To some, the question of whether Microsoft’s Bing can overtake Google as the search engine of choice is preposterous. Google has been around for much longer, its algorithms are time-tested, and in many languages, so who can compete?
But Microsoft is hoping to take advantage of the fact that Google failed to integrate multiple social services into its social search, and instead tried to recreate the social component with Google+.
Google’s social search also has come under fire is because it threatened to replace the regular search completely. Bing is placing social results in a distinct sidebar, next to regular search results, which is less intimidating to a user who relies on search and doesn’t have an extensive digital network.
Danny Sullivan from SearchEngineLand notes something that felt like an intrusion on Google+ seemed welcome when tucked into the sidebar on Bing.
Content marketers tend to watch each change to Google’s algorithm closely, so how sensitive is their work to Google’s continued dominance? It is not clear if the strategies that improve page rank in Google are guaranteed to affect search results in other engines. A split search audience might dilute best practices that in recent years answered to Google alone.
While Bing might be the search engine of the future, content marketers aren’t quite jumping to be the first big players but instead will watch adoption rates and for results. Perhaps optimizing for Bing should only come after a site sees substantial referral traffic from Bing.
“If I invest any time in a new avenue for traffic, I want to see what the ROI is,” says Ashir Badami, content strategist for Earthbound Media Group.
But Bing’s competitive advantage lies in partnerships, not its own algorithm. The content posted to sites like Quora, Twitter and Foursquare varies greatly, as do the networks a person is likely to have — for example, industry leaders on Quora or Twitter and personal friends on Foursquare, all of whom will together offer a broader context for any given search.
Therefore, the answer to content marketers may be little other than optimizing content for social.
Badami explains that his approach to content relies on individual social networks. ”I would create content for the specific audience in those platforms rather than doing anything differently,” he says, “I make sure my content is good and suited to the audience.”
Alternatively, the move for marketers to win at Bing could go beyond content.
The social sidebar in Bing does more than offer links that were posted by friends — it attempts to predict who might have an answer, and allows a user to interact on social networks directly from the Bing search page. Called “Friends Know,” the feature will be dependent on the size of one’s network, in addition to topical knowledge, for exposure.
The strategies of content distribution and relationship building go hand-in-hand, but waiting too long for results could be a lost opportunity.