Microsoft's Bing Testing Personalized Search Experience

Microsoft's Bing search engine is testing personalized search experiences in a bid to further distinguish itself in the long-running battle against Google.

Microsoft is testing out "personalized search experiences" on its Bing search engine, in its continuing quest to both refine its search results and gain some advantage over market rival Google.

Those "experiences" include results based on previous searches. When a user searches in Bing for the same search term on multiple occasions, and clicks on a link presented further down on the results page, the search engine will apparently start bringing that link to the top of the page.

Bing will also start offering results tailored to a searcher's city. For example, a Bing user in New York City simply typing "Chinese food" will deliver local results, without having to type the search term, "Chinese food in Manhattan."

These steps come as Bing continues to refine its processes in its ongoing battle with Google.

"We think one of the challenges with delivering results which are truly individualized is that, to date, personalized search -can't see the forest for the trees,'" Aidan Crook and Sanaz Ahari, members of the Bing Search team, wrote in a Feb. 10 posting on the Bing Community blog. "In other words everyone is collecting everything and trying to figure out the foibles of human behavior from a mass of digital bits."

In the spirit of making individual search more accurate, the two continued, "we're currently -flighting' (or -testing,' or non search geeks) a raft of experiments to see which techniques deliver the best results for a given user behavior." Tailoring results to users' locations, and offering results based on previous searches, are just two of those experiments.

The Bing "personalized" refinement comes on the tail end of a vicious war of words between Microsoft and Google, which accused Bing of copying its Web-search results. In a widely circulated Feb. 1 posting, the blog Search Engine Land detailed what it called a "sting operation" against Bing, which apparently began after Google executives grew suspicious of how closely some of Bing's search results mirrored their own. After finding a set of terms with no matches on either search engine, the company apparently created "honey pot" pages that appeared on top of search results for those terms. When a small portion of Bing search results seemed to mirror Google's forced pages, the latter began leveling accusations.

Microsoft promptly responded. "We do not copy results from any of our competitors. Period. Full stop," Yusuf Mehdi, senior vice president of Microsoft's online services division, wrote in a Feb. 2 posting on the Bing Community blog. "we have some of the best minds in the world at work on search quality and relevance, and for a competitor to accuse any of these people of such activity is just insulting."

While those arguments and counter-arguments have died down since last week, the fact remains that Bing trails Google in the U.S. search market. According to research firm comScore, Bing racked up 12 percent of that market in December 2010, behind Google's 66.6 percent. Yahoo stood at 16 percent, although Bing powers its backend search. Microsoft doubtlessly hopes that features and tweaks like more personalized search will allow it to take a higher percentage of that market in quarters to come.