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Keeping Up With Google: Bing Launches New “Search Quality Insights” Series

05 Mar

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Want to understand better how Bing creates its search results? Bing has announced a new “Search Quality Insights” series to provide a more behind-the-scenes look at its search engine. You know, like “Search Quality Highlights” series that Google launched last December. What’s going on with these? And how does Bing’s latest post help Google on anti-trust grounds?

Google Seeks Transparency

In Google’s case, I view the Search Quality Highlights series as Google trying to deal with accusations, especially by those on the anti-trust front but even from places like the New York Times, that Google Search is some type of black box that’s all designed simply to favor Google’s own properties.

Of course, Google said nothing so explicit when it launched its series last December. Rather, it spoke generally about being transparent:

 For years now we’ve been blogging about significant algorithmicupdates like Panda and our recent freshness update. So, why do we need yet another blog series? 

We’ve been wracking our brains trying to think about how to make search even more transparent. The good news is that we make roughly 500 improvements in a given year, so there’s always more to share.

With this blog series, we’ll be highlighting many of the subtler algorithmic and visible feature changes we make. These are changes that aren’t necessarily big enough to warrant entire blog posts on their own.

The series actually had a soft-launch last November, before being formalized in December. Since then, we’ve been getting a monthly laundry-list of changes that Google’s made to its search algorithms, changes that weren’t deemed big enough to warrant their own blog posts by Google, though some might disagree.

For example, in Google’s latest post at the end of February, Google announced the latest of itsPanda Updates (anything Panda is generally big news), that it had dropped a method of link analysis (sparking all types of discussions among SEO folks about what was dropped) and added that its SafeSearch algorithm had been changed to make “irrelevant adult content” less likely to appear.

That SafeSearch change was directly responsible for causing searches on “santorum” at Google to no longer show a long-standing site defining “santorum” as a by-product of anal sex. It was a big change, worth of its own blog post I’d say, but instead it was relegated to being a bulletpoint.

Still, at least we did know some of the things going on, which is welcomed. And now we’re going to know more from Bing.

Bing Goes After Visiblity

Over at Bing, we’re told:

Today we are launching a new blog series we’re calling “Bing Search Quality Insights” aimed at giving you deeper insight into the algorithms, trends and people behind Bing. 

This blog is the first in a series that will take you behind the search box for an up close view into the core of the Bing search engine.

Quality improvements in Bing are often subtle but often those little changes are the result of years of research. In the coming weeks and months, you will hear from members of my team on a range of topics, from the complexities of social search and disambiguating spelling errors to whole page relevance and making search more personal.

We will also highlight the ideas and projects we have collaborated with colleagues from Microsoft Research and academia to advance the state of the art for our industry. We hope this will not only be useful information for our blog readers, but that they will spark conversations that help us all move the search industry forward.

Unlike Google, Bing doesn’t really have an anti-trust transparency issue to deal with. Rather, Bing has an invisibility issue. Bing seems largely invisible to those who are wanting to search the web. Bing can (and does) have some of the same problems that will launch a million blog posts about Google. But no one cares, if they happen on Bing.

As for consumers in general, while Bing has grown its market share, that’s come mainly by pulling people away from Bing’s partner Yahoo, not from Google. Perhaps the new series will help focus more attention from consumers on Bing, which would be good. Bing’s an excellent search engine that should be considered.

Bing’s First Post Helps Google

Ironically, the first post in Bing’s series — about “Whole Page Relevance” — will also help Google on the anti-trust front. It explains how Bing “blends” results from its vertical search engines like Bing Video, Bing News, Bing Maps and Bing Images along with web listings and direct answers through a system called “Answer Ranking.”

Google does exactly the same thing, though a system it calls “Universal Search.” Google’s system has come under intense pressure over the past two years as somehow “favoring” Google over its competitors, including attacks by Microsoft-backed FairSearch.

Now we’ve got a blog post from Microsoft explaining how it does exactly what Google does, something both Google and third-parties such as myself have pointed already. That makes it harder for some to attack Google over Universal Search, especially when Microsoft finally puts a name to what its own system is called.

 

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