Bing has been closing the gap between its search engine’s capabilities and those of its dominant rival, Google, for the past several years, and the biggest sporting event of the year just gave them the opportunity to show off some of the things they’ve been cooking up to close that gap even further. For years, Bing has struggled to achieve the same level of visibility and reputation as the undisputed powerhouse of the search world, Google, but they went all-out for their Super Bowl search results, and for search marketers everywhere, it’s intriguing—if not exciting.
Mirroring the layout of the popular Google search feature known as the “Knowledge Graph,” Bing offered a detailed breakdown of Super Bowl XLIX in the days and hours leading up to the big game for any queries related to the event. While this functionality appeared to be a standalone development, it does give us a strong indication of Bing’s goals and potential future as a formidable search competitor.
To understand the potential impact of Bing’s new developments, you first need to understand what Google’s Knowledge Graph is, and how it’s changing the search world. Debuting back in 2012, the Knowledge Graph has been slowly growing and expanding to cover more ground as an instant source of information. In traditional Google searches, users would input a query, view a series of links with information related to the query, and peruse them until they found what they were looking for. The Knowledge Graph essentially cuts out that middle step, attempting to provide direct information to users without the need to peruse a list of links.
Visually, the Knowledge Graph appears on the right-hand side of the search results page, providing consolidated information on the subject that has been searched for. Currently, the Knowledge Graph offers structured data on specific types of searches, such as searches for politicians, movies, or physical locations, giving a general overview of the subject with a handful of specific dates, facts, and related terms. This information is pulled in from authoritative websites, who provide the information to Google in a specific Schema.org markup.
The Knowledge Graph is an important development in the search world. For users, it’s an incredibly handy tool, cutting out an entire step of the traditional search process. But for search marketers, it’s a game-changer. If users can get information instantly without visiting a site, the entire purpose of information-based content marketing is jeopardized, and all websites will see slightly less organic traffic as a result.
Bing’s revelation of a Knowledge Graph competitor is just the latest in a series of one-ups and imitations that have allowed Bing to improve its structure and offer stronger competition to their main rival. Mirroring Google’s Panda and Penguin updates, Bing released updates refining its processes for determining site authority and search rank. Responding to Google’s constant refinement of its search display, Bing updated its overall design multiple times over the past several years.
The impact is making a difference. Already, third competitor Yahoo decided to start using Bing’s back-end engine to fuel its own searches, effectively increasing the amount of reach Bing’s search engine has. Yahoo itself has been growing in total search volume, in addition to Bing, furthering Bing’s status as a major competitor. All the while, Google has remained a dominant force in search, with nearly two-thirds of all searches falling to it, but that dominance is slowly ebbing away. It’s unlikely that Bing will overtake Google anytime soon, but they are getting closer in both functionality and reputation.
Bing’s results for “super bowl” and related queries made their intentions very clear; Bing wants to offer even more information and a better user experience than Google’s Knowledge Graph can offer. Near the top of the screen, Bing offered some basic information about the game, including the Super Bowl number and the teams involved (along with their associated records). But Bing went a step further, detailing a specialized “Bing Predicts” entry that predicted a 51 percent chance of the Patriots winning, as well as a section of “Predicted Game Changers,” “Passing Leaders,” and profiles of other significant members of each team. The information included players’ names, faces, and historical averages.
As if that information wasn’t enough, Bing also included a separate column that compiled information from Wikipedia and ESPN, analyzing the game. For each team in the game, the search engine featured a “How they can win” section, a big question, and an “X factor” that could shake up the game.
It seems unlikely that one major move could finally put Bing on the same level as Google, but nevertheless, it appears that Bing is slowly inching closer. If Bing keeps up this pace and continues to innovate and refine its approach to online search, in the next few years, it could truly even the playing field. It also seems strange that Bing’s massive Knowledge Graph interface was demonstrated for only one major event; it remains to be seen whether Bing will attempt to offer detailed information on this scale for other sporting or similar events, or whether this was just an isolated incident in an effort to gain more visibility.
Even if Bing doesn’t grow to compete with Google on a one-to-one level, its Knowledge Graph developments will push the technology forward and increase its influence on the development of search. Be prepared for the Knowledge Graph on both platforms to become more advanced, offering more detailed information on more abstract concepts in an effort to provide users with the best possible search experience.