Posted February 1, 2011 11:49 am by with 6 comments

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We live in a world where coincidences ‘appear’ to happen. Of course, there are coincidences in life that are just pure chance (depending on your worldview, of course) but in the business world that doesn’t happen much. Today may be a real good case in point.

Danny Sullivan has completed an extensive investigative look at a claim by Google that Bing is actually copying search results from the search leader. Rather than spend the time here rehashing the exhaustive job that Sullivan did I highly recommend that you read it and draw your own conclusions.

What is interesting is that this ‘revelation’ comes right before an event that is being sponsored by Bing and BigThink called Farsight 2011: Beyond the Search Box. The invitation was extended to us here at Marketing Pilgrim to attend but being on opposite coasts creates a bit of an issue. Don’t fret though because it can be seen in a live stream from 10 am to 2 pm PST today.

The invite read

Bing would like to invite you to attend a gathering of high profile industry leaders, thinkers, academics, investors and executives – what we’re calling Farsight 2011: Beyond the Search Box. This unique event will highlight the hottest topics across the industry related to the future of search, from social media to new user interfaces and mobile paradigms, to the role of robotics and artificial intelligence.

Further on we learn that not only will Bing be represented (naturally) but there will be Google representation as well.

The event is intended to be an informal gathering of the minds focused on truly advancing state-of-the-art search. It will feature a variety of presentations, demos and panels to guide the conversation. Participating in the lively discussion will be hedge fund manager and PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel, Recorded Future co-founder and CEO Chris Ahlberg, journalist and entrepreneur Esther Dyson, and many more. Additionally, there will be a roundtable discussion with Google SEO chief Amit Singhal, Microsoft’s Dr. Ashok Chandra, Blekko co-founder and CEO Rich Skrenta and moderated by entrepreneur and tech provocateur Vivek Wadhwa.

So let’s put the pieces together.

  • Search Engine Land runs an expose on Bing being caught in a Google sting operation that claims Bing steals copies results from Google in certain cases.
  • This runs just before this meeting of the great minds of the search community.
  • The search industry has been taking a backseat to the social media industry in publicity for quite some time now. And it comes on the heels of Google’s march to the sea on content farms.
  • What creates publicity better than controversy?

After I have done the simple math on this one I say that coincidence is certainly possible but, well……..

Of course, far be it from companies that are looking to bring attention to themselves to help the media stir the pot but once again well…….

Danny does his usual great job of looking at every detail and examines this whole chain of events that came together around all of this as well. His conclusion:

In the end, for whatever reasons, the findings of Google’s experiment and Bing’s event are colliding, right in the middle of a renewed focus of attention on search quality. Was this all planned to happen? Gamesmanship by both Google and Bing? Just odd coincidences? I go with the coincidences, myself.

[Postscript: Vivek Wadhwa tweeted the event timing was a coincidence. And let me add, my assumption really was that this is all coincidence. I’m pointing it out mainly because there are just so many crazy things all happening at the same time, which some people will inevitably try to connect. Make no mistake. Both Google and Bing play the PR game. But I think what’s happening right now is that there’s a perfect storm of various developments all coming together at the same time. And if that storm gets people focused on demanding better search quality, I’m happy].

In the end, I have to agree with Sullivan that if this results in better search results that weeds out the craptent in the SERPs (regardless of the engine) then this is a good thing. So I am going to put my “PR conspiracy theory” bias aside and let this one play out because honestly, talking about Facebook and Twitter all the time is getting old especially when search is still so important to the entire Internet ecosystem.

All of this is to say that search is still very much alive and well in the age of social media. In fact, it may be more important than ever since most social media players can’t even figure out how to index and search their own stuff effectively (wink, wink Twitter).

Honestly, I could care less if this was planned because it is probably a conversation that has been a long time coming.

Your thoughts?

  • welcome to 2011.. the year of search. =)

    • LOL! Somebody needs to pay attention again, right?!

  • I read the SEL article and I think Google is like the boy crying wolf. Besides that Google is built on others content, they also use others’ signals for quality. They have used Yahoo’s and DMOZ’ directory. They recently announced to using Twitter’s info and would like to have Facebook in their arsenal.

    I really think they are crying over nothing.
    cd :O)

    • @Jumbo – Do you think they are crying or is this all just a play to make search interesting again? Honestly, Bing will not suffer from this if people think they are ‘cheating’ because they will see it like you do. Bing needs any publicity. In the end too they will stay with Google for the most part. It’s almost like a ‘united search’ PR play.

      Some people are saying Google will look bad. To whom? The industry? Who cares?!?! The industry is an incredibly small percentage of the people that use the service. Headlines in the WSJ or where ever else will translate to stock price impact etc etc and make search a front line player again.

      Interesting but in the end just a ploy to make people pay attention.

  • It’s like when you grow up in school and they tell you not to copy anyone else’s work. It’s a shame we still have to deal with that type of problem as adults.

    • @Alec One thing that you usually don’t hear when it comes to the Internet marketing industry is many people acting like adults so this is par for the course:-)