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James Perrin

A Sting for Bing: Are They Copying Google’s Results?

2nd Feb 2011 News, Industry News 2 minutes to read

It’s a strong accusation towards Microsoft and their search engine Bing. Yet, in an article from Danny Sullivan titled Google: Bing is Cheating, Copying our Search Results, Google are claiming they have the evidence that the Microsoft-run search engine is using their results – backed up with evidence.

So what’s behind the accusation? Well Google claim that Bing have been watching what people search for and the sites selected from Google’s SERPs. They then use this information to improve their own search listings. Google say they got wise to Bing’s tactics in May 2010 when they noticed that Bing returned the same sites even when someone would enter a misspelled word.

It’s a convincing argument, and Sullivan’s article details plenty of examples from Google’s sting results. The sting operation verifies that Bing produced the same results as Google for various deliberately misspelled words entered into its search engine.

Bing’s SERP is pretty much identical to Google’s, and one resource that is gaining a bit of focus is Internet Explorers ‘Suggested Sites’. It is thought that this could be a way that Bing have gathered information about Google. When you perform a search and enter a site, Microsoft suggests other sites for you to visit that are similar to the one you are visiting. It’s perfectly legitimate to suggest this as a way that Bing gathers information.

Bing’s response to the accusations was detailed in the article. Sounding like a politician’s answer, Stefan Weitz, the director of Bing, does well to hide their tactics, “we’re not going to go deep and detailed in how we do it”. So nothing to hide there then?

What have Google made of this? Industrial espionage or an intelligent business strategy? Well,  Google have cried, but they haven’t cried foul. This is because it isn’t strictly illegal to do what Bing have done. Google still own their results as Bing are just copying their SERPs. Is this just gamesmanship though?
Google certainly don’t think so, hence why they spoke to Danny Sullivan about their findings. Whatever people think, cheating or gamesmanship, it’s certainly evident that Google aren’t happy. The timing of their findings does coincide nicely with Bing’s own search event happening today,   which can be construed as a bit of a PR stunt to derail any momentum Bing may look to gain.

This is another story to add to a long list of running battles between the two search engines [see: It’s official, Bing is Better than Google!*] In one respect Google should look at this is with pride. Bing feel the need to copy their SERPs; therefore this suggests that Google have the best Search Engine around – even in the eyes of their biggest competitor. The problem for users is this doesn’t bring fresh competition to Google’s monopoly, as Microsoft’s search engine is just exactly the same. Although as both are incorporating user data, at least this shows a greater understanding of what people are actually looking for.

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