If you've used Google and Bing lately, you might have noticed that your search results look decidedly different. Search engines are always changing the way that they index data and present it to end users, in a never-ending battle to both retain happy customers and keep the bulk of their market share. In this article, we're going to take a quick look at a few factors that are impacting how searchers see results at both of these popular search engines.
Quality of Search Results
One of the most significant changes over the past six to twelve months has been a Google change in the order of sites that rank highly within their results. Through a series of updates nicknamed “Panda” and “Penguin”, Google has implemented quality rating factors that actively penalize sites with points of assessment that indicate low quality (Panda) or search engine manipulation (Penguin). For search engine users, this means fewer ad-heavy or spammy sites are making it into Google’s top ten results, which is always a positive thing. However, detractors of these changes note that "gaming" the system is still possible with various Black Hat SEO tactics. Clearly, we still have a ways to go to make sure that these kind of results aren't the first ones we see in our search results.
Bing’s Social Sidebar
Many people are on the fence when it comes to presenting social search data as part of your regular search results. Some believe it adds a great deal of value, while others believe that it just adds unnecessary noise to signal ratio. Google continues to invest in the former perspective, as Google+ and social media mentions increasingly supplement their core search results. Bing, on the other hand, has integrated social media search results and interactivity into a “sidebar” along the right hand side of the page. While two search engines taking two different approaches does not establish a “trend” per se, search engine users like you and I will see this debate continue to impact our search experience as we move beyond 2012 into 2013.
Have you tried looking for your local pizza place lately? You'll notice that the first results to come up in both Bing and Google are local to your geographical area. Just a few short years ago, this was something that was only dreamed of, now, we expect it as part of our normal search results. Expect this to get even more sophisticated as local search evolves; for example, when searching for your local coffee bar, you might also see coupons, promotions, and other marketing items from not only your local coffee joint, but neighboring businesses who are eager to gain your patronage as well.
Semantic search (search results driven by context) will continue to be the biggest trend guiding search and online marketing into 2013 and beyond. Google’s name for this is the Knowledge Graph but, in general, the principle is that search engines are using all information at their disposal to bring in deeper and more relevant listings to their results pages. Use of local search in search results, as mentioned above, is a good example of semantics impacting search.
Google, Bing, and other search engines are always re-evaluating where they are in order to stay relevant. Every day we see new changes and updates to our search results; some we like, some we don't like. However, search engines have no choice but to move forward and as searchers, we get to enjoy the ride.