Google sets up sting for Bing amid accusations of copied search results

Posted on February 3, 2011


Many people in SEO are of the opinion that Google is the search engine of choice when optimising your website. It’s no surprise that other search engines aspire to be as big as it, but Google has accused search engine rival Microsoft of pilfering its own search results for Bing.

The realisation dawned on Google with its team for correcting typo errors in the SERPs. Part of their duties is to monitor the performance of their search rivals, such as Bing and Yahoo!. The team noticed that any errors that they corrected would show up on Bing’s results too. However, Bing did not say that they had corrected the mistake themselves, it just ‘happened’.

Google decided to set up a sting operation to catch out the opposition. It created code that allowed it to rank a page manually for a specific search term, and attached it to obscure searches such as “hiybbprqag” and “ndoswiftjobinproduction”. The result was that when these terms were searched for, they would produce a unique web page in Google that wouldn’t crop up in other search results.

Google then had a team search for these terms using Microsoft Internet Explorer, with its Bing toolbar, and Suggested Sites enabled. Two weeks after the operation was set up, Bing displayed the Google results that had been coded by hand.

Google Fellow Amit Singhal said:

“I’ve got no problem with a competitor developing an innovative algorithm. But copying is not innovation, in my book.”

“It’s cheating to me because we work incredibly hard and have done so for years but they just get there based on our hard work… Another analogy is that it’s like running a marathon and carrying someone else on your back, who jumps off just before the finish line.”

Microsoft’s Stefan Weitz countered:

“Opt-in programs like the [Bing] toolbar help us with clickstream, one of many input signals we and other search engines use to help rank sites. This ‘Google experiment’ seems like a hack to confuse and manipulate some of these signals.”

In SEO we come across ‘scraper’ websites that scrape content from other sites all the time. They’re low quality sites consisting of nothing more than copied content from elsewhere on the web. Is Bing a scraper site now?

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