Bing. When you say the name, it elicits chuckles and occasional sneers from digital marketers, but the Microsoft search engine might matter more than you think. Here’s why: not only is it going to power search results for Siri in iOS 7, it currently powers search results for Facebook today – and that’s where you can’t see its hidden influence.
Take a look quickly at Google Analytics for Bing’s share of our search on an average day in June:
That’s not all that spectacular, is it? Only 2.69% of our search traffic is from Bing, while Google has the lion’s share at 95.17% of search traffic. Bing doesn’t matter, right? Not so fast. Bing powers the search results for Facebook. I wanted to see how Bing search interacted with Facebook, so I went and did a search for SHIFT:
There we are, search results powered by Bing. It would be logical to conclude that if I clicked on this search result, it would show up in Google Analytics as a Bing search result. Logical, but it turns out that conclusion is wrong. I fired up Google Analytics Real-Time and clicked on the Bing search result, and here’s what it was recorded as:
Facebook’s web searches via Bing come across as social referrals, not search results.
If you look at the source code for Facebook’s search results, they’re wrapped up in the same link shortener that every Facebook link is wrapped in, making Bing search results indistinguishable from other shared links on Facebook and making them invisible in your analytics. You don’t know how many visits from Facebook are actually searches.
What does this mean for you? At the very least, you need to pay attention to the basics of optimizing your website not just for Google, but for Bing as well. Facebook’s search results are powered by it, Apple’s results will be powered in part by it, and chances are other services will be as well. Make sure you’re registered for their version of Webmaster Tools, get your site verified, and do all of the basic things needed to make sure that you show up reasonably well in their search results. Google isn’t the only game in town, especially in the iOS and Facebook worlds. If you’re adding focus to your PR and marketing efforts in mobile and social, you need to add focus to Bing.
Christopher S. Penn
Vice President, Marketing Technology
Disclosure: Microsoft’s Bing search engine is a past client of SHIFT. SHIFT was not compensated to write this post, however.