The push is coming, or has it already begun? The push from Microsoft and Yahoo (but considering Yahoo’s recent issues, let’s concentrate on Microsoft and it’s Bing search engine) to stand up to Google and offer formidable competition has been in the works for some time. Now, Microsoft is not backing from the challenge, instead fully pressing on continuing to invest in their online services division, that which guides its search platform Bing, and trying to differentiate themselves from other search engines, namely Google.

This means that the decision-makers at Microsoft are confident they can eventually tip the scales and draw web searchers to their platform. This is serious confidence considering the online services division reported operating losses of $2.6 billion for its last fiscal year, according to a recent New York Times article by Nick Wingfield. Part of their plan in mounting a surge was announced just at the beginning of the month in that they are going to integrate social media data into their search results. This information is not just any social data, however, it is social data from yes, a range of sites, but namely from Facebook. Sound familiar?

Google introduced its “Google Search, Plus Your World” functionality as Google Search began integrating social data into its search results (primarily from Google+) causing a stir for several reasons among them being a significant change to the user experience and the issues associated with potentially privileging its own social platform over others in search results (considering it is the dominant engine used). In this process, Google and Facebook are pitted against each other as Google is ramping up its Google+ to compete with Facebook to amass social/personal data. So, now it appears Microsoft and Facebook are teaming up to add an additional functionality to Bing that mirrors Google’s latest search functionality.

According to experts cited in the NYT article, Microsoft has integrated in the social data quite well. They have been very concerned with integrating the data without cluttering the search results pages, making multiple changes through various tests. The apparent result: a crisp-looking search engine results page (SERP) that has a neatly organized sidebar of social media results where users can post questions to the friends who have posted relevant information without leaving the results page.

Business Implications
The move to integrate social data into Bing search results from Facebook and others and the similar steps from Google previously have clear implications for those conducting online marketing and SEO campaigns:

  • Businesses must get a social presence and optimize it. The longer businesses lack a presence on social media, the longer they will miss out on opportunities to engage with customers online, widen their audience through greater exposure, and push greater business and conversion.
  • Marketers need to leverage social media with the other marketing operations of the company. Linking promotions to their social presence, bridging traditional media to this social presence, and coordinating the different accounts themselves to strengthen each other, along with optimizing it with SEO- friendly practices will bring the return businesses are looking for.

The apparent alliance between Microsoft and Facebook is intriguing and will be something to track as the way it plays out, and the way that Bing performs going forward, will greatly impact the future search landscape.