Key Points from Interview with Paul Yiu
Tons of discussion in here about how social media can impact search results. While the author authority discussion is near the end I am going to highlight it first here (Twitter was the specific social network discussed), because there is a LOT of confirmation of how author authority works:
- Bing does look at the number of followers you have.
- They also look at the number of people you follow. If you follow 200 people and 8,000 follow you this might indicate more authority than if you follow 9,000 people and 8,000 follow you.
- “We can actually analyze the follow graph and tell if you are trying to game the system.”
- Relevance of the followers is used as a signal: “who you are connected to says something about you. You don't want to get into the wrong crowd; It's not good if you hang out with the bad group at the high school.”
- The relevance of who you follow also matters.
- You don't hurt your Twitter stream by talking about irrelevant stuff. What matters more is what happens to your relevant stuff.
- Retweeting patterns are tracked and used as a signal – especially for your relevant tweets.
- The relevance of the re-tweeters matters too.
- There are many iterations if signals that oculd be tracked, but as you get deeper and deeper into it the strength of the signal diminishes, so a limited number of factors (such as those above) are considered.
Here are some of the other key points from the interview:
- (re: social media): “The behind the scenes signals are pretty useful for us, as search engines always need to find fresh content, and it's always hard to rank fresh content.”
- “We are trying to merge a little bit of the search and browsing intent into one, and have your friends help you navigate the web a little bit better. In a way we are bringing the office water cooler to the search engine.” (the emphasis is mine).
- (regarding using “wisdom of the crowd” to move content higher in the results): “… people tend to like gossipy things, such as who got pregnant or was in a scandal, or something like that, so it tends to work in those cases, but not so much in the case of navigational searches …”
- “If the content doesn't earn its spot its placement gets modified” (confirming again that Bing uses CTR which was done for the first time in this interview with Duane Forrester.
- As of February 22, 2012 users could associate articles of interest with people they know (the “subject” person). The subject can then use Facebook to decide if they want that article associated with them or not. If they let it be associated that article will now be highlighted in the search results for friends of the subject.
- Social media can provide some useful enhancements to search, but currently is not in danger of reshaping the structure of search (my paraphrase of a conversation below).
- Bing currently does not analyze Facebook updates to collect information that could be used to personalize search results. For one thing, there are serious privacy concerns with this.
- “The typical network on Twitter has characteristics that are hard for people to emulate artificially. These (artifical networks) are unnatural, and when we see networks like this you can tell these people are trying to sell teeth whitening or whatever.”
- “… when you say stuff where people tend to re-tweet you it behaves bit like a link.”
- The level of effort to make a social media action affects the signal strength. For example, a Like is very little effort, and a Share requires a bit more effort.
Full Interview Transcript
Eric Enge: Can you start off with an overview of Bing and social to date?
Paul Yiu: Over two years ago we went down this path of integrating Twitter into search. Much of what we've done with Twitter is actually really interesting even though you may not visibly see everything. Here is what the UI looks like.