Search engines continue to go old school, encouraging people to “tag” content in a way that makes it feel like it’s 1999 all over again. Today, Bing makes another push in that direction, making content you tag with “Bing Tags” more visibile.
Honestly, I feel like this tagging crazy is simply Google and Bing falling down on the job. It used to be that we praised search engines for moving away from the tagging that was popular with them in the mid-to-late 1990s. That’s because they were getting smart enough to know that every word on a page was effectively a tag rather than forcing human beings to waste their time categorizing things.
That tagging of content was only visible to you. Now, tags will supposedly be public, if you allow:
The whole Bing Tag system really makes my head hurt. The idea is that you — or others — can tag pages to appear associated with you in Bing’s search results. By “you,” Bing means associated with a special “tagged” area at the top of its listings, visible to those who have a Facebook account that’s connected to Bing.
Up Close With Bing Tags
I think. Like I said, it makes my head hurt trying to figure this out.
For example, here’s a search on Bing for Search Engine Land news editor Barry Schwartz, showing what the public sees if they aren’t signed-in to Facebook:
Barry — our Barry, not the famous psychologist Barry — has pages about him that show up midway down the page, as the arrows show. Now here’s what I see when I am signed-in:
See how there’s a new section at the top, saying, “Barry Schwartz, tag more pages to your friend.” This is the product of Bing Tags in action. If someone is tagged, then a section like this should appear for them or those they are friends with on Facebook, when they are searching at Bing when it is connected to Facebook.
Want to add pages to tag to your friend? It seems kind of crazy. I mean, if they’re my friend, I probably already know the pages they have on the Web that are important. But maybe you want to help ensure other friends they have know about these on the chance they’re searching for their friend on Bing. If so, click on “tag more pages” link, and you get something like this:
That shows me what’s already tagged to Barry, and I have the option to use the “Find pages to tag” button, which brings up some suggested pages (you can also search for anything when in this mode to tag to a particular person). Found a page you want to tag to someone? Then you use the button next to the page:
Notice that warning at the bottom, “Friends will see your tags on Facebook.” Yes, whenever you tag a page on Bing like this, all your Facebook friends potentially see this in their stream.
Why do they need to see this? My assumption is because Bing would like you to help spread the word about Bing to your Facebook friends. I’d rather this wasn’t a requirement.
You’ve Been Tagged! Do You Approve?
Once you’re done, then that tagged page may show up assuming the person you tagged approves it. And if people tag you? When you go to the Bing Tags area when signed-in, you can see what’s been tagged to you and decide if you want to approve it.
In the end, I don’t really see the usefulness here. As I said, I think your friends already know what pages you’re likely associated with. And tagging only seems to work to show these pages to them, not to the general public. If there was a way to tag pages to better ensure people who don’t know you got better visibility of your content, that would be useful.
Does The Public Really See Them?
That, by the way, is what today’s Bing post suggests is the case — that these tags really are going to be visible to the general public now, if you allow that. But so far, I don’t see that this is actually happening. If it’s still rolling out, and it really works, maybe Bing Tags will deserve a second look.
Postscript: I’m getting further clarification from Bing, but apparently the tags associated with your name on Bing should show to the general public depending on whether you have have Facebook page that shows up high in Bing’s results AND if you’ve have enabled them to be seen by the public. If you don’t enable public sharing, they won’t appear.
To simulate this, if you don’t see it, try searching for someone’s name plus the word “facebook,” as shown in the example below:
See how I appear at the top under the “Danny Sullivan’s Tags” heading? This is what shows for me when I’m completely logged out of Bing and Facebook, i.e. — a public view.
I’ll update further when I get more clarity from Bing.
Postscript 2: Bing has now sent me that further clarification:
The placement of tags is based on a variety of factors including the ranking of a person’s profile page, e.g. a Facebook page. To start, the ranking of public tags is on the conservative side, so the tagged pages don’t displace results the searcher is likely seeking.
In the case of a query like “Danny Sullivan” there are already a lot of high value search results, so tags don’t get as much visibility.
For a name query where the intended result is more ambiguous, the grouping and placement of tags can be more prominent.
We will continue to experiment with ranking of tags based on engagement data. As previously, tags will be ranked higher if the searcher has a Facebook connection with the tagged person.