Testing Bing, Part 2: The Features – Search Suggestions

Even though Bing’s search results are as good as Google’s, they are acceptable.  But while a decent algorithm might have been enough for a search engine five years ago, people want more these days.  Let’s take a look at what extra features Google and Microsoft both bring to the table.  I’m going to keep this specific to search itself; it’s great that Google offers me an online version of WordPad, but that doesn’t help me when I’m using their search engine.

The next few articles will be image heavy, so I’m going to use thumbnails.  Just click an image to view the full-size version.

When you begin to type a search query in either Google or Bing, you get a pop-up list of suggested queries:

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This is essentially IntelliSense for the Internet, and it’s very helpful.  The suggestions they offer are usually different, but are generally both equally useful once you type enough of your search terms, and equally useless until you do.  Google does have one shortfall here, though: auto-suggest only works from the main page – and in this case, it pops up on top of the ‘Search’ button – not a problem for us experts, but for some people, this will be very annoying.  The search box on the search results page doesn’t have this feature at all.  Since this is where people are likely to refine their suggestions, this is a dumb move.

Bing, on the other hand, does this very nicely:


Not only do you have auto-suggest when typing, but Bing also offers a list of terms to help narrow down your search.  It works very well, and while I don’t see it being quite as useful to us technical types – if we wanted to read about WestJet’s fleet, we’d just have typed ‘WestJet Fleet’ to begin with – but for those who don’t live and breath Internet, this will be very helpful.  Bing also shows a list of related searches, your own personal search history (with easy Clear and Turn Off links for those who want to cover their tracks a bit), and over on the right, a list of sites similar to the ‘best match’ result.

The verdict: Bing wins hands down.  Come on, Google, this is an easy one to fix.

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