Who knew? Search results you get using Bing aren’t any different from the results at Google, because Bing is stealing Google’s results.

Or they aren’t. But Google says Bing is stealing, and claims to have proof.

Given our position in the search engine optimization business, I could write about this pretty much forever. But I’ll make it simple: Bing is borrowing some of Google’s search engine juice, because Google’s explanation makes it hard to believe otherwise. But in the bigger picture what Bing thinks is important and what Google likes differ. Plenty.

Look at this table:

Keyword Google Bing
answer guy 3 2
answerguy 1 1
yablon 15 90
jeff yablon 1 17
computer answer guy 1 1
virtualvip 3 3
virtual vip 2 2

Those results are from this morning, and they show the position that search engine optimization techniques targeted at Google have given Answer Guy Central on a few phrases that cover our branding. Some of the phrases rank exactly the same at both search engines, some are very close, and a couple differ quite dramatically. So let’s dispel one possibility: Bing is most certainly not just presenting Google’s search engine data as their own.

At the same time, Google’s explanation makes it pretty clear that Bing is taking some information that exists only in Google and incorporating it into their search engine results. So the question is . . . what does that mean? How do search engines in general and search engine optimization in particular work?

As I pointed out in this piece about Google making adjustments to punish search engine optimization bad guys, the question of what a search engine shows when you type in a query is thorny. Google claims to index the entire Internet, and they present results more or less unedited based on a complex formula. Bing and Yahoo, on the other hand, index the Internet and then apply not only a formula, but filters. This explains why, for example, Google sees Answer Guy Central as the most important web site for “Jeff Yablon”, but Bing sees it as only 17th most important. Yes, this site has the most references to my name of any site, Yes, that’s important in deciding what’s important. But Bing believes there are other sites that deserve mention first (many of which refer to me, anyway).

Using only “Yablon” as search criteria, Google sees Answer Guy Central as 15th most important, while Bing drops me all the way down to 90th. In both cases a drop makes sense; there are plenty of Yablon references out there, including a Polish language translation and a card game, and they creep into the search results in a way that isn’t germane when the query is “Jeff Yablon”.

But because Google looks at volume and placement of information almost to the exclusion of relevant-ness (by assuming that those things determine what’s relevant), but Bing adds extra context, the search engine results differ and achieving search engine optimization for the word “Yablon” would require more and different work if Bing was my target.

In the “Bing is stealing from Google” story, Bing is adding context, alright; the context is “Google’s results matter and we’re going to incorporate them into ours”. Which sounds like plagiarism. But given the nature of the Internet is really just . . . respect.

By the way: the word “Yablon” appears on this page eleven times, and appears nine more times in places you can’t see unless you look at the code that defines this page. Which means that both Google and Bing will give me a little more respect for “Yablon” once this page gets indexed. Unless they think it’s too many references to one word in a 650-word post and punish me instead. Which at 3% density, they shouldn’t.

And that’s search engine optimization.

So in the rest of the world, Microsoft stole/plagiarized Google’s work. In search engine optimization land, probably not.

Need help with your search engine optimization? You know where to look. Unless your name is “Yablon”; I’ve pretty much got that one locked up.

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