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Despite the potential for search engines to leverage data culled from popular social networking hubs like Facebook and Twitter, it's still unclear what social's long-term role in search will be.

When it comes to Bing, however, one thing is clear: Microsoft 'likes' Facebook.

Following the unveiling of Google's +1 button, Bing is rolling out a tighter Facebook integration today that incorporates the Like button.

When searching, users will have the ability to Like the sites listed in the results. For those logged into Facebook, Bing will list the names of friends who have liked the site. For those not logged into Facebook, it will simply reveal how many Likes the site in question has received.

Wired.com explains:

...if you are looking for a specific site via search, say typing in "Wired," you’ll now get the usual top box, along with links to individual stories that have been liked by your friends. If you aren’t logged into Facebook (or don’t even have an account), you’ll see the top stories liked by all Facebook users — just in case the recommendations of a bunch of strangers matters to you.

For other searches, such as "iPad review," Bing will return individual page results. But to help you decide which sites are reputable, you’ll now see which sites your friends have liked. If you want more information or want to ask one of these friend’s a question, you click on their profile photo and you can then send them a message on Facebook.

The idea is, of course, doesn't require a degree in rocket science: 'Likes' are a measure of popularity, and the popular content in many instances may be the most relevant or highest quality content. If Bing can use Facebook's data to help its users find quality, relevant content, it should help its position in the market.

The question, of course, is whether Likes are actually all that important in the context of search, as it doesn't necessarily guarantee relevance. A

n article about the iPad with a lot of Likes, for instance, may have won the Facebook popularity contest, but at the same time it may not be relevant to the query "iPad review", "iPad alternatives", etc.

This underscores the problem with Likes: all they really reveal is that at one point, a certain number of people 'liked' a page or site generally. What they liked about it specifically is unknown.

From this perspective, the inclusion of Like information is probably not the type of social integration that is going to inherently boost the quality of SERPs themselves. Whether consumers find the information interesting or useful in some other way time will tell.

Patricio Robles

Published 17 May, 2011 by Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles is a tech reporter at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

2419 more posts from this author

Comments (4)


Info Note

This in my opinion is Google's biggest mistake. Declaring war against Facebook and Microsoft's best search decision ever.

over 5 years ago

Peter Leatherland

Peter Leatherland, Online Sales Manager at Ethical Superstore

"This underscores the problem with Likes: all they really reveal is that at one point, a certain number of people 'liked' a page or site generally. What they liked about it specifically is unknown."

I think this is true but you could say the same about links, if a site has something really great on it at a certain point in time it may get some backlinks because of it, if the site does nothing interesting after the links still remain perhaps even being more beneficial over time as they are established long term links.

I know Google can factor this into the algorithm but why can't Bing/Facebook with Likes? I'm pretty sure Facebook will have time data attached to every Like (even if this is not publicly visible).
If Bing can successfully work this into their algorithm (so it doesn't just push funny videos up the rankings over informative content, as this is the kind of thing that attracts links) it could give them a big advantage

over 5 years ago

Becky Campbell

Becky Campbell, Business Owner at Reflect Digital

I agree that one of the biggest problems with Likes is that a like is one moment in time and therefore I do not believe a like should last forever. Especially seen as many companies run competitions to gain likes on Facebook - this means users do not necessarily like the brand, but want a chance to win the shiny new iPad or whatever it may be.

Likes can be used as a gauge of brand popularity, but I think potentially Facebook users should be asked 3 months later do they still like this brand. This would really keep brands on their toes to keep their communications relevant to their audience and interesting.

over 5 years ago

Peter Leatherland

Peter Leatherland, Online Sales Manager at Ethical Superstore

I think Facebook will monitor if people hide stuff from their wall, so if you Like a product just to get an offer or enter a competition but have no real interest in the product you are likely to either unlike it or hide it when their posts start appearing on your wall. With Facebook wanting to know every single thing about you I would be surprised if they don't take into account percentage of 'hides'

I think you are right though, they will need to take this kind of thing into account if they are to make any real use of this, but potentially it is a gold mine of info on which to rank popularity if combined with Bing info

over 5 years ago

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