When Microsoft announced strong annual financial results July 19, the growth of the company’s cloud services dominated the conversation. But I noticed something else in the company’s numbers: continued growth for Bing. Although Bing accounts for a small share of Microsoft’s revenues, the search platform grew 17 percent year over year.
As TechRadar reported,
As more people used Bing, the search revenue (excluding traffic acquisition costs) also grew, so it looks like things are moving in the right direction.
Bing remains a distant second to Google in terms of market share, but the marketplace needs Bing to grow. A prosperous Bing gives businesses an alternative to Google and another viable platform to grow their visibility.
Bing’s product improvements are good for brands and good for Google because healthy competition keeps everyone on their toes. Bing’s improvements also help business owners and search marketers in their optimization efforts. Let’s take a look at a number of Bing’s improvements and how we can use them to promote our businesses.
Basic Bing search
On a fundamental level, Bing has enriched basic search to encourage discovery beyond top-level search results. For example, if you use your smartphone to search for “movies” on both Bing and Google, both will show you what’s playing where you live. But Bing also displays tabs for movies on Netflix and Amazon, thus demonstrating an awareness of how we discover movies beyond the theater.
Or a search for the musician Drake on both engines displays prominently in search results news results and video content, but there are more visible social links on Google encouraging further exploration. These differences are subtle, but they matter given how search has become more of a process of deep discovery, especially as we use our voices to do more complex searches.
Along these same lines, Bing recently enhanced search with the rollout of a search entity API, which produces a richer contextual search result. As Bing announced in March:
Bing Entity Search API brings rich contextual information about people, places, things, and local businesses to any application, blog, or website for a more engaging user experience. With Bing Entity Search, you can identify the most relevant entity results based on the search term and provide users with primary details about those entities. With our latest coverage improvements, we now support multiple international markets and many more entity types such as famous people, places, movies, TV shows, video games, and books. With this new API, developers can enhance their apps by exposing rich data from the Bing Knowledge Graph directly in their apps.
A more robust knowledge graph means that businesses need to place more emphasis on the content and data they publish on their own pages, starting with Bing Places for Business. If you’ve been treating Bing Places for Business as an optional alternative to Google My Business, it’s time to start using it as another way to promote your brand.
Bing has always been known for being a visually appealing search engine, including its basic layout and home page. From the start, Bing understood that we live in a visual age, with people uploading billions of images and video online every day.
Bing has continuously built upon its embrace of a more visually appealing search aesthetic. For example, Bing presents video search results via appealing thumbnail panels that are easy to explore:
By contrast, video results for Google look more utilitarian and less visually appealing:
Bing also recently announced the launch of visual search, which lets people use images to easily navigate the search engine and find content. With the Bing app on your smartphone, you can either take a photo or upload one, and then quickly perform visual searches.
Bing visual search was widely perceived as an answer to Google Lens. But Google’s own visual search capability is limited (iOS users lack access to it), whereas Bing made visual search widely available for Android and iOS.
Bing visual search is important because it’s yet another sign that businesses need to be visually savvy with their own content. Google has been placing more emphasis on the power of strong visuals in its knowledge graphs as a way of making a business more findable and useful to searchers. Visual search has a multitude of applications, an obvious one being for retailers, especially as people don’t always know how to describe a product they’re trying to find, making the use of a photo easier and faster for discovery.
What brands should do
Bing’s enhancement of more complex and visual search alone is a reason brands need to treat Bing as a powerful part of their search toolkit. Although it’s more work to maintain a presence on multiple platforms, the reward is greater, too.
One easy way to better understand Bing is to experience the platform regularly, as people do. If it’s not your default engine, make time to get yourself comfortable using Bing to navigate. Download the Bing app on your mobile device and compare the features to Google’s app. The more you explore through the eyes of your customer, the more likely you’ll find additional ways to be found on both Google and Bing.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.