Google v. Bing: The SXSWi Smackdown

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Sugar-Ray-Robinson-Jake-Lamotta.jpgGoogle and Bing have joined forces at a SXSWi panel on website ranking! For the next hour representatives from each search engine behemoth will be answering questions about how they list and rank websites. But, given that a month ago Google accused Bing of stealing their search results, isn't this really a duel for search-ranking glory? To that end, I'm scoring the panel.

Twitter followers of panelists:
Bing's Duanne Forrester: 2,198
Google's Matt Cutts: 99,359

Point: Google

Is an affiliate link a purchased link?

Cutts: In general, we dislike purchased links. It's not sustainable over time.

Forrester: Search engines first looking for quality content ... so there are bad downstream effects to purchased links. Therefore we discount. However! If they are valuable links, not so bad.

Google answered first, Bing seemed to think that quality content comes from purchased links.

Point: Google

What's an appropriate amount of time to punish rule breakers?

Cutts: Rephrases question, name checks NYT, gets first laugh of the panel.

Point: Google

Is ranking no longer based on seniority? Also, how is social going to enter results?

Forrester: There's validity to age! That doesn't mean it's our only factor. We would love to use social signals more, and we're down with Facebook.

Cutts: Gives a non-answer on age. I find social metrics handy! We'll be doing more of that.

Point: Facebook

Will there be more transparency re: the tools you're using to rank?

Cutts: we'll give you a CSV file of all the links pointing to your site! You can see what we see. Also, Google has rooms full of people who are authorized to name links as junk!

Forrester: We've launched a new service that will let you view/export up to 20K inbound links to your site.

Point: Bing

I find Bing useful for common searches, but on long-tail searches, I still turn to Google. Is this a conscious strategy?

Forrester: We set the quality bar very very high. Which is to say, if it's a niche level query answer ... meh, we may not keep it in our index.

Shorter Bing: your query isn't mainstream enough for us. 

Point: Google

Poetryfoundation.org! How do I compete with Poem Hunter?

Cutts: Try to get your authors involved, and have them link to their poems.

But what if poets are no longer living?

Point: Bing

Why do social search engines like delicious have better rankings than you?

Cutts: Social has its place--like when you need a plumber! Google is best a reflecting opinion of entire web. We use social to the extent that it's truly useful.

Forrester: If your friend base doesn't know something on subject x, we aren't going push those results. 

Point: Tie

I'm building a web app--but it doesn't build pages. Am I screwed?

Moderator: You're screwed.

Point: Moderator

I'm a search marketer, you say not to scrape/rely on rankings, but everyone does it. Gonna fix this?

Cutts: It's your job to tell your clients that this doesn't work.

Forrester: I used to work in this field. I stopped using ranking reports 8 years ago. Have your boss tweet at me, I will tell him not to do this.

Point: Bing

Bonus Round:

Moderator: The only time scrapping is allowed is Bing on Google and Google on Bing.

Point: Google

Final Round:

Forrester: What tools do you want us to incorporate? Come and talk to me.

Cutts: We've got a webmaster blog!

Point: Bing

Scoring:
Bing: 4
Google: 5

Winner: Google! But it was much closer than I anticipated.

Bonus search-relevant poem located using the handy poem tool at Poetry Foundation:

They Flee From Me

by Sir Thomas Wyatt

They flee from me that sometime did me seek
With naked foot, stalking in my chamber.
I have seen them gentle, tame, and meek,
That now are wild and do not remember
That sometime they put themself in danger
To take bread at my hand; and now they range,
Busily seeking with a continual change.

Thanked be fortune it hath been otherwise
Twenty times better; but once in special,
In thin array after a pleasant guise,
When her loose gown from her shoulders did fall,
And she me caught in her arms long and small;
Therewithall sweetly did me kiss
And softly said, "Dear heart, how like you this?"

It was no dream: I lay broad waking.
But all is turned thorough my gentleness
Into a strange fashion of forsaking;
And I have leave to go of her goodness,
And she also, to use newfangleness.
But since that I so kindly am served
I would fain know what she hath deserved.

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Phoebe Connelly is a writer and editor in Washington, D.C.

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