• http://www.adrianbold.com Adrian Bold

    Oh no, if Bing is just copying Google and Yahoo is just publishing Bing, where can a searcher go if they want to get some search results that don’t just lazily put Wikipedia top?

  • http://www.devisenhandeln.com devisenhandeln

    I ve just googled and binged for ertgsdf and got different results. What more concerns me is the fact that SELand now already headlines “Are They Copying Us?”: Since when are “we” (or in this case “us”) Google Inc.? Are you getting paid by big G for this article?

  • http://www.baypointtrading.co.za Googlebot In Leet

    Now now, I enjoyed this article. No need to flame the author. If I discovered this I’d also be quick to write an article about it.

    Brilliant job and thank you!

    At the end of the day Google always stands on the no 1 podium even after someone jumped on their back for the ride to the finish line!

  • leadfigures

    Shows how quickly google is responding to updates to your keywords though, as now searchengineland.com is appearing in the results for the apparently gobledigook search terms. Should drive a good bit of traffic your way ;-)

  • http://www.greatwebsitesblog.com Badams

    The phrasings used in this article, as well as the number of times sources from Google are quoted vs sources from Bing, and the amount of input Google has been allowed to have on the contents on this tale, leads me to conclude it’s not exactly am example of balanced reporting. Please do try and get some more input from Bing on this and let them explain their side instead of just serving as Google’s free PR spin machine. (Or isn’t it free? Hmm.)

  • http://silvery.com Chris Silver Smith

    From the info presented, I’d argue that Bing’s supposed method is actually pretty clever and likely wasn’t invented just to rip off Google. I mean, think about it – there’s still a lot of the internet that’s invisible to search engines and this exposes more of it.

    For instance, if a government site with bad SEO (not unheard of) has a search form, then Bing could discover pages not previously found. This functionality likely got results from a number of search engines and on-site search forms.

    I think the fact that this appears aimed primarily at long-tail queries Bing didn’t already have good results for indicates it was not intended to merely rip off Google, but merely as yet another means of agnostic discovery.

  • http://searchengineland.com/ Danny Sullivan

    Devise, it’s a sub-headline that’s meant to summarize the main theme of the section, which was Google asking “Are They Copying Us.” Sorry that you took that the wrong way. I’ll change it to make it clearer. And no, neither Google nor Bing nor anyone pays us for our articles.

    Badams, it’s difficult not to source Google when the entire story is what Google said it did. They ran the sting operation. They’re the ones talking about it.

    Bing was allowed to have as much input as they wanted. I contacted them early on Monday morning, when I started working on this. I received a reply around 3pm Pacific, which I included in this article. That’s all they wanted to provide.

    I called Stefan by phone after getting that email and specifically asked, “Is that all you really want to say?” I felt like the statement wasn’t saying much, so I went out of my way to follow up even though I’d already been given a statement.

    We had an off the record conversation that I can’t report, since it was off the record. But as I said in the story, Stefan said it was likely they’d have more to say when I see them after the event today.

    I would have loved to have had much more input from them. I do indeed hope that they’ll provide some more comment on this.

    In lieu of them commenting, I’ve tried to provide as much balance as I can. I’ve made it clear that not all of Google’s results are being mimicked — indeed, I’ve said most aren’t. I’ve been at pains to try and illustrate that the Google Ranking Signal, as I’ve called it, only appears to be most visible on long tail results. That gives Google concerns, but it’s still not the same thing as Bing copying everything.

    I’ve also been at pains to explain exactly how the story came out. Clearly Google wanted it out; they responded to one of our columns and decided to tell me what they were doing. I thought it was important for people to understand this, and how it came about, which is why I have that long section at the end.

    At the same time, it is a good, interesting story. My goal is to tell it, try to give all the sides and be fair to them, as best I can — because no, we’re not Google’s PR machine (and I’ve got plenty of articles that slam Google on various things), nor are we Bing’s PR machine — nor do we want to be anyone’s PR machine.

    In the end, I tend to feel like it’s something Bing shouldn’t do. But I’m very curious what the general reaction is from a wide range of people. As I wrote — you could view this as a very small, very clever move. Perhaps that will be the consensus. Perhaps I’ll even be convinced that it is fine.

    Frankly, it’s still pretty hard to digest. I’ve never — in 15 years now of covering the space — ever seen something like this. Kind of hard to get your head around.

  • http://blog.nexcerpt.com/ nexcerpt

    Dear Google:

    While reviewing your results, we discovered that you were creating Googlewhacks in a manner that is not compliant with our policies. For instance, we found violations of Googlewhack policy in the creation of “hiybbprqag.” Please note that this token
    is an example and that the same violations may exist with other tokens in your results.

    As stated in our policies, people are not permitted to create “Googlewhack Brand Whacks.” This includes any attempt to create a false association with Googlewhack.

    We strongly suggest that you take the time to review our Googlewhack experience: ( http://blog.nexcerpt.com/2011/01/28/adsense_nonsense/ )

    Oh… wait… Matt Cutts says it’s cool. Never mind. ( http://blog.nexcerpt.com/2011/01/29/adsense_sentience/ )

    Please accept our sincere apologies for the erroneous notification.

    The Googlewhack Team

  • painperdu

    Wait. What? MS is copying technology from someone else? When did this start?

  • http://silvery.com Chris Silver Smith

    It’s difficult for me to feel a sense of injustice or outrage with any of the big search engines, because their products have so clearly immitated each other for so long. Google isn’t at all pure in this area, though I can admire their ability to tweak other’s ideas into more successful iterations, and they do innovate some stuff.

    I think Danny’s attention to how/why/when the story came to him show his desire to be balanced. (Not to mention his extensive and often critical reporting on Google and search engines.)

    I think Bing is falling down some on the PR game on this- Google clearly feels threatened by them some, else there wouldn’t be this attention. Further, as I suggested, there’s an argument to be made that this wasn’t intended just to rip off Google, and the discovery method could more broadly improve their ability to expose more of the dark web for search.

  • Steven Cole

    I don’t think its right what microsoft/bing are doing but microsoft has always been that way, taking the easy way out.

    I’m more disappointed in google and their willingness to use code like they did here to edit results. even if they did do it just to catch bing there is no telling weather or not they might do it again maybe for the highest bidder like their recent decision to censor torrent and torrent related words from their auto complete feature. Google has lost my respect and will not get it back until they are back to the way they started, a honest company that cares more about its users and its users needs then about other companies.

  • http://www.greatwebsitesblog.com Badams

    @Danny, thanks for taking the time to respond to my concerns. I take your meaning and don;t doubt your intentions to cover the SE industry as thoroughly as you can – and SEL is a credit to that driving spirit – but I do feel that this article has a heavy pro-Google anti-Bing slant.

    This may not even be intentional. We all bring our own biases and prejudices, subconscious as they may be, with us when we write. Yours seems to be distinctly pro-Google. Even your criticism of Google seems aimed at ‘lesser’ offences, while on the big issues SEL seems to side with Google a bit too often (the EU antitrust case and search neutrality issues come to mind).

    Yes you did cover all those points you mentioned. It’s just that the counter-arguments in favour of Bing seem to be much further down in the article, the headline is tone-setting against Bing, and the way things are phrased leaves little doubt on where you as the journalist stand on the issue.

    But maybe that’s just my own anti-Google bias showing itself. :)

  • http://davelawlor.com Dave_Lawlor

    Perhaps Google should do what it tells Yelp/Travel Advisor to do to combat this and that is block users from seeing their results so then Bing cant copy it…. oh wait that would cut of their business use? Oh then I guess maybe they aren’t really in a position to call foul over how sites use data that they didnt produce

  • http://www.linkedin.com/in/danhickey22 Dan Hickey

    Interesting issue. Let’s say I own and run Pizza Hut. I know McDonalds spends a lot of time and money researching locations that successfully drive the growth of its business. Instead of spending money duplicating their research, I simply wait until they announce store openings (public info) and then I build next to them, which drives my success. I’ve piggybacked on their efforts using publicly available info. Cheating? Hardly. Smart? Arguably.

  • Håvard Krüger

    Did they look at other search engines or just Bing?

    Altavista gets the same website, but they might be using Bing/Google as the engine?

  • http://searchengineland.com/ Danny Sullivan

    Badams, Google takes far more criticism than any other search engine. I do tend to jump into some of those frays when I don’t think there’s a lot of balance. It’s not to defend Google. It’s honestly because I’ll read something that’s really one-sided, to me, and feel like there just ought to be a more balanced view out there.

    Of course, others reading what I write might disagree. That’s especially so if they read it in isolation from what I’m responding to.

    Where I stand on the issue is pretty plain — it’s right down there at the end. It doesn’t feel right, to me. But I might change my mind, as this all gets discussed. i’m honestly curious to see how everyone’s reacting to this and some of the debate that will come up.

    As for the headline — the world’s biggest and most popular search engine accuses its chief rival of cheating. That’s a big deal. That is the headline that should be there, I’d say. But that’s my view.

  • http://davelawlor.com Dave_Lawlor

    And one more question I have is why would Matt Cutts be in this meeting about a subject that has NOTHING to do with Spam? Perhaps using the personal relationship he has over years with Danny to sell the story? It certainyl looks like this was an exclusive for SEL and one wonders how that spin works out.

    And while Danny is true they do carry negative stories on SEL, I would be hard pressed to see negative stories the has carried his byline and weight.

  • http://www.latitudegroup.com/ James Lowery

    Without wishing to add fuel to the fire, or come across as a Microsoft fanboy here, and someone else might like to prove me wrong, but within the labyrinthine privacy policy / terms and conditions of Google Chrome (6,500 words), and the various Google privacy policies / terms of use documents, there are multiple references to Google storing information and browsing data such as this one:

    “Google will receive and store the URL sent by the web sites you visit, including any personal information inserted into those URLs by the web site operator.”

    Don’t get me wrong, the whole thing stinks and Microsoft probably deserve a kicking about this, but I’m willing to bet that Google aren’t entirely blameless when it comes to being a little bit too creepy about the amount of data they aggregate about users.

  • http://blog.melsscrm.com/ Asim Ali

    In the end, technological innovation is being killed in this blame game. Google’s got innovative on the blame game now.. ;)

    If Google feels its results are being mimicked, innovate somethin that cannot be.

    This reminds me of how Google copied the Bing Visual search and the background image thingy.

    No doubt Google delivers better results than Bing. Period. Do not degrade your stance by doing this PR stunt before a Bing event.

  • http://orkutmanager.net/ Bruno Michels

    We shouldn’t reinvent the wheel. Why should we start from the rock wheel if there is already much more advanced technologies?

    No one will reinvent the wheel, we will know how to look forward.

  • Jesse Barker

    Awww, this is the first time I have seen a search engine cry :D

  • http://www.designbysoap.co.uk Designbysoap Team

    Doesn’t this just prove that Google are perfectly capable of manipulating their SERP’s – something they’ve always claimed they were never able to do?

    As you pointed out, they’ve assured us they’ll be removing this ability, but haven’t they always said they didn’t have that ability in the first place? That it was all algorithmic? Just a thought!

    Excellent article as always though.

  • http://searchengineland.com/ Danny Sullivan

    Dave, I hardly need Matt to “sell” me on a story where Google’s going to come out and publicly accuse Bing of cheating. That’s like a self-evident story you’d want to cover.

    As to why he was there, you’d have to ask him. I think you’re pretty familiar with the fact that Matt works as an unofficial defender of Google. So he does have interest in things beyond spam.

    He was also there for another really easy reason. It’s his office. He shares the space with Amit and some of the other search quality engineers. Which, I imagine, is how he got involved — people in Google offices, like any offices, talk to each other.

    Now about those negative Google stories that I never write. Coming right up.

  • http://www.wire-stone.com Kevin

    Here is another take on the use of Google’s listings:
    Google is considered by most of the general searching public as the leader amongst the search engines. Many consider it to be the authority when it comes to searches (yes we in the industry are finding a lot of things wrong with the results but the general public still views the Big G as #1). Taking this into account with the amount of searches running through Google why wouldn’t use Google’s ranking for keywords as 1 of its 200 (2000?) ranking factors. The reason it is so evident, as Danny mentions in the article, is that there is no other ranking factors to diminish this ranking factor’s importance. I think this makes sense as a ranking factor for Bing. Google has surpassed just being a search engine to being, the authority and Bing is taking that knowledge and using it to better deliver authoritative results.
    That is my take.

  • http://searchengineland.com/ Danny Sullivan
  • http://www.ideabrightmarketing.com Jared R. Fabac, IMCP

    @Danny Great write up. I’m anxious to find out how Google responds to this. Obviously, from a Search Engine perspective, we can all certainly understand the frustration and immediate concern that Google has. Who in their right mind would sit back and gently take “fueling their largest competitor’s existence”. And was it really algorithmic, or is Bing just passing a script to retain Google results when there is no result found. I don’t really think Google’s algorithmic intelligence should be in question, here. Although clever, and somewhat humorous, I hope it doesn’t start a chain reaction of worry!

    Its almost scary to sit back and just urge Google to innovate themselves more thoroughly so that they cannot be mimicked. I mean, aside from complete lack of ethics from bing, you have to assume that Google’s usability has left open some vulnerabilities which made this possible, right? So if we urge Google to innovate further to avoid unethical actions by bing, do we risk losing some of the usability that makes Google great?

  • modelportfolio2003

    I’m totally with Danny on this one. Bing should get kicked from here to there and there being out a here! This is plain cheating on a mass scale and is degrading for Microsoft and shows there lack of creative ideas when it comes to search. If all they can do is copy Google, why bother, esp when they are losing more money every quarter. Just stupid pride.
    But why put a pin in the Bing balloon before their event? Because it feels good to have the shoe on the other foot when each and every day Microsoft spends money and time in Washington DC and Brussels and with the ITA anti-Google group figuring out how they can prevent Google from bringing greater and greater innovation to its users. Really pathetic behavior and a sign of a monopolist who has nothing better to do with its monopolistic profits.

  • http://azzlsoft.com Rich Miles

    Ha! Google’s value is based on weighting content produced by OTHERS. Bing using Google is EXACTLY the same thing.

    There is no way that Google would use something like the Yahoo directory to help rank sites, right?

    This is a joke. This only proves two things: 1.) Google can and does manipulate its search results and 2.) Google is afraid of Bing.

    Weak sauce Google. Really weak sauce.

  • http://pl.atyp.us Jeff Darcy

    I see nothing wrong with using expressed user preference/behavior at a competitor’s site to test/tune one’s own ranking algorithms, which is what this at first appeared to be. As I read about getting the exact same #1 site for *nonsense terms*, though, it became harder and harder to believe that Bing’s algorithms were involved in any way. Copying results isn’t an algorithm. Shame on them.

  • http://davelawlor.com Dave_Lawlor

    @Danny – I stand corrected, and not afraid to say I missed the fact your author page only had the recent articles to scan through. I know having Matt there wouldn’t sell you on writing the story it is a no brainer, but having someone there that you are friendly with can change the questions you ask and take things at face value because you trust him. You did do some back checking on things like the Google Toolbar data usage, but it just seems onsided, espcially when you even say that you are more likely to have more from Microsoft on this after the upcoming event. I totally believe this was an exclusive to you, I dont see the rush before you could go back and ask why thier use is different and fill in these other questions.

    @modelportfolio2003 – lol yeah poor Google… they have never brought up anti trust or jumped on the lobbyist bandwagon

  • http://www.ideabrightmarketing.com Jared R. Fabac, IMCP

    @Rich, I think you went a little off the beaten path with that one.

    Google uses many different variables to rank sites, including the quality of inbound links from quality places such as, Yahoo! directory. But still, regardless of what’s being used as variables, its still Google’s process for determining search results.

    What’s frustrating is that we DON’T NEED ANOTHER GOOGLE. I don’t need a repopulated list of equal results branded with a different logo. I need bing and their engineers to improve upon current processes to make my experience, as a user, better. Not reproduce results I just got from Google.

    And I know people are quick to say “I just searched for xyz bla bla bla on google and on bing and got different results, this article of full of…” Of course the entire search engines are not going to be synced together, but it is an alarming note that the search engines may be close to generating results that are so close to user requests that, outside of Google, they’re running out of room to improve it.

  • http://about.me/brentbuford Brent Buford

    In a sense, this is simply reverse-engineering. I guess one risk of a private, proprietary algorithm is that the results of that algorithm, though vast, can still be collected and studied and even copied. With this and the whole Chrome/h.264 dustup, Google seems to be saying open/free is good as long as they can monetize it; otherwise, they’re protective and a little…snippy? I understand Google’s pride of ownership; they’ve built the best search engine out there. But for a company whose revenue is largely built on the back of other people’s content, there is a whiff of delicious irony here.

  • http://searchengineland.com/ Danny Sullivan

    Dave, absolutely — if you hear only one side, it’s easy to be convinced of only one side.

    In terms of asking why their use is different. I did ask. They said they don’t use the data as Microsoft does. Asked and answered.

    Later in the evening yesterday, I did some further research and came across the previous comment about site speed. So I cited that, which I thought probably cost Google some credibility — they should have mentioned that from the start, right?

    But realistically, I think they were focused on the do they use it to add aspect. I will follow up on it, but that was a minor point that wasn’t worth holding the entire article, in my view.

  • http://MillerMosaicllc.com Yael K. Miller

    In my personal experience, I don’t believe Bing copies Google for every search. As a PC Windows (7) user, I always use Bing to search when I encounter issues with my computer. And Bing gives better results than when I use Google for such searches. Conversely, whenever I have questions about Google products, I use Google to search.

  • http://www.hirescott.com/ Scott Duffy

    I don’t see any injustice here.

    Microsoft’s technique of catching “referrer” information and using that to adjust it’s search results is brilliant. I am willing to bet this mainly affects nonsensical and misspelled words and has very little impact on real searches.

    It’s not like Microsoft is hacking into the Google search database and copying its results. It’s referrer data – available to anyone. And as you said, clearly spelled out that they’re doing that!

    Can’t fault Microsoft on this one. Sorry Google, time to innovate some more instead of whining to the press.

  • http://www.wouterkiel.nl Wouter Kiel

    Found an interesting thing when trying to find the original serps for those synthetic queries.

    Looks like the date filter isn’t flawless on Google. When searching for those phrases with only results for 2010 there’s a couple that shouldn’t be there: http://bit.ly/ewLYSo. How come Google thinks they’re from 2010 when they feature an artical that’s clearly from 2011? Are they looking at actual dates on a page? Why not use crawl or cache date?

  • http://twitter.com/asellers1313 Ashley Sellers

    @Danny I agree and think this will cost Google some credibility and am curious how Google will respond to this situation as well! Great article and thank you for sharing!

  • Mateus Pinheiro


    Keep it simple.

  • Ian Lurie

    I’m kinda stunned at the whole thing. Both at Bing’s chutzpah and at their stupidity at getting caught.

    If you ARE going to steal results from arguably the smartest folks on the planet, wouldn’t you at least randomize or somehow mix stuff in?

    Google does lots of hinky stuff, but Bing once again proves that if there’s a race to the bottom in search land, they’re going to win it.

  • teeman

    This reflects more poorly on Google than Bing. It shows that Bing is catching up to Google and Google is making excuses by promoting this false controversy.

    Bing indexes websites. Google is a website that indexes other websites. It only makes sense to index the indexer to get the most complete picture of the internet. It’s public, it’s out there, why wouldn’t you index it? It shows real innovation – combining the speed of a single search engine with the broadness of meta-search engines that reach more websites. Frankly I am surprised Google hasn’t done it themselves!

    I hope Bing also scours other search engines as well! Only then would they really have the most complete index of search results

  • yamamma

    google ‘copied’ dmoz all the time.. maybe not now… but they used too….

  • http://www.michael-martinez.com/ Michael Martinez

    So people are okay with Google capturing data from their Websites and serving it to Google users as “instant answers”, but they’re not okay with Bing monitoring Google’s query traffic?

    That is a completely bizarre and uncritical point of view.

    Google needs to stop monetizing other people’s content before it gets up on this soap box.

  • http://www.jeremypost.com/ Jeremy Post

    Wow. Kudos to Google for the brilliant PR stunt. They won’t call it illegal, but they’ll use the media to label their only U.S. competitor a “cheater” in the court of public opinion.

    And for what? Microsoft is leveraging data about their users’ online behavior to adjust the information they serve in search results. Google does the same thing, probably more so. If the user interaction starts in a Microsoft browser search bar and ends on a content or commerce site, why shouldn’t MS be able to capture that data and use it to inform Bing SERPs?

    These allegations just seem like a lot of sizzle, no steak.

  • teeman

    On a not so related side note: this reminds me about how the folks at Lotus were caught by Excel’s rapidly improving feature set while they failed to quickly transition Lotus 123 to Windows. Their first response was also “they cheated!”. They made all sorts of excuses: they must’ve gotten windows code in advance, they made excel run better, etc.

    They couldn’t believe how fast Microsoft caught up and was in denial. Microsoft may not be the most innovative company out there, but they are persistent and eventually gets there, and if you rest on your laurels, they will eventually catch up.

  • contextfree

    Buried halfway through the article:

    “These searches returned no matches on Google or Bing — or a tiny number of poor quality matches, in a few cases — before the experiment went live. […] Only a small number of the test searches produced this result, about 7 to 9 (depending on when exactly Google checked) out of the 100. Google says it doesn’t know why they didn’t all work, […]”

    The writer apparently thinks these results justify concluding the article with this takeaway:

    “When Bing launched in 2009, the joke was that Bing stood for either “Because It’s Not Google” or “But It’s Not Google.” Mining Google’s searches makes me wonder if the joke should change to “Bing Is Now Google.”

  • http://www.wirah.com Sam Street

    Well it’s just as well that NOONE (except Microsoft employees) uses Bing then.

  • http://www.hownottowrite.com Jamie Grove

    “It’s cheating to me because we work incredibly hard and have done so for years but they just get there based on our hard work,”

    And… Just when did Google decide to start paying royalties on all the links they use to help determine Page Rank? Oh, that’s right, they’re not.

    I love Google, but it seems like they’ve forgotten that their own search results are based on looking over the shoulders of everyone to see what is relevant.

  • tubby_bartles

    It’s obvious what’s happening. Bing isn’t \scraping\ Google’s search results. They are monitoring all search terms across all search engines (including their own) and watching what site the user visits immediately afterwards. This feeds into their own algorithms. For common search terms like \Britney Spears\ this would simply find any sites they may have missed in their own crawl plus remove spam that users skip over when they click on search result #3.

    For *uncommon* results like mis-spellings and \fake words\, this would have the unpleasant side effect of basically mimicking Google’ search results, since they are the largest engine.

    So I suspect their original \non-denial\ is correct – it wasn’t an intent to copy Google’s search results with a \results scraper\, but that is a side effect for rare search terms.

  • ChrisCD

    Hasn’t Google admitted to using other signals such as Twitter. Of course they would love to have Facebook signals, but last I heard Facebook and Google aren’t playing very nice together.

    And others pointed out, Google has relied on the Yahoo!directory and DMOZ for quality signals.

    So come on, now. Who is “cheating”?

    And talking about using others’ info, how much content has Google created?

    cd :O)

  • BitFarmer

    I don’t feel Microsoft is doing wrong by cleverly using the info they get from their’s users use of the web.

    If, as I understand it, the problem is that google is embeding info in the links they return of a search, including the searched text, so, receing this info back (searched text, link they chosed to follow after) into the google’s servers each time a user click on a search result.

    As far as I can see it, now google claim this info is being mined by bing to improve their own results, and google feels it should be better if bing stop doing so, but bing doesn’t feel that way.

    OK, if this is the case, the solution is rigth in the google servers: This searche text google embeed in theirs results, is for internal consum, so why to just encrypt the text before embeding it into the search result, and decrypt it back to plain text once the user send it back to you by clicking on the result link.

    Bing will receive this encripted search text, but won’t be able to decrypt it, so bing won’t be able to connect the search text with the link its users are clicking on, so end of the dispute, bar is closed.

    To avoid bing from beeing able to brute force attack google encryption, google could just change from encrypting algorithm and password each minute, and then decryt it back using the last five minutes algorithms and passwords until one of the succed in recovering the right search text.

    Just keeping in mind that the same servers that encrypt will be the ones to have to decrypt it back some seconds after, the ways google could do it are just enndless, so they only have to choose one that doesn`t make theirs servers to melt.

    One possible solution to google servers CPU usage raising too high due to encrytion overhead is to use the same hardware they actually use for the hppts secure connexions, sure they have some cryptograsphic hardware attached that could do the work without investing too much on it.

    Just my thougths, may be it is a total sillyness from me!