Google On Toolbar: We Don’t Use Bing’s Searches

Yes, Google uses data from its Google Toolbar to improve its search results. But no, Google reasserts, it doesn’t use its toolbar to mine search behavior on other search engines in the way that Bing does.

Bing Toolbar & Google’s Results

Questions about Google’s toolbar came up in the wake of Google’s accusations that Microsoft’s Bing search engine was copying some of Google’s search results by monitoring how people search on Google, through installations of the Bing toolbar and the Suggested Sites feature in Microsoft’s Internet Explorer.

Bing has rejected those copying allegations, even though it does admit that there is a “search signal” that these tools collect which in turn influences Bing’s results.

Bing says this signal is simply one of many different signals that it uses for ranking search results, isn’t a major factor and isn’t Google-specific. However, Bing does agree that in some cases, Google might be the only source of a search signal for a particular answer.

Bing also pushed back on Google’s charges by saying that is just doing the same thing that Google itself does, collecting information about what users do through its toolbar, to improve search results.

So is it true, some have wondered: Is Google watching Bing, as well?

Search Signal Harvested, Not Used

Yes, Google does see what’s happening on Bing, at least for users who have the Google Toolbar installed and configured to use “advanced features” such as the PageRank meter or SideWiki. But no, Google doesn’t use any of that information to reshape its search results, the company says.

“We absolutely do not use search activity on other search engines to influence our search results,” said Amit Singhal, a Google Fellow who oversees the search engine’s ranking algorithm

Google sees searches in on other search engines but doesn’t use that data? How can that be?

Consider how in the real world, a wheat harvest collect the entire wheat plant but ultimately only uses the grain. Similarly, while Google is “harvesting” search activity along with other user behavior, that search activity is tossed out, Google says.

Other Toolbar Signals Used?

So what Google Toolbar activity is used by Google to improve its search results? Here, Google is staying tight-lipped. The company fears that revealing too many specifics will enable people to harm its search results. There are some things it has confirmed, however. Toolbar data is being used to:

  • Measure site speed, which influences rankings
  • Detect malware sites, which may cause some sites to get warnings in search results

These are things that Google has previously disclosed. I understand Google’s concerns that talking more about toolbar usage could potentially cause its search results to be harmed. Still, I wish the company had shared more.

Disclosure Issues

Not naming all the things that the toolbar is used for weakens some of Google’s earlier arguments that the Bing toolbar wasn’t adequately explaining to users that it would record their searches on Google in order to improve Bing’s search results.

Clearly, Google’s not going to list all the things the toolbar is used for. However, the company did say that it’s going to make some general disclosure improvements:

“We are changing the dialog box in toolbar installation to fix some language that, upon review, we found could be clearer,” Singhal said.

For more background, see our past articles on this topic:

Related Topics: Channel: SEO | Copygate | Google: Toolbar | Top News


About The Author: is a Founding Editor of Search Engine Land. He’s a widely cited authority on search engines and search marketing issues who has covered the space since 1996. Danny also serves as Chief Content Officer for Third Door Media, which publishes Search Engine Land and produces the SMX: Search Marketing Expo conference series. He has a personal blog called Daggle (and keeps his disclosures page there). He can be found on Facebook, Google + and microblogs on Twitter as @dannysullivan.

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  • m_live_74

    Again childish response. Yes, we use….. but not Bing’s…..hehehe.

    Many like so.
    Yes, we let users steal,(no,no copy, no no show:) others content in YouTube but we display ads to make money… But, we do not copy hehehe…

    Shut up. people are getting smarter and know more now than this fiasco.

  • mbell

    Google is (rightfully so) scared of Bing showing better results. Since Google has the bigger chunk of search traffic, they obviously have more click through data. Since they have so much data they don’t have the need to look at Bing’s data. Bing on the other hand has a much smaller sample size to look at, if they would only be looking at their own data. Bing is looking at Google’s data NOT in order to copy their results, but in order to get more click stream data , which they wouldn’t be able to get by only looking at their Bing Data. Google is aware of this and they want to maintain their upper hand. Is that fair? Definitely not.

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