In a blog post titled, Toward a More Intelligent Search: Bing Multi-Perspective Answers, Bing announced they are now incorporating a technology often referred to as sentiment analysis into their version of what Google calls Featured Snippets.
Sentiment Analysis is the ability to understand whether content has a negative or positive sentiment. The implications of how this may affect SEO are far ranging, especially if Google rolls out their version of it.
A criticism Google’s often received is that their featured snippets are sometimes biased by the question asked. Danny Sullivan recently addressed this shortcoming in Google’s featured snippets:
“…people who search for “are reptiles good pets” should get the same featured snippet as “are reptiles bad pets” since they are seeking the same information: how do reptiles rate as pets? However, the featured snippets we serve contradict each other.
This happens because sometimes our systems favor content that’s strongly aligned with what was asked.”
Engineers at Bing were asking similar questions and doing something about it. According to Bing’s announcement:
“There are many questions that don’t have just one answer, but multiple valid perspectives on a given topic. Should I repeat my search with the word “bad” or “good” in it every time I wanted to get a comprehensive picture of a topic and hear the other side? How would I even know how and when to do that? Should I assume that this single answer Bing returned for me was the best or the only answer? Is that the most authoritative page to answer my question?
“…we believe that your search engine should inform you when there are different viewpoints to answer a question you have, and it should help you save research time while expanding your knowledge with the rich content available on the Web.”
Google is Exploring How to Add Sentiment Analysis
In Danny Sullivan’s article, A Reintroduction to Featured Snippets, he confirmed that sentiment analysis is on their to-do list.
“We’re exploring solutions to this challenge, including showing multiple responses.
“There are often legitimate diverse perspectives offered by publishers, and we want to provide users visibility and access into those perspectives from multiple sources,” Matthew Gray, the software engineer who leads the featured snippets team, told me.”
How to Rank for Intelligent Snippets?
Bing offers clues about what signals they are looking for in sites they rank for intelligent snippets. Here are some of the attributes of the sites they rank:
- Authoritative and high quality
- Relevant to the topic
- Content is easy to crawl and index
- Good user experience on the web page
Here are the clues Bing’s announcement disclosed:
“…we prioritize reputable content from authoritative, high quality websites that are relevant to the subject in question, have easily discoverable content and minimal to no distractions on the site.”
The way it works is, when you issue a question:
1. Their Web Search and Question Answering engine selects candidates from web pages.
2. They organize the candidates in clusters to determine similarity and sentiment
3. Bing ranks the most relevant passages from the web pages from each sentiment based cluster
Limited to the United States
These results are currently limited to a few. However Bing will be rolling out more results in the near future. These kinds of results are also coming to the United Kingdom soon as well.
“This is just the beginning. We will expand this functionality to address many more questions you have, increase coverage, and expand beyond the US, starting with the United Kingdom in the next few months.”
How Will This Affect SEO?
Sentiment analysis can play a role in helping search engines understand if a review is negative or positive. So if someone links to a web page with a negative sentiment (as in a negative review), then the search engine will know this is negative and may decide not to count the link or to count it as a negative vote. This may be especially useful for local SEO but it can conceivably creep into regular search as well.
The fact that Bing has confirmed they are using sentiment analysis is big news. That Google has announced their intentions to add it to featured snippets is very important. The big question of course is if this kind of technology will be used in other areas of search.
Images by Shutterstock, modified by author