Up Close With Bing’s Twitter Search Engine

Bing new Bing Twitter Search has gone live today, made possible through a new deal cut with Twitter. Below, a close-up look at features in the new service.

Bing Twitter? Bing Facebook? Bing Social Search?

“Bing Twitter Search” is my name for the new service. Bing tells me officially, it’s called “Bing Twitter.” That sounds awkward, two brands next to each other (as opposed to Bing Video or Bing Images, which combine the Bing brand with a generic term).

We also know that a Facebook deal has been approved, as announced today by Microsoft as part of the Bing-Twitter news. But the Facebook data hasn’t yet been implemented on Bing. Will there be a “Bing Facebook Search” service to come? Or is Bing Twitter likely to turn into “Bing Social Search” that combines Twitter and Facebook data?

Microsoft told me they don’t have anything to say on the Facebook front yet. Personally, I’m expecting we will see a Bing Social Search that combines Twitter and Facebook together, if only because today’s blog post from Bing about the new Twitter service is signed by the “Bing Social Search Team.”

Tweets Versus Links

Real time search engines are confusing creatures. Do they show actual tweets and microblogged content that people are putting out? Links that are being shared through microblog services like Twitter and Facebook? Both?

Our What Is Real Time Search? Definitions & Players article from earlier this year take a long look at this issue, and I recommend reading it to understand Bing Twitter Search better.

Bing is trying to do both. When you do a search, you’ll get tweets at the top of the page and shared links at the bottom:

Bing Twitter

How Fresh Are Your Tweets?

Let’s focus first on the tweets that Bing brings back and shows at the top of the page. Below, a look for a search on kanye west, a popular topic at the moment over rumors he’s died:

Bing Twitter

Notice the times. When I snapped this, the latest tweet was 1 minute old, followed by three that were 2 minutes old. But over at Twitter Search:

Bing Twitter

The top three results are only half a minute old. So, Bing’s missing a lot of tweets. But it’s supposed to have the Twitter “firehose” of everything that happens on Twitter virtually as it happens, so what’s up?

Demand & Ranking

Microsoft’s Sean Suchter, General Manager, Search Technology Center, says his company takes the blame. Right now, all tweets are indeed coming into Bing in real time. But then Bing is trying to remove duplicates, filter out adult content and do some other processing. That’s resulting in the delay, but Bing hopes to improve this going forward. It’s a beta, he reminded — and fair enough, especially a beta in its first day.

In the main results, tweets are sorted by date. The most recent tweet shows at the top, and new tweets push that down. That’s how Twitter Search also ranks things, and it’s a spam magnet (see Twitter’s Real Time Spam Problem).

We’ll see if Microsoft changes this order going forward. As said, they do some filtering beyond what Twitter already does. But when you “drill down” into search results, that’s where they hope the results are even more filtered by quality, popularity & usefulness. Let’s look.

Time Ranking Vs. Best Match Ranking

Notice the “more tweets” link below:

Bing Twitter Search

This link appears below the “tweet” search results for any search you do on Bing Twitter Search. When you click on it, you can drill further into the results (in contrast, if you were to keep scrolling down on your original search page, you’d see the “Shared Links” section.

Drilling into the results shows you more tweets, sorted by time:

Bing Twitter Search

See the arrow? It’s pointing at the two options you have, “Most recent” sort or “Best match” sort. By default, Most Recent is selected.

Suchter said that when you drill into results, filtering goes way up. Bing may try to drop up to 90% of retweets, for example, so that there’s variety in the results rather than everyone saying the same thing over and over.

Then there’s “Best Match” sorting:

Bing Twitter Search

Potentially, this should be awesome. But there are problems, as the arrows will highlight. First, though, the ideal world. There are plenty of times when you want “authoritative” tweets, and that’s what Bing promises here:

On that page, you can change the ordering to “Best Match.” Here we arrange Tweets differently. If someone has a lot of followers, his/her Tweet may get ranked higher. If a tweet is exactly the same as other Tweets, it will get ranked lower. For example, I saw a Tweet from ABC News ranked pretty high in the Best Match mode during the “boy in the balloon” fiasco. By the way, you won’t see any of your tweets if you protected or deleted them, and tweets don’t last more than 7 days in our index.

In particular, Suchter said that each tweet’s ranking is influenced by things such as:

  • Estimated authority of the person tweeting (such as number of followers they have, how often they’re retweeted)
  • Number of retweets a tweet has
  • Freshness of the tweet

Now in the search above, what would be authoritative in a Kanye West search? To me, a tweet that makes it clear it’s not true, so we don’t get a repeat of the Jeff Goldblum death rumor (he’s still not dead, either). And look at the screenshot. The first tweet I point at shows the Miami Herald saying he’s not dead. Good job!

Not so fast. Actually, the first tweet is someone retweeting the Miami Herald saying that. Someone with 1/4 of the followers of the Miami Herald. So why isn’t the Miami Herald being shown?

Suchter said the Miami Herald probably should be up there, and that this is something his team is looking at. It’s a beta, remember?

Now look at the second link. Fox News. OK, we can debate how accurate they are. But it’s a news outlet. Good story about the rumor? Well, no. Actually, it’s Fox News trying to cash in on traffic to currently popular topics on Twitter by writing an article about currently popular topics on Twitter.

Look at the third link. Bing really, really falls down hard here. This is misleading spam, someone trying to cash in on the popularity of the search promising a Kanye “RIP” ringtone, whatever that might be.

Now you were to click on that link, Bit.ly itself would stop you with this scary warning:

Bing Twitter Search

Nice that Bit.ly does that — but why didn’t Bing do that for you first? After all, a big part of Bing’s announcement today — which drew applause from the audience listening at the Web 2.0 Summit — was that it would open all shortened URLs (those from bit.ly or other URL shortening services) bit.ly URLs, as you can see in the example below:

Bing Twitter Search

That wasn’t happening in the Kanye West search. Suchter put it down to a glitch that his team would be investigating.

Shared Links

Remember I mentioned that when you do a search on Bing, the bottom of the page is devoted to a “Shared Links” section. Here’s a close-up:

Bing Twitter Search

The goal here is to show you the hot and popular links that are being tweeted on your search topic. Showing top links isn’t unique. Many any other services do this, as described in my What Is Real Time Search? Definitions & Players post. However, none of those players, to my knowledge, get the fast “firehose” of data that Twitter provides.

How’s the ranking done? Each link is evaluated according to a variety of factors, such as:

  • How recently is the link
  • How many people are retweeting it
  • What’s the authority of the people who are retweeting

Microsoft is also following the links and indexing the content of the pages. In addition, it also understands the “main” or “real” or “originating” URL even if different URL shorteners are used. Notice below how the same link from ZDnet is associated in a cluster where two different shortened URLs are used to reference it:

Bing Twitter Search

Notice also that for any popular URL, you see up to two people who have tweeted it. Which two? Again, accounts that are deemed relevant based on their authority, people who are retweeting them, freshness and other factors.

For any popular URL, you can drill down to learn even more about it — again, something that’s not unique to Bing’s service, but it’s still pretty cool. Click on the “more tweets” link for any URL:

Bing Twitter Search

Then you’ll get a full view of tweets related to that URL. By default, these are sorted in time order (I’m using a different drill down example than the screenshot above, but you should get the point. I had to go with a different page because for some reason, sometimes the drilldown doesn’t work on Bing Twitter Search):

Bing Twitter Search

However, you can do the “Best Match” resort. In this case, here’s Best Matches for this article you’re reading now:

Bing Twitter Search

Notice how the top results is not either the Search Engine Land Twitter account nor my own personal Twitter account. Instead, these are ranked 2, 3 & 4. Why wouldn’t they higher?

Again, factors include followers, how much your retweeted and how recent the tweet is. Notice that my tweets are older than the person who’s top listed.

URL Lookup

Want a warp speed way to find out what people are tweeting about your pages? Just copy and paste your page’s URL into the Bing Twitter Search query box. Your page should be listed in the top links section, and then you can drill down to see recent tweets or best match ones.

Bing Twitter Search Home Page

You don’t have to search to use Bing Twitter Search. When you arrive at the home page, you’ll see a tag cloud of popular topics:

Bing Twitter Search

You can click on any of these to drill down into popular topics. About the only downside to this is listing those topics on Twitter Search itself has driven up spam, people who will tweet misleading information about subjects. It’ll be interesting to see if Bing manages to stamp down on the spam within its own search results.

Below the tag cloud, you’ll see hot links being shared across Bing overall:

Bing Twitter Search

The red arrow in the screenshot above points to how each subject has a heading, and by clicking on the heading, you can get even more info on that topic.

Finally, when you do a search, by default new tweets will flow in automatically into the tweets section of results. You can also use the pause button to stop this:

Bing Twitter Search

For more, see Bing’s post about the launch and related discussion on Techmeme here.

Related Topics: Channel: Social | Facebook | Features: Analysis | Microsoft: Bing | Top News | Twitter


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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  • http://www.ezwebsitemonitoring.com/ ezaaron

    Nice post Danny.. I’ll take some credit here as I posted this over at the EZ Website Monitoring blog about 15 minutes before it actually went live. At that time, it was still 404. I’m sure you didn’t hear about it from me though, but I figured I could gloat anyway :)

    This is a big deal for Bing and a big blow to Google. It would not surprise me if the deal was non-exclusive though. I sure hope Google gets in on this action, or else they could stand to lose a decent amount of market share to Bing, which is not my favorite search engine (Yet..)

  • http://upsmack.com NateSchubert

    How big of a deal is it really for Bing if people are able to do this on Twitter? I know that there’s likely a difference between Facebook users who spend much more of their time there than elsewhere online and Twitter users who check in or use external apps to access their communicae but still. I can do this exact same thing on Twitter. Is this going to cause any duplicate content issues?

    I will say I’m very impressed with the real-time aspect. My tweet about Royce Gracie being the king of the octagon (UFC) was there within 5 minutes. Impressive! But useful? I don’t know.

  • http://www.antezeta.com/blog/ Sean Carlos

    I’m curious to know the details about the business side of the deal.

    Is twitter being compensated for the indexing and retrieval attention Bing (and Google?) is giving them?

    If so, that would seem to set a precedent (the AP content hosting deal aside). Why shouldn’t other content rich sites not receive payment from search engines? As you have written many times, newspapers worldwide seem to think they should be paid (The Italian Newspaper association is pressing its case by arguing that Google has a monopoly position – leading to a search of Google’s Italian office, oh dear).

    Sure, there are some differences. It would be hard for Google/Bing to argue fair use exception of a tweet when 140 characters are already snippet size – not much sampling to do here. Yet, unlike the newspapers (attribution problems aside), twitter’s content is created by the service users – who retain moral, if not legal, copyright to the original work they created. Now I wouldn’t argue that twitter doesn’t deserve to be compensated for the expense of creating and running the twitter platform. But if indeed twitter is being compensated, every site owner with an xml firehose should be compensated, perhaps in basis of click-through.

  • http://www.johnvasko.com johnvasko

    How will Bing indexing tweets affect SEO best practices? Is there another post related to that? Will marketers attempt to optimize tweets and will they be archived indefinitely?

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