While Bing is throwing a star-studded party to announce changes to its entertainment-based search results, there are several other changes that deserve a close look, not the least of which is the amount of deep content — including full articles with thousands of words — that Bing is now hosting in its search results. More on that in a bit.
Look & Feel
Let’s start with the overall new look and feel that Bing has announced. The biggest change is that search options — or, Quick Tabs in Bing-speak — have been moved from the left-side column to immediately under the search box at the top of the page. Bing calls this the Answer Bar.
Just like before, the tabs will change depending on the query; the U2 search above has tabs for Songs, Albums, and Videos that are obviously query-specific. In order to make the Quick Tabs more visible below the search box, Bing’s background “image of the day” has been cut down in size pretty substantially, and you can barely tell what it is now. (If you care, that is.)
The left-side column, meanwhile, still has Related Searches and links to your recent searches; these are now easier to access because the Quick Tabs don’t take up several hundred vertical pixels above them.
What’s unchanged is the inclusion of categorized results further down the search results page.
But beyond the new Answer Bar at the top of the search results page, Bing has made some pretty substantial additions and changes to the search results for certain verticals, like Autos, Finance, and Health.
Consider a search for honda accord specs. On the old Bing interface, you’d get a pretty standard page of search results with a little bit of information about the car in Bing’s standard Instant Answer.
In the new interface, auto-related searches that include the word “specs” (and perhaps other terms; I haven’t been able to trigger it, though) send you directly to a new Quick Tab with what appears to be a pretty complete look at the Honda Accord’s specs.
The data comes from MSN Autos, and each of the orange headings you see above (Pricing & Warranty, Fuel Economy, etc.) links to further information at MSN Autos.
Bing has been strong in finance-related searches, and already shows a wealth of company information on searches that involve company stock ticker symbols. Do a search for MSFT and then click the “Finance” Quick Tab on the left, and you would see a page like this:
But, as part of the new interface, Bing has added several new content pages underneath the Finance Quick Tab that give investors faster access to deeper company information. You can see links (below) for Balance sheet, Income statement, and Cash flow — each one is a page of data like this:
Coming later this week will be a variety of upgrades to Bing’s search results and interface for health-related searches. One is the addition of authoritative Twitter updates to the existing Instant Answer for medical conditions. Here’s a look at what the Instant Answer for prostate cancer will look like:
The tweet above comes from the Prostate Cancer Foundation. Bing says the tweets will only come from authoritative sources and will appear when relevancy and recency standards are met; the tweet above mentions a new discovery related to prostate cancer, which is a piece of information that the Instant Answer might not otherwise have shared with searchers.
More important than that, though, is Bing’s integration of content directly in the search results via partnerships with a variety of well-known health industry sources.
Do a search for diabetes, for example, and the initial search results include Bing’s standard Instant Answer. But there’s a new Health Quick Tab at the top of the page, and under that tab is a detailed article from the Mayo Clinic.
There’s also a box for “related articles,” all of which link to additional articles hosted by Bing.
Bing has had health information from the Mayo Clinic (and others) in its Instant Answers since day one, but this is much more than Instant Answers. This is full content articles acting like a search results page (or tab, in this case). How detailed and lengthy is that Mayo Clinic article on Bing? It’s a collection of the 10 articles that appear on the Mayo Clinic’s diabetes page — mirroring the ten links on the left side of that page (Definition, Symptoms, Causes, etc.). I cut-and-pasted Bing’s version into Microsoft Word: It took up eight pages and shows a word count of 5,264.
With this latest round of changes, Bing continues to drive home the idea of being a “decision engine” — getting searchers the information they need to take action right from the search results, or with as few clicks as possible from the search results.
Bing says that the new Answer Bar increased user engagement during its internal testing, and also helped to decrease the number of manual re-queries. Bing says that’s a sign that searchers are getting the information they need.
What’s very important in all of this, I think, is the increase in real information sitting on/in Bing’s search engine — the type of stuff search engines typically just provide links to. Whether it’s full specs for a new car, a company’s complete and current balance sheet, or an 8,000+ word article about diabetes, this is new. Search results are now content.
Note: Some Bing users may not see all of the changes at this time while the updates are rolling out; the Health updates, in particular, aren’t due to go live for a couple days.