October 17, 2012

Bing It On Campaign Heats Up

The Bing It On challenge is coming to your TV. Microsoft has recently expanded its advertising presence for its campaign to lure people away from Google search.

Bing It On is like a blind taste test for determining which search engine offers the best results. To try it out, head to for what Microsoft calls a “side-by-side search off.”  To try it out, type a search term and then choose from results on either side of a split screen, with the branding removed.

You are asked to conduct five searches, choosing which results you like the best. At the end, a winner is declared. Even if you choose Google,

I have tried the Bing challenge several times, in most cases with Google the winner. The results aren’t all that surprising: Bing is a good search engine and is keeping the market competitive. But Google’s results still trump those of its rival from my perspective.

What is interesting, however, is if you look closely at the Bing It On configuration there are subtle ways where the comparison is skewed in Bing’s favor.

For example, search for a popular artist, say “Taylor Swift.” You get two very similar pages, though some are likely to opt for the Bing results given the artificially higher placement of images and videos.

This is purely anecdotal, but the placement of images seems to be what Microsoft may be hoping users like. If you click the suggested search terms, nearly all of them have a group of image results high on the page (especially a search for “cats”).

What everyone misses is a key component of the full results: Google’s Knowledge Graph (Bing does disclose this in very small print). Google also includes a more comprehensive list of search tools, enabling you to customize results by time, location, or images. The left-hand side of the results page has more specific results for blogs, maps, or shopping sites. Neither of these distinctions can be made out from using the Big It On tool.

To be fair, Bing’s compressed results do not include its new social features. The main Bing site now allows users to link their Facebook account to see related information from their network of friends. While this may be great for some, I find this to be bloated uselessness.

There is plenty good about Bing. One-company dominance isn’t ideal in any competitive market. Yet no one should let a gimmicky test be the sole arbiter of a search engine of choice.

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