Is Bing Testing “Subjectship” Rather Than Authorship In Its Search Results?

Some are spotting new author images appearing in Bing’s search results today, similar to the way Google shows author images. Except, they’re not really author images. They’re what I’d call subject images, something that might be coming more formally to Bing.

Author Images At Google

Here are two examples of authorship images as they appear on Google:

winter is coming (geeks, too) - Google Search

will they switch? the kid test_ windows phone vs. iphone - Google Search

The first is a picture of Kara Swisher, next to a search that brought up an article that she wrote on the new season of Game Of Thrones. The second is for myself, for an article I wrote about a test I ran to see if my two boys would change from the iPhone to Windows Phone.

In both cases, Google has figured out that we are the authors of these stories, so our pictures are shown next to them.

Subject Images At Bing

Bing is doing something that can seem at first glance to be author images, but as you drill down deeper clearly aren’t, something spotted on Webmaster World and then highlighted by Search Engine Roundtable.

Consider these Bing results for a search for Kara Swisher:

kara swisher - Bing

The two arrows point to stories that are about Kara Swisher, with her picture shown authorship-style. But she’s not the author of these stories. She’s the subject.

That wouldn’t be too remarkable if Bing were simply pulling a prominent picture out of these stories, similar to what both Google and Bing do for news stories. But, with the latter example from Gawker, the image shown doesn’t actually appear on the page.

A Subject Knowledge Base?

Is Bing perhaps building a knowledge base of people, so that it can, in turn, link people or subject images back to stories? Perhaps. AJ Kohn explores this more in his Bing People Snippets post. It could be that Bing is trying to extract and apply this type of intelligence.

However, there are other examples where a subject’s image isn’t being used. Consider this for New York Times writer Nick Bilton:

nick bilton - Bing

In the first and last examples, Bilton’s picture is also shown on the page. In the middle example, his image doesn’t show for a story he wrote. Instead, it’s an image about that story that is shown.

It wouldn’t be a surprise if Bing does rollout some form of authorship similar to what Google has. As our SMX West conference last week, Bing’s Duane Forrester said this was something the service was considering.

As for “subjectship,” we’ll see. Certainly something is happening. Even Bing confirmed that to us, though it wouldn’t say exactly what:

“We’re constantly updating and refining the Bing search experience, and before any changes are implemented they undergo intensive testing and experimentation to ensure the best possible user experience. We have nothing further to share at this time.”

Related Topics: Channel: SEO | Features: Analysis | Google: Authorship | Google: SEO | Microsoft: Bing | Microsoft: Bing Satori | Microsoft: Bing Snapshot | Top News

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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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  • Tony Griego

    This might be first time Bing has bordered on impressing me…

  • http://twitter.com/AndyLangtonUK Andy Langton

    Ha, I was thinking the same!

  • Pimp My Ranks

    Could actually be impressing. I was kinda “that’s cheating” when I saw it but it actually looks promising considering people need backlinks :P

  • http://www.kishoresoft.com Sai Bharadwaj

    I think this kind of “knowledge base” integrated with the Facebook graph would be wonderful! It can be a serious competitor to Google in that case! What do you think Dan? :)

  • http://www.andykuiper.com/ Andy Kuiper – SEO Analyst

    interesting find…

  • olavnennig9kf

    my best friend’s step-aunt makes $88 an hour on the laptop. She has been laid off for five months but last month her pay was $14959 just working on the laptop for a few hours. Read more on  Ask25.c­om

  • http://www.autocarshippers.com/ Jack Limerick

    On the other hand, they could be trying to mimic authorship and actually failing to correctly interpret the content resulting in accidentally displaying a prominent feature of the article as the “author”!

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