 cases" – the types of queries where you'd probably like to see what people you know have liked before making a purchase or decision. When it did work, however, he found the results interesting and useful – and the results may improve with time and show up on more searches.
Danny clarifies that Facebook likes will not be used "to reshape the 'regular' results, the listings found from crawling the web." (He also notes, for the record, that this doesn't mean SEO is dead.) But, despite his "disappointment" with the inconsistency of the results ("I don’t want to hope it shows up. I want to have it on demand!"), he thinks this is a definite improvement to Bing's offering.
Mashable's Adam Ostrow calls the move "a big leap forward in social search." He writes that "Facebook integration certainly seems to make Bing search better in some instances"; however it won't necessarily drive him to use Bing over Google.
Henry McCracken at PC World finds it "intriguing": "it's leveraging all those gazillions of Like-button clicks which, until now, have had an impact only on the sites with the buttons and on Facebook itself. If this works well, it makes the Like button a much more useful idea than it's been to date."
Cynthia Boris at Marketing Pilgrim is skeptical: "it may be fun but I don’t know that it’s really useful … I suppose that the more data a computer collects, the more accurate the predications but I don’t think Bing is going to discover my dislike for artichokes anytime soon." Of course, this feature isn't there to tell you what you like – it's there to tell you what your friends like. (Also, if you're a fan of the "Down with Artichokes" group on FB, then they already do know. It'll be even more clear once Facebook introduces dislikes.)
Finn at SEO Boy, on the other hand, decidedly dislikes it. He says this move "isn’t is a game-changer" and it's "not even that cool":
Facebook Likes are similar to “priority” work at an agency: Everything’s a priority! And when everything’s a priority, nothing’s a priority.
Point being that when people go around "liking" things willy-nilly it's not a useful signal anymore. (This reminds me of people I knew in junior high who would highlight almost every sentence on the page.) Finn also claims that when people want to know what their friends think, they'll go directly to Facebook, and that "heat maps show that nobody looks that far down the page."
I can't really test out this new feature myself, because (wait for it) I'm not on Facebook. Also, it pains me to use Bing. (Bing still doesn't rank my blog anywhere in the first five or so pages for my vanity search, though it's a natural place for people binging me to land.) Have you seen this feature in action yet, if you use Bing and Facebook? What do you think?
Internet Marketing Highlights This Week
Eric Enge asks if we're getting mixed signals when it comes to SEO ranking. He addresses some open questions and myths including whether NoFollow links are used as a (weak) signal, whether unlinked references pass value and the max number of links per page a search engine will follow.
Jessica Lee asks Avinash Kaushik four good questions about web analytics.
And finally: This isn't about web marketing, but it was my favorite link of the week: A Reddit poster asks, What's the most mind-blowing fact you've ever heard?
Have a good weekend!