Choose your favorite cliché.
“The race is on.”
“The fat’s in the fire.”
“The other shoe has dropped.”
However you want to describe the Bing/Facebook linking initiative, its emergence as a new tool for (allegedly) creating synergetic ties between search engines and social media posts was inevitable once Google announced Google+ World.
Before going any further, here’s two crucial facts about Microsoft’s brand spanking new Bing’s Linked Pages:
1: According to some studies, at least those commissioned by Microsoft, more than 60% of Facebook’s 800,000,000 members keep the Facebook tab open in their browsers whenever they’re online.
2: Microsoft and Yahoo, which share a common search index (compiled by MS), control roughly 33% of the US search query market. Granted, Google answers somewhere upward of 60% of U.S. search queries. But we’re talking billions, trillions of individual searches here. Thirty something percent of those has more consumer reach than all the commercials ever aired during all the Super Bowls ever played.
So, why are those two facts important? Because Bing’s Linked Pages (BLP) only work when the user is connected to Facebook, and because Microsoft has yet to announce whether or not BLP-influenced returns will also appear in searches initiated via Yahoo.
Since we turned our traditionally jaundiced eye on Google+ World in our last post, we won’t bore you by reiterating its pros and cons here. Suffice it to say that Google+ World and Microsoft’s much more prosaically named Bing’s Linked Pages are essentially the same animal with one key difference. Where Google+ World leans toward the social side of “social media” more than the commercial side. Bing’s Linked Pages seems much more amenable to being exploited by those with products to sell, commercial traffic to build, and businesses to brand.
In fairness, it must be pointed out that this is not necessarily what Microsoft intended when it birthed the “beast.” In fact, Microsoft Bing Director Stefan Weitz says Bing Linked Pages is merely an attempt to “infuse the idea of emotion into the decision engine.”
(Note: Any attempt to use Google Translate – or any similar product – to render the above quote into comprehensible English is doomed to failure.)
Whatever its creator’s intent, however, Bing’s Linked Pages is Microsoft’s beast and the nature of the beast is that it appears to have great potential as a tool for e-commerce enterprises.
Which is not necessarily a bad thing. What would make it a bad thing — a very bad thing — is heavily tilting the search returns influenced by Bing’s Linked Pages toward big-time multinational web enterprises and against small e-commerce businesses.
Sadly, that’s exactly what Microsoft seems to have done. Stripped of all the BS – and Microsoft has unleashed a ton of it, most constructed of the same smoke and mirrors as Stefen Weitz’ “infuse the idea of emotion” sound bite – Bing’s Linked Pages seems to be a throwback to the bad old days of search engines. The days when all that mattered was the “body count,” aka the “beauty contest.” The days when quantity meant everything and quality less than nothing.
What BLP does is tally up a Facebook page’s “Likes” and translate them into return position. The more “likes” you have, the more Bing’s Linked Pages loves you. The fewer “likes,” the more it hates you.
OK, millions of Microsoft groupies – some still in Bill Gates coke-bottle glasses and some not – will scream that the above paragraph is a gross over simplification of an enormous number of sophisticated processes.
Guess what? All those angry folks are right. We used a very simplistic description of what Bing’s Linked Pages does.
Guess something else. They’re also wrong. Because Bing’s Linked Pages does exactly what we said it does. We just traveled directly from Point A to Point B directly, while the program presumably twists and turns its way through the seven rings of algorithm hell before arriving at the same place we did.
This place. The place where an outfit like J.C. Penney, to use a corporate Goliath with a well-documented history of search-engine scamming as a purely hypothetical example, could run TV ads offering people a 25 percent discount coupon for going to its Facebook page and clicking the “like” button.
A couple of hundred thousand purchased — because that’s really what we’re talking about – “likes” later, Goliath dominates the search returns displayed to all those millions of people who stay logged onto Facebook while browsing the web. As a kind of fallout, every small local or regional department store chain gets buried.
To scale it down to a more meaningful level, consider pizza parlors. Virtually every meaningfully sized municipality once had two or more local pizza purveyors whose pies would blow the oven doors off the soggy pre-fabbed mush of the national chains. Not anymore. Now people who don’t live in a relatively urban area are lucky to have one “homemade” option to the “huts” and “papas” and “caesars” of the industry.
There are a number of factors – national advertising and the public’s willingness to sacrifice quality for price being two – for the demise of many independent pizzerias, but the search engine industry’s long-standing preference for “name brands” is one of them.
Just think how many more of these quintessentially small businesses would die if the number of Facebook Likes became a major return-position factor.
At this point, we’d like to remind you that LinksManager and the LinksManager blog are about providing business solutions to e-entrepreneurs. Solutions that are becoming ever more vital in the increasingly fragmented and dysfunctional world of search-engine behavior.
Specifically, what we offer are business-to-business link and social media management systems — LinksManager, Managed Link Building and Managed Social Media — that save you endless hours of toil while driving non-search engine generated traffic to your site and, improving your search engine rankings and return position.
So when we blog about things like Google+ World or Bing’s Linked Pages, we do it from the business implication POV. We don’t deal with the non-commercial implications a lot. As an example, both Google+ World and Bing’s Linked Pages raise a myriad of personal privacy, electronic intrusion, data collection, dissemination and security, and similar issues. The pros and cons, rights and wrongs, and legal or illegal nature of these “issues” will be discussed, debated, and almost certainly litigated over the course of months and years.
If you want to keep yourself informed about those aspects of these programs, go to the search engine of your choice and poke around a bit. Don’t worry, you won’t have to get “lucky.” Info on the subject from all points of the political and social compass is pouring down from cyberspace in buckets.
Which doesn’t mean that we’re all done with Bing’s Linked Pages. Overlooked in many of the news stories about BLP is Microsoft’s alleged claim that it will eventually – or maybe even immediately – allow users to “manage any” Web pages “about” them, not just Facebook pages.
If this sounds scary, like something that could be used to seriously dilute the value of public service sites like the Ripoff Report, it’s because it is scary. On the other hand, even speculating that Microsoft would, or could, open the door to that kind of Web censorship – even if it would be limited to Facebook friends – verges on madness.
So the “manage any web pages” bit may mean something benignly else altogether. Frankly, we don’t know. But we definitely intend to find out before our next post. Stay tuned.