A Test, Not A Bug: Bing Deep Links To Facebook, eBay, Craigslist Under Google’s Search Result

bing-google-logosIt looked like a screwup. If you searched for [google] on Bing, you saw Deep Links to Facebook, eBay and Craigslist underneath the main search result for Google. So, in my article earlier today, I called it a “strange bug” in Bing’s search results.

I was wrong.

It wasn’t a bug; it was a test that Bing was running and has now turned off. A Bing spokesperson confirmed for us this afternoon that this was no mistake.

We’re constantly updating and refining the Bing search experience to help people get things done more quickly. We are currently conducting tests on navigational links that will help people get to their ultimate search destination faster, including high traffic links for sites like Google, but have nothing further to share at this time.

If you missed the earlier article, this is what you saw earlier today if you searched for [google] on Bing.com:

bing-deep-links

Those are “Deep Links” — that’s Bing’s name for what Google calls Sitelinks. On both search engines, the standard behavior is that these extra links point to popular or important pages on the same domain as the main search result.

But Bing was changing four of the Deep Links under the Google search result and pointing them to completely different domains: Facebook.com, YouTube.com, Craigslist.org and Ebay.com.

Say what?!?! We sent over a few more questions via email to make sense out of this, and I’ll just paste the Q&A here with my questions and Bing’s replies.

Does Bing think that people who type “google” into the search box are actually looking for Facebook, eBay or Craigslist?

This experiment is part of our larger effort to develop a deep understanding of people’s actual intent for navigational queries such as “Google”. As part of these efforts, we’re continuously incorporating our signals into different experimental treatments for a wide variety of queries.

How do those Deep Links help users get things done/decide?

Bing was designed to help people go from searching and finding to searching and doing. We believe that getting people to their ultimate destination more quickly helps them get things done more quickly.

How would Bing respond if a search for “bing” on Google included Sitelinks to Twitter, Amazon or Kayak?

We appreciate all customer-focused innovation.

On that last answer, I highly doubt Bing would be happy if Google did something like this in its search results when people type “bing.”

But I think the second response is pretty revealing in terms of Bing’s motivation here. Year after year, navigational queries like these are among the most popular search terms. According to Experian’s data from a couple weeks ago, “facebook” was the most popular search term, “youtube” was No. 2, “craigslist” No. 3 and “ebay” was seventh.

It’s one of the craziest search tests I’ve seen, but Bing’s saying that it thinks a lot of people that type “google” into its search box are ultimately looking for these websites, so they’re just going to link right to them from Bing’s own Deep Links.

Depending on your perspective, it’s either brilliant or absolutely nuts or something in between.

Bing tells us that this wasn’t a standalone test: “Google is one of several sites that we have run similar experiments on.”

If you try to see this for yourself right now, you’re out of luck. The Deep Links changed after our article was posted this afternoon. Bing says “the test was scheduled to be completed today, and is in fact done. We expect to run additional tests in the future.”

After seeing this one, I’m curious to see what Bing’s planning to test next. The mind races.

Related Topics: Channel: SEO | Features: Analysis | Microsoft: Bing | Microsoft: Bing Deep Links | Top News

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About The Author: is Editor-In-Chief of Search Engine Land. His news career includes time spent in TV, radio, and print journalism. His web career continues to include a small number of SEO and social media consulting clients, as well as regular speaking engagements at marketing events around the U.S. He recently launched a site dedicated to Google Glass called Glass Almanac and also blogs at Small Business Search Marketing. Matt can be found on Twitter at @MattMcGee and/or on Google Plus. You can read Matt's disclosures on his personal blog.

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  • http://www.brickmarketing.com/ Nick Stamoulis

    I can actually (sort of anyway) see where Bing is coming from on this one. If the search engine default on some device is Bing they wouldn’t want someone using Bing to get to Google to carry on with their searches. Maybe they are hoping that by listing those popular sites they can siphon away some of Google’s traffic. I can’t decide if it’s brilliant or shady…maybe a bit of both.

  • Martijn van Well

    Great out of the box thinking “test”. I like the idea behind this, or at least what i think is the idea.

    I’m really curious how many people type in Google in Bing, because they actually don’t want to use Bing, but are “redirected” there through the IE search. What amount of traffic was Bing keeping away from Google by doing this?

    However i’m disappointed that Bing ended the “test” on the day your post aired. That seems a bit foul.

  • robthespy

    No, it’s absolutely insane.

    I see two plausible scenarios where someone would search for [Google] on Bing.

    1. User wants to get to Google but is perhaps too lazy to type “google.com”. And in that case, the intent is to go to Google to search for something. Possibly images, maps, translate, Chrome or news. So the on-domain SITELINKS are helpful.

    2. The user is looking for information or news ABOUT Google.

    But even the most bewildered Bing users aren’t going to search for [Google] and then conduct a search for Facebook on Google. And it seems like that is what Bing is implying.

    Bottom line: Shady, scary & completely nonsensical. Their justification is pure BS.

    It’s desperation and let’s face it, Bing doesn’t keep it’s market share because of some great proprietary technology or innovations. Ask is growing at a faster rate! ;)

  • http://twitter.com/RankWatch RankWatch

    Hey Martjin!! That’s really true. Bing which is part of “Fair Search” group might be disappointed as FTC closed the case against Google and might have come up with this kind of nonsensical tests on their search results. Had Google done these kind of tests for the keyword “Bing” searched on Google’s main search, Bing would have surely reacted in a wrong way along with Fair Search. It will be interesting to see now what “Fair Search” community has to say about these tests done by Bing.

  • http://twitter.com/LauraGrace42 Laura Grace

    It makes complete sense if you are at all familiar with the search habits of the low-tech populations. I have seen my own mother type google into her bing bar, click on google and then proceed to search for facebook. Years ago I worked in a call center and had to walk customers through very simple computer navigation every day. This happens all the time. People doing this aren’t stupid or lazy, they just don’t know exactly what the text fields on their screen direct them to.

  • http://www.abigailgorton.com/ Abigail Gorton

    A lot of people do not understand the difference or consciously choose between the search box and the URL field. Yes, they are typing ‘Facebook’ into the search box, but without thinking it through, they kind if think they are entering the URL. And guess what? It works! Maybe they need an extra click but they get where they want to go. So they are using a search box and skewing the stats, but not intending to search, intending to just ‘go’.

  • robthespy

    “Low-tech populations?” Hahaha!

    I don’t believe the story about your mom by the way.

  • http://www.nathanielbailey.co.uk/ Nathaniel Bailey

    Yeah that’s likely to be one reason for this “test” but Bing are likely doing more because they want to cut down the amount of people leaving their search engine to use Google! In other words, if they can send people to other popular sites directly rather then people going to google to search for them, then they can help keep googles search share down and bings up!

  • Vishal Mehta

    Its changed now, don’t know how you guys get this. it could be bug but shows normal results now.

  • http://twitter.com/LauraGrace42 Laura Grace

    I swear it happens and scares the crap out of me. It was worse when she still had her ancient acer computer because she would fire up aol (for some reason) and then type google into the aol search bar. That is just how people think internet navigation works…

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