In case you haven’t already heard, today Microsoft officially unveiled the newest iteration of it’s search engine, Bing, which aims to accomplish three things:
- Replace its often maligned Live Search
- Reposition it as a “decision engine” rather than a simple search appliance with an $80 million dollar cross-media marketing campaign. As an aside, you can check out the first commercial for this campaign here, and no, contrary to my previously affectionate post, I don’t like this commercial one bit!
- As always, try to grab some market share from other search engines.
So how is it?
After spending a little time with it over the past couple of days, and*gasp* setting it as my homepage instead of iGoogle, I have to say that I am pleasantly surprised. It might not be the “Google-Killer” it was billed, but is a step in the right direction. While I don’t think it will become my default search engine (I simply have too many services tied to Google in order to make that switch), I do think that it brings some great features to the user search experience.
The following is a rundown of some of these standout features, and how you can use them to get the most out of your queries, be it for real estate or otherwise.
Categorized & Related Searches
Whenever you complete a query, Bing will 1) provide you with a list of logical results categories for you to filter through in order to get access to the information you want quickly, and 2) display a list of the most common related search queries based on your original results. For example, when I searched “Canada” the most common related searches were for the 411 service, an airline, and my bank!
Large Results Previews
This will likely be the fist thing you will notice when you first use Bing. When you mouse over a search result you will notice a expandable box to the right of the result that when hovered over will give you a preview of the information on the page as well some of the prominent topics on the page. This is a huge time saver, and will undoubtedly save users untold time and wasted clicks, in addition to being almost flawlessly implemented into the search experience.
Video Search & Previews
The prevalence of video on the web is growing at a fevered pace, so it makes sense that companies invest in new ways to search video instead of conventional text. Bing ups the ante by offering a short description of the videos in results, referring sites, length of the video etc. But the best part is that you can preview video results with full audio with just a mouse-over – this will be a long way towards making sure you get the video you are looking for.
Smart Image Search
Image search is where almost everyone is going to agree that Microsoft has pulled off a coup against Google. Besides the gorgeous snapshot presentation, the endless scroll results (no more clicking “next page”!), and the loads of filtering options in on the left panel, Bing gives you the ability to show images similar to those displayed. This is huge news for all those who spend way too long searching for the perfect image.
Bird’s Eye Maps
Don’t have Google Street View in your area yet? *cough* all of Canada *cough* Well then you are in for a treat. Probably my favorite feature of Bing has to be the “Bird’s Eye” views built into the maps search which gives you a high-resolution satellite photography of most urban centers.
Now I know you are probably thinking, “so what? Google does this as well”, but the difference is that the Bird’s Eye imagery is taken on an angle rather than straight down – this means you can actually make out things like the signs on buildings, how tall a structure is, and all manner of topographical features. And to top it off, this imagery is taken from all angles, so you can rotate all around an area and get the Bird’s Eye view, rather than just a fixed angle.
In my opinion this is the perfect option in between conventional maps and Street View, and will be a valuable tool for real estate professionals since you can tag areas (like a properties) and send that link to prospects. Hopefully this tech makes its way into marketplaces like Zillow and Trulia.
So there you have it. What, in my opinion, are the most compelling features of Bing.
Do I think that these additions will change the tides in the search wars? Probably not. After all, Google has brand “ownership” on search and I don’t think they will be dethroned any time soon. However I think Bing will gain market share at the expense of other brands in the market, such as Yahoo!, AOL, and Ask with this newest offering.
Also, if you would like to give Bing a shot, or just would like to see how its results stack up against Google’s make sure to check out the comparion search tool created by BlackDog.ie – all the search goodness, with none of the messy commitment!