July 30, 2009, 12:00 AM

The Bing Bang

(Page 3 of 3)

On the left side of the page is a column that Microsoft calls the Explore Pane, designed to help users refine searches quickly. On the digital camera results page, there are links to Shopping, Brands, Types, Top 10, Repair, Accessories and Images. Below that are links for Related Searches, including links to brands like Canon and Sony, to retailers like Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and CircuitCity.com, and to sites that compare and rate digital cameras. At the bottom of the Explore Pane, Bing tracks the user’s search history, making it easy to return to an earlier results page.

Clicking on the Sony Digital Camera link produces a page displaying images of four popular Sony cameras, with ratings and price information for each. A click on a camera leads to a page that shows the item’s price at several e-commerce sites, along with tabs for user and expert reviews and product details.

A click on user reviews leads to a page in which Microsoft, using technology that extracts consumers’ opinions from reviews posted across the Internet, summarizes how the camera rates on affordability, ease of use, focus, photo quality and speed.

As the user moves to a new page, the Explore Pane offers refinement options relevant to that page. For instance, on the page for the Sony Mavica camera there are links to batteries, parts, instructions and repair information for that item.

Bing quickly and clearly provides the information a consumer wants as she searches-product details, reviews, prices-and links to retailers offering the item, says Robert Murray, CEO of search marketing firm iProspect. “Everything’s clean, compact and right in front of you,” he says.

Murray advises retailers to pay attention to Bing’s refinement options in order to move higher in search results. For instance, if a results page for Sony cameras displays a refinement option for lenses, a retailer that sells those lenses should include “Sony lenses” in headings and titles for relevant product pages so Bing can easily find those pages.

Retailers are also trying to understand how to get the most compelling information into the pop-up boxes next to page links. Initially, that box was picking up from CSN Stores sites a badge that explains shipping to Canada, not the primary message CSN hoped to convey. By moving that Canada notice down in the HTML code for its pages, that information dropped from the hover box, without affecting how the badge appeared on CSN’s pages, says CSN vice president of marketing Eric Klose.

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