The past few months have been busy for the SEM industry with Pandas and Penguins causing a whole lot of discussion for the future of SEO. The search engines themselves had a particularly busy month of May. Previously I highlighted significant updates to Bing with social search and Google with its Knowledge graph. In the ongoing fight for search engine supremacy (one that Google has dominated for a long time), are any of these updates going to change things?
There’s been a fundamental shift in search over the last couple years to integrate your social network connections and influence the results you see. For a while, Bing has used your Facebook connections to subtly enhance the search results but Google took the most significant step with the launch of Google+ and Search Plus Your World. Google continues to force feed users SPYW and constantly push Google+ in general, making it very annoying.
Bing took a different approach with it’s new Facebook integration however that’s finally rolled out to all users. The pleasant, user-to-use 3 column layout allows users to view traditional search results free of social influence, a snapshot of additional useful information, and the Sidebar where social connections finally come into good use. That sidebar is even collapsible if you don’t want to see it at all.
I think the biggest difference is that Bing is open to all social networks. That Sidebar will eventually show results from your Facebook, Twitter, Quora, LinkedIn…and yes, even your Google+ connections. Google has caused a lot of controversy by promoting Google+ profiles above all else.
While search engines have always been good at indexing content and providing the best possible results for your search, it’s always had its limits. There’s been a growing need for a deeper understanding of the web, which is where semantic search comes in. As mentioned in my previous post, Google’s new Knowledge Graph is their attempt at understanding the differences between words that have alternate meanings – whether you want the LA Kings, Sacramento Kings or the TV show “Kings.”
While integrating Facebook, Google+ or others into search results is a logical step with the growing popularity of social networks overall, semantic search is a greater fundamental shift. Google has been taking a lot of heat for its continued focus on social and forcing Google+ onto users. In fact, many considered it an act of desperation for Google to catch up with Facebook. An ex-Googler even left the company because of the adverse reactions of that desperation. But it seems that Knowledge Graph is taking Google back to what it does best – search results. And so far it seems to be working. A Wall Street Journal report shows that users are happy with Knowledge Graph and search is up overall.
Despite its faults, Google was one step ahead with the launch of SPYW. Bing, stuck at #2 in search market share, is hoping its new search results will lead to more users. I tried the new Bing for a while and found it quite pleasant to use. I’m not quite sure if it’s enough to take market share away from Google however. Google was once again a step ahead with Knowledge Graph, so we’ll see how Bing responds. What’s your take on these two significant updates?