Derrick Connell: Bing Keynote

Not heard at SMX: Hey, who is doing Google’s SMX keynote this year?

Derrick Connell
Derrick Connell

Back in the 80s some satire show spoofed the old Energizer bunny commercials (anybody remember those?). They had Ronald Reagan as the Energizer bunny and the Soviet leaders Brezhnev, Chernenko, and Andropov in turn came and disappeared. That’s what the SMX Advanced keynotes have been like. 6 years, 6 different Microsoft reps for the keynote.

If you’re keeping score at home, it was:

  • 2007: Satya Nadella
  • 2008: Kevin Johnson
  • 2009: Qi Lu
  • 2010: Yusuf Mehdi
  • 2011: Stephen Weitz

For the record, I thought Mehdi was great, but now he’s off leading the XBox team.

The Bing / Live / MSN revolving door at SMX Advanced has always been the image in my head that symbolized Microsoft’s difficulties getting their act together. Reminds me of the guy [I forget who, sorry] who Tweeted a few years ago “Ran into a Microsoft guy at SMX Advanced. I asked him what he’s doing here. Oops.” I wonder if at some point they’ll just let Duane Forrester do these keynotes for them, he’s up to it.

Anyway, here’s Derrick.

Starting with a demo. [or so he says … he’s talking]

On Friday we moved to 100% availability of the new service. It’s the start of a new era for Bing [another one! woo hoo!] Refactored our user experience because people felt search engines were overloading the search function with things like social.

We learned that people should be treated as a special entity type. We show the people to the side, and left the search result set pure.

In the middle is a new piece of real estate, with what Bing knows about a web page, or the entities on it. For example, we may have reviews about the restaurant your searching for. We call this snapshot.

The core search on the left is still the most important part of the page. We cleaned it up a lot. It’s about 20% faster.

OK, here’s the demo:

We went out on Friday at 4 PM [maybe they caused Johan Santana’s no hitter that night]. We get people who come to our homepage just to see what the image of the day is. We have popular searches, your history, and trending images.

On bing on torso and tail queries you just get a very clean page. [Back to the future. What’s old is new]

Gives an example of a car. Give info about the car in the center. More info about that entity on the right. The different models, and expert reviews.

For the query New York Restaurants there is no single entity. On the right we show a map with the different places. And that’s integrated well with the results in the middle section. And if you click you get more info on that entity. And we’re integrated with Open Table so you can just take the action right here.

So I’ll show you the sidebar area on the right. We believe that for every query there’s somebody who can help you. People you know, your Facebook friends. Then other influential people who might know about this.

Here’s an example. My friend Irving has liked 2 restaurants in New York. When we’re confident, we’ll open that by default.

So for a web page you just click through. But for a person you interact right here. He’s posting to Facebook from within the Bing right rail.

We manage privacy very carefully, we use your privacy settings on Facebook. [oh good, now the average user’s info is safe]

Last example. Query for photography. If you’re fully connected we’ll surface photos from your friends’ pictures on Facebook. My friend Jessica tagged this as photography, so it shows up here. It’s hard to search photos on Facebook natively, so this is a good new service. We show you results from Twitter and you can follow people directly from here.

We made our image search better again.

That’s all on Bing.

Let me show you what it looks like on Facebook. I have a friend asking for help in search in photography, it shows up in my Facebook feed, I can click through and help him on Bing.

So we have the search results on the left, then the snapshot, and then the sidebar with people who can help.

Danny: So what’s the response?

Derrick: It’s been good.

Danny: It looks a little familiar, like something I’ve seen before.[laughter]

Derrick: It’s a little back to the future [Hey, is he reading my post and stealing my metaphors?!] The key is that we’re separating these things now.

Danny: The separation is interesting. Google is integrating these things, you’re separating them. Why?

Derrick: Our experience shows us that users like this more. And the ranking is hard to do with different types of results. And the other thing is that people are very important, and this lets us always put them on the right. So we can give clean search rankings, and relevant people, separately.

Danny: Is it going to get heavier? Are social signals taking over for links?

Derrick: I don’t see them taking over. They’re one of many important signals.

Danny: It seems you have more signals that you can measure. The idea of links and votes. When I have a good experience in the store I don’t run out and write a blog post. In contrast, I might give a quick Tweet. So it seems there should be a lot more social data.

Derrick: It’s growing for sure.

Danny: You’re even looking at things like Google Plus.

Derrick: Yes. This is a big difference. We’re not building a social network. We’re getting signals from all the social networks. Our job is to get the content from the social networks, not to build our own.

Derrick: We had a couple of hack days where Mark Zuckerberg showed up. Some of his ideas were interesting. They had huge insights into how to do social, and we had insights into search.

Danny: Is Bing his default search engine?

Derrick: It is. And he advised his team to do the same.

Danny: When you had the announcement, you talked about relevancy scoring. And your testing showed that you were better …

Derrick: As good.

Danny: So how do you convince people?

Derrick: To give some background, we have our own internal testing, just as Google does. We judge our result sets on its own, and relative to the competition. We used to be a bit behind, now we’re seeing that we’re a bit ahead, within the margin of error. Now we did external testing. We showed people our results vs Google results in 3 ways. With the correct brands, with the brands switched, and with no brands. When we ¬†showed with the correct branding we were even, when we showed with branding switched, our results with their branding did much better than the other way. So there’s a perception problem, and we need to work on that. We would love to have a 3rd group look at the differences between the search engines.

Danny: I played more with Bing. And it was horrible. No, just kidding. I was impressed. By the end of the week, I did a search, got the results, and couldn’t remember what I used. So it’s registering with me that I’m not picking up the difference. So you talk about perception. Do you have to literally go into people’s homes and change their defaults?

Derrick: We want to get more Pepsi Challenge type tests, and show people that we’re better. Now that we’re at the point that the engines are comparable, we want to get people to check them out.

Danny: When Bing first launched, there was this big thing that it was a Decision Engine. Is that still how you’re positioning?

Derrick: For the first 3 years we were trying to establish the brand, and Decision was a great way to position our brand in contrast to the other products out there [such a marketer — won’t even mention the competition by name, even in this case]. And that branding worked. We’re going to keep the focus on “Bing is for doing.”

Danny: Part of the awareness … there was a time I could get away from Bing. But often I just see ads for them wherever I am. Is that going to continue?

Derrick: Our marketing team has been doing a great job. Because when we get people to hear about us we’re able to get them to start using our product. We’re going to still be on TV, in programs like Mad Men.

Danny: If only you could go back in time and get them to use it back then …

Derrick: Yeah, if Al Gore had invented the internet earlier …

Danny: Do an episode where Don Draper tries to market Bing.

Derrick: That’s a good idea.

Danny: I’ll take just 15% of the revenue you get from that idea. … When you guys started you spent a ton of money and you were doing single digits. Where are you trying to get to?

Derrick: I think there’s a tipping point at 20%, we should get there soon, that will be a big milestone. But then there’s 30, and 40.

Danny: I don’t want to confess how many XBoxes I have. But I have several. And I don’t like when my kids can see what I’m doing. Now suddenly there’s Bing on XBox. And it’s kind of neat. But it’s not Bing. It’s Bing as a brand for doing search, but it’s not Bing the search engine. So is Bing now the Microsoft brand for any kind of search in Microsoft? Is Windows 8 internal search going to be called Bing?

Derrick: It won’t be that broad. And anything branded Bing is built by our team. in XBox it’s about find music, find movies. We use some web signals about which music is most popular. It’s built by Bing. So is the speech part of the experience. For Sharepoint and Desktop search we don’t power that or brand it. But we do talk to those teams and try to help them.

Danny: On the voice part, if I ask if it’s raining, or where to buy soup, will it tell me?

Derrick: I wish somebody could do that

Danny: Google used to have it, and people forgot it. And then Apple introduced Siri, and people think sometimes it almost works. And you guys had this stuff first.

Derrick: It’s very hard for a search engine to process a long natural language query. We’re working on it.

Danny: Are you seeing more voice search from XBox?

Derrick: We’re getting better training data from the phone where people are giving us more structured query, with locations. XBox type searches are less useful for us.

Danny: How about Windows 8?

Derrick: It’s exciting. The release preview that went out last week got some great response. We have some apps in that experience, that got received very well. It’s going to be a big year for everybody. And we’ll be figuring out how to make the most of it.

Danny: There will be a default search engine in Windows 8, but that’s up to the manufacturer. If I do a clean reset will I get Bing?

Derrick: I don’t know. I stay away from that stuff.

Danny: You’re not a social network, but you have networks you tap into. So how do I tell you that I’m this, this, and this.

Derrick: The good news is you don’t have to do more than you’re doing. If you’re a brand, make sure you’re on Facebook and Twitter. If you get a recommendation from a friend that will be very powerful. There’s nothing specific to do, just get your product Liked and Plussed.

Danny: Last thing before Open Q&A. At the beginning of the year I wrote an article 2011, the year the search engines took stuff away from us. Google gave us Not Provided. And Yahoo! closed Site Explorer. ¬†Do you have any news to share with us …

Derrick: Yes, thank you. We’re announcing a new version of our Webmaster Tools. Duane will show that off at 10:45. The blog goes out at 10 AM. It’s a significant upgrade. It’s a big day for us.

Danny: I know Vanessa Fox has a big post on that coming out. Is it true that it’s called the Penguin update?

Derrick: The team is calling it Phoenix. Which is kind of apt.

Danny: (Reading a question): It feels slower now. Did these changes slow things down?

Derrick: No. We’re 20% faster. And the perceived speed is also much faster.

Danny: Why does Facebook give you their data, and are you afraid they’re just going to dump you and make their own search engine?

Derrick: We get the data because we have a good deal with them. They’re very happy with what we’re doing. On the second question, it’s very hard to build a good search engine. It’s not an investment you would undertake likely. I think they’re very happy with the partnership.

Danny: Can content owners provide more info for bing for Q&A?

Derrick: Make your data available for schema.org. We take the data in and store it in a more structured index. So if you want to show up, do the work to get your site to show up, and structure it.

Danny: Why is it so hard to get into Bing news? Have you considered paid inclusion programs? They’re very popular these days [laughter. A shot at Google]

Derrick: If you want to be part of Bing news and you’re not showing up, that’s surprising. Go to Duane’s session and see if he can help you.

Danny: What’s your favorite feature?

Derrick: You love all your children equally, but the sidebar is what I’ve worked on the most, that’s what I think about the most. I think it has great potential.

It was a good presentation. It’s the sixth straight year that they’re claiming a rebirth, so take it all with a grain of salt. But they were more convincing this time. We’ll see.

More from SMX Advanced: