iMarket Solutions Blog : Posts Tagged ‘Bing’

Increase Followers with the Bing Social Search Feature

Tuesday, September 24th, 2013

Google and Bing have confirmed that social media activity is taken into account when determining your website’s search engine ranking, but Microsoft is looking to make its search engine the most social way to find what you are looking for on the web. One of the ways they plan on doing this is through the Bing social search feature which displays within their search engine results at Bing.com.

Bing has introduced a panel on the far right of its search engine interface known as the “social sidebar”. This panel contains social media updates from Facebook, Twitter and more. With Facebook, users can log in to their personal Facebook accounts and interact directly with their friends, asking questions and providing answers relevant to content that they may be searching for through Bing. Bing also searches through Twitter to find highly active and optimized Twitter profiles that are tweeting information relevant to users’ searches, and displays the tweets within the panel.

Below you can see an example of how Bing social search works with our client, JD Plumbing Company:

Bing social search result screenshot

 

When searching for a plumber in Raleigh, NC, Bing was able to locate JD Plumbing Company’s Twitter profile and find a tweet that was created and optimized by our team. As a Social Domination client, we created tweets and then used hashtags to categorize them with SEO-related keywords. This allowed Bing to find and promote JD Plumbing Company through their social search toolbar. This is a huge benefit to businesses that are effectively using social media to promote their product lines and connect with fans. People are 90% more likely to connect with brands endorsed and recommended by a friend, so not only is social media a great SEO enhancement; it is also a great sales enhancement. Brands that are not utilizing social media are missing out on this amazing opportunity to be found in the search engines! Between the Bing social search feature, Google Knowledge Graph and Google Local Carousel, search engines are just begging to help increases your company’s visibility.

Find out how we can help you and your business with one of our social media marketing solutions by visiting our website today!

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Bing, Facebook, and Google +1: Who’s Going to Dominate Social Search, and What It All Might Mean for HVAC, Plumbing, and Electrical Service Businesses

Wednesday, July 13th, 2011

As we discussed in some previous blog posts, Bing is making a bid to challenge Google’s dominance in the search world. We’ve already looked at Bing’s deal with Blackberry, which may give Bing a lot more traction in the mobile search market. Now we’re going to look at Bing’s deal with Facebook, which adds an exciting “social” aspect to Bing’s search results – and Google’s attempt to strike back.

Here’s how it works. Bing search results will now include “Likes” from Facebook. If you’re logged into Facebook when you make a search – say, to find a local plumber – you’ll get a list of plumbers’ websites, and if any of your Facebook Friends have “Liked” any of the websites in the list, you’ll see a little thumbs-up “Like” icon and the name of your friend(s) who “Like” the site.

Of course, when your Facebook Friends make searches in Bing, they in turn will be able to see which websites you have “Liked”. To make it as easy as possible for everyone to contribute their opinion, There’s even a Bing toolbar that lets you “Like” a website right from your browser controls – you don’t have to hunt on the website for the little “Like” icon.

It’s certainly handy to be able to see at a glance if one or more of your Friends “Likes” a website – especially when you’re trying to evaluate something you don’t know much about. Many people rely primarily on word-of-mouth to choose heating, plumbing, and electrical contractors, and “we think consumers searching for service businesses will quickly come to use “Likes” to choose one contractor over another.

But the Bing/Facebook integration goes deeper than that. Bing will actually use your Friends’ “Likes” to help calculate the search engine results it presents to you – that is, the sites that your Friends “Like” will get a higher spot in the listings. And because each person has a different group of Facebook Friends with different “Likes”, Bing will present a different set of search results to each person – a truly personalized search.

For businesses, this means that it will be increasingly important to encourage happy customers to register their satisfaction online. There are some great ways to do this, and we’ll revisit this topic again in future blog posts.

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Why Do People Use a Smartphone to Call a Plumbing, Electrical, or HVAC Company? Does Your Website Give Smartphone Users What They Need?

Wednesday, June 15th, 2011

For the last few weeks, we’ve been talking about the increase in smartphone use and the decrease in Yellow Pages use. As we have already observed in previous blogs, that adds up to two very important conclusions: 1) more and more of your potential customers will be looking for you on the web; and 2) many of those potential customers will be using a smartphone to do it.

Your website needs to be smartphone-friendly, that’s for sure.

But what exactly does “smartphone-friendly” mean?

Well, let’s start with the basics: your website must be compatible with Safari, the most common smartphone web browser.

Also, you need to make sure that there’s no Flash on your website. Flash can be cool, but iPhones (arguably cooler) just don’t get along with it. There are work-arounds that let people view Flash on iPhones, sure, but you have to have some technical interest and skill to implement them. Chances are your customers won’t be interested in doing extra work to see your website; they’ll call your competitor instead. Leave the Flash for your teenager to play with on YouTube.

But…even if your website is compatible with Safari and is Flash-free, it might not be truly smartphone-friendly. If you’ve ever used a smartphone to surf the web, you know that on some websites it can be really hard to get to the information you want. Often, navigation points like tabs, links, or buttons are so small on a smartphone screen that it can be difficult even to know what a website offers, much less get there. If there are a lot of navigation points spreading horizontally across the screen, you have to scroll and scroll and scroll to see them all. If “Contact Us” is all the way on the right of all that navigation, will your customers have the patience to travel all the way over to it? And, if the “Contact Us” button is really small, will they be able to press it comfortably or will they hit another button by accident? You get the idea.

To make sure that all our clients’ websites work optimally on smartphones, we’ve created a “quick action” mobile template and install it on every website we build. The experience is seamless for the user: if someone visits one of our clients’ websites using a smartphone, he or she is immediately taken to the mobile version of the website. (There is special code built into the programming that detects the kind of device that the visitor is using.)

To design our mobile website template, we asked ourselves two questions:

  1. When and why are people using their smartphones to call service companies?
  2. What information will satisfy their needs?

Based on our own experience and what our clients have told us about their customers, people don’t use a smartphone to look for extensive information about a service company. They may enjoy your blog, but they’re not going to use their smartphone to read it. When they go to your website via smartphone, they probably have an emergency or already know what they want to do (book an annual inspection, buy a service contract, etc). They want what we call “quick action” information: When are you open? Do you have 24-hour service? Do you fix toilets or do you only do HVAC equipment? How can they email or call you right now?

Our mobile templates put all that primary information out there, literally at users’ fingertips. Then, to make sure that everyone can see and access it easily, we make sure that the logo is big enough to see, the font is big enough to read, and the links and phone numbers are big enough for everyone to click on, even if they have great big clumsy fingers (like our CTO’s).

Of course, our mobile websites also contain a link to the client’s main website in case someone does want to research something more closely or read the blog – because after all, what is more exciting than a blog?

On that note of shameless self-promotion, iMarket’s blogger will sign off for this week. Next week, we’ll look at the other big new market that Bing is trying to break into – social search.

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Bing, SmartPhones, and the Demise of the Yellow Pages: Is Your Website Ready to Keep Up with the Trend Toward Mobile Search?

Wednesday, June 8th, 2011

Last week, we made a case that Bing should be taken seriously as a potential competitor to Google. Here is another good reason to make sure that your company’s website is optimized for strong placement in Bing as well as Google: Bing has been busy signing all sorts of interesting partnership deals.

One of the most important deals Bing has made recently is its partnership with Facebook. We’ll come back to that in a couple of weeks.

For now, though, we’d like to focus on another Bing partnership deal. On May 3, 2011, Bing and BlackBerry maker RIM announced that Bing will become the default search engine for all BlackBerry devices. In other words: anyone who searches for a service company on their BlackBerry will do it using Bing.

So, you ask, exactly how many people are going to be using Bing on their BlackBerry? Let’s do the numbers.

In the first quarter of 2011, there were 72.5 million smartphones in use in the US. The total US population is 311,455,000, which means that about one out of every four Americans uses a smartphone.

According to a survey of 30,000 US mobile subscribers by ComScore, an internet marketing research company, the US smartphone market breaks down as follows:

  • 34.7% of smartphones are Android devices (up from 28.7% in the last quarter of 2010)
  • 25.5% of smartphones are iPhones (up slightly from 25% in 2010)
  • 27.1% of smartphones are BlackBerry devices (down from 31.6% at the end of 2010)

Doing one last calculation, we can estimate that more than 19.5 million people – six percent of the population – will now use Bing on their BlackBerry smartphone.

What’s more, Bing is now an official search option on the iPhone, which used to be Google-only. If iPhone users are impressed, as we were, by Bing’s user-friendly layout and features, they might switch their settings and start using Bing on their iPhones as well.

(Of course, Android is a Google product, so Android users are going to be forced to stick with Google on their phones.)

Now, let’s think trends. While it’s true that BlackBerry’s market share is diminishing slightly, the cell phone market in general, especially the smartphone market, is growing. Even more importantly, an increasing number of people are getting rid of their landlines and using their mobile phone as their only phone. There’s also the trend we discussed a few weeks ago: the sharp decline in Yellow Pages use because people are using the web to look up phone numbers.

Add all these up, and you can only arrive at one conclusion: if you’re a service company, more and more people will be using their smartphones to look up your number and call you. More specifically –  going back to the first statistic we mentioned – perhaps as many as one out of four of your customers are calling you from a smartphone.

Of course, you should make sure that your website performs well in BlackBerry users’ Bing searches. But one in four is a percentage you can’t ignore: you need to ensure that your website works well on all smartphones.

Next week we’ll talk about how we at iMarket program our websites to look great and function optimally on mobile devices.

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Google and Bing: A Head-to-Head Review of Local Search Results for Service Companies

Wednesday, May 25th, 2011

We’ve been reading a lot lately about how Microsoft’s Bing search engine compares to industry giant Google – and whether industry experts think that Bing has the chops to unseat Google from its top spot.

Certainly, there are some things about Bing that are promising.

In many cases, the user experience is better with Bing. Reviewers – ourselves included – generally prefer Bing’s page layout to Google’s. Bing seems to be able to put more information at the searcher’s fingertips than Google does, and it is more visually appealing. Bing’s results pages have more white space and a layout that is easier to follow and more pleasing to the eye.

Bing has also earned praise for its “Explore pane” with links to related searches, followed by the user’s recent search history, and an easy interface for limiting searches to a particular date range. We think many users will appreciate that last feature, because limiting searches by date can dramatically improve their relevance, and specifying date parameters is relatively difficult in Google.

Most of the search engine reviewers focused on more general searches. Of course, for iMarket’s clients, local search is key, so we did our own head-to-head comparison of the way the two engines perform in searches for local service companies.

iMarket’s home base of Burlington, Vermont, is currently experiencing record flooding, so we started with what’s currently top-of-mind for us: “plumber Burlington VT”.  Then, for something completely different, we tried “furnace Vancouver Canada”.

As with our general searches, we preferred Bing’s visual presentation of the information for both searches. In both cases, Bing’s local listings appeared at the top of the page. In one case Google’s local listings were positioned below a paid ad for a national chain (Roto-Rooter), and in the other, they were interspersed confusingly with national listings. We also thought that Bing’s maps, which had numbered blue circles showing the location of each plumbing company, was easier to read than Google’s “raindrop” icons with letters inside them.

But what about the quality of the information? In general, it wasn’t very different. Both Bing and Google’s local listings for Burlington-area plumbers included phone numbers, addresses, and map locations. Google offered seven listings, while Bing had only five, but both provided a link that we could click to get more listings, and those extra listings were fairly comprehensive. For furnaces, Bing offered five local listings, with an obvious link to get more listings, while Google offered only four listings with a less obvious way to get more.

Bing’s much-touted “Explore” pane was no help at all for our Burlington search. The only links it offered were to touristy destinations in and around Burlington. If we’re looking for a plumber, chances are we live here and don’t need to stay in a hotel, and if our basement is flooded, we’re probably not in the mood to check out any upscale local restaurants. For the furnace search, the Explore pane was slightly more helpful, because it contained links to major national furnace brands.

There was one other important difference between the results presented by Google and Bing: Google provided links to reviews when they were available, while on Bing reviews were conspicuously absent on the search results page.

We agree with the online marketing experts who argue that Bing has to be significantly better than Google in order to woo searchers away from Google in large numbers. And so far, at least for local search, Bing and Google (in our view) are about even.

However, Bing isn’t done yet. It’s just signed major deals that will help it compete in two major emerging areas: mobile and social search. We’ll talk about those deals next week and how service companies should react to them.

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What’s the Difference Between Bing and Google? And How Does iMarket Optimize HVAC and Plumbing Websites for Strong Performance in Both Search Engines?

Wednesday, May 18th, 2011

As we’ve discussed in previous blog posts, it seems pretty certain that Bing is “borrowing” from Google by using the Bing toolbar to record the way searchers interact with Google’s search results.

But that doesn’t mean that Bing and Google return identical results – far from it.

So what are the differences between Bing and Google? How do they arrive at their results? And how do those differences impact HVAC and plumbing companies that use the web to generate leads?

The answer is that we don’t really know exactly how the search engines compute their results, because they keep their secret formulas under lock and key. But we can at least make some educated guesses.

In broad strokes, here are three of the most important differences we’ve found between Bing and Google:

  • For Bing, content is king. For Google, context is. Both Bing and Google evaluate your website on a range of factors, including the actual words that appear on your site, the keywords that are incorporated into your site’s programming, and the way your website links with others. But they use this information differently to come up with their results. Bing seems to be more concerned with “on page factors” than Google is – that is, with the parts of a website that the user actually reads. Google, on the other hand, puts more emphasis on “Page Rank”, which is a complicated algorithm that essentially determines how popular your website is compared to other, similar websites.
  • Google wants to know how many people link to you; Bing wants to know why they link to you. “Backlinks”, or “incoming links”, are links from other websites to yours. Links are extremely important for calculating search results, because they offer insight into what other people think of your website. (The thinking is that if people link to your site, you must be offering something worthwhile.) Both search engines look at two factors when they evaluate incoming links: 1) how many links there are from other sites to yours; and 2) what those links say (i.e. if they contain relevant keywords). The difference is that Google seems to prioritize the quantity of links, while Bing seems to focus more on the quality of links.
  • Google likes new content; Bing likes established content. Bing pays more attention to the “authority” of a website – that is, it gives precedence to websites that have been around for a while or belong to authoritative organizations. Google, on the other hand, seems to value fresh content and is much more likely to list recent blog posts than Bing is.

For more detailed technical information on the differences between Bing and Google, check out webconfs.com.

What do the differences between the search engines mean for HVAC and plumbing companies that want to make sure that their websites get to the top of the search results and stay there?

Well, first of all, it’s important to realize that optimizing for both search engines is not a zero-sum game – that is, if you do well in one, you won’t do worse in the other (particularly since Bing seems to be borrowing Google’s results).

In fact, if your website is programmed and managed according to the best practices that we use here at iMarket, you’ll be well-positioned for strong performance in both search engines.

To make sure that our clients’ sites perform well in both Bing and Google, we start out with the fundamental element of all effective search engine optimization: great content. Of course, our SEO service includes lots of high-tech extras along the way, but content is at the heart of everything we do.

Here’s why:

  • Well-written content that truly describes your company and the products and services you offer will naturally contain good keywords. Both search engines (especially Bing) love strong on-page content with relevant keywords.
  • Well-written, useful content encourages other people to link to you. The more people link to you, the happier Google will be.
  • Adding fresh content regularly keepings those links coming, and keeps Google interested.
  • If you keep maintaining your website and adding content regularly, over time it will become an established, authoritative site, which will earn it the respect of Bing’s more conservative algorithm.

Next week, we’ll talk about how we think newcomer Bing might fare in the long term against industry giant Google.

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