January 17, 2013, 3:22 PM

Bing adds more Facebook content to search results

The Microsoft search engine gives consumers’ status updates, links and comments from the social network.

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Microsoft Corp. announced today it will present consumers with an average of five times more Facebook content in Bing.com social search results than it previously featured.

Bing displays social content—which includes a consumer’s Facebook friends’ status updates, shared links, comments and photos, as well as content from other social networks, including Twitter, Foursquare and Google+—in a “social sidebar” on the far right side of the search results page. Without leaving the page, a searcher can click the Facebook icon to give the search engine access to his Facebook account, making any pertinent content from his Facebook connections appear in the sidebar.

If, for example, a consumer searches for the music festival Coachella he’ll see typical search results about the festival, such as when it is, news about the festival and the bands that will be playing there, in the main search results column. And in the social sidebar he’ll find pictures, posts and comments from his friends who attended the festival in the past or plan to go this year. The added Facebook content will only appear on search results on Bing.com, and not next to searches on sites owned by Yahoo Inc., which uses Bing to provide search results.

The move is aimed at differentiating Bing from Google, says Kevin Lee, CEO of Didit, a search engine marketing firm. “Microsoft is trying to figure out a secret sauce that will get people to realize that Bing is just as good as, or better than, Google,” he says.

Since Microsoft, which owns a small stake in Facebook, introduced the social sidebar last year, Bing.com has made only modest gains in its share of web searches. In April 2012, the month before the social sidebar launched, Bing had a 15.4% share of the search market, according to web measurement firm comScore Inc.; in December that share had increased to 16.3%.

However, those small increases make a difference, Lee says. “We’re search engine-agnostic,” says Lee. “We just move ad dollars to whoever works hardest. Even if it is a small gain, it still might lead to moving some money to Bing.”

Even months before the Bing announcement, many retailers planned to shift paid search dollars to Bing, according to an Internet Retailer survey published in the Search Marketing Guide. 42.5% of survey respondents said they planned to increase their search ad spending on Bing. Another 28.3% planned to keep their Bing spending the same and 5.5% planned to decrease spending (the remaining 23.6% of respondents don't advertise on Bing).

Bing’s move came only a few days after Facebook launched a limited test of the Search Graph, a new search engine for the social network that it says will provide personalized search results that focus on people, photos, places and interests. When a consumer searches for something that Facebook doesn’t have relevant results for, Bing will provide the search results.

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