In May, Bing launched what it calls the "Friend Effect." It takes any search and instantly makes it more relevant by elevating search results of pages Liked by a user's Facebook friends.
For example, a Bing search for "travel" brings up a link to a product page on STA Travel's (my employer) website based on the Like of one of my Facebook friends. It's in the fourth spot right behind Travelocity, Expedia and Yahoo Travel.
If I log out of Facebook, head to Bing and search for "travel," the first link to STA Travel appears on the eighth page at position 72.
With 90% of U.S. Gen Yers willing share their brand preference online and 90% of overall consumers trusting recommendations from people they know (Nielsen), you need to start working to shape that context.
Having second thoughts about burying that Facebook Like button on your homepage?
Differences in Context
Now Google isn't completely out of the picture when it comes to contextual search, having integrated Twitter into its search results. Links that have been shared by users you follow on Twitter are noted with that user's Twitter icon.
However, look who and what you follow on Twitter and who you friend and like on Facebook. Twitter users do follow their friends, but news personalities and sources are some of the most followed users on Twitter. More than 610,000 users Like CNN on Facebook, more than two million follow CNN on Twitter.
Edelman found that 77% of Gen Yers consult family and 64% consult friends when making major decisions. Just 21% of respondents to the same survey would use an expert website when making a decision.
For Gen Y users, that's a big difference in context for making decisions.
Help Shape the Context
To capitalize on both Google and Bing's contextual search, make sure you are making it easy for users to share your homepage and other key pages in your website.
Don't bury your Facebook Like and share on Twitter buttons.
Maybe don't focus quite as much on writing for keywords and just create compelling content that is so good users can't help but share it with their friends.
Contextual search is here and the each of the major search engines is creating a different context for their users, so figure out what works best for your audience -- friends and family or experts and tastemakers.
For those targeting Gen Y users, Bing is making a play for your ad dollars as it evolves to attract this key demographic that relies heavily on recommendations from friends and family.