10 Blue Links Weren’t Enough: Bing Gets Some Action on the Side


Bing today added a number of “action buttons” to its search results. With these, you can find links to the top actions most users take on sites from airlines, couriers, restaurants, banks, rental cars, software downloads and hotels. The buttons will appear right next to the relevant search results.

Internet search is a difficult problem for computer scientists, but for consumers, it feels like it’s been solved a long time ago. As Stefan Weitz, Microsoft’s director of Bing, told CNN earlier this week, “No one wakes up in the morning and says, ‘I really wish there was a better search engine.” That’s a major challenge for Bing, which has slowly developed into a very capable search engine in its own right. To compete, Bing has to do more than Google, though. In the same interview, Weitz also says that for his team, “it’s always been about figuring out how to accomplish more than we thought was possible with a search engine.” Today, as a part of this mission, Bing is introducing its new “Action Buttons,” which will make it easier and faster for users to not just find things on a website but actually get to the point where they can take an action on that site.

Continental bing result

Better Than Sitelinks?

At first glance, these Action Buttons look like glorified sitelinks (the little blue links to popular pages on a site that both Google and Bing show underneath the main result). Indeed, for the most part, these Action Buttons replicate links that are already in the sitelinks – though they sometimes use different words (“Reservations” vs. “Book a flight”). According to Microsoft, these links are determined by algorithms that try to find the “top actions and corresponding links in the site for a given category with high precision.”

I’m all for getting people to the results they are looking for faster. I’m not 100% sure that this new feature adds a lot of value to the service at this point, though, as it mostly highlights a functionality that already exists in the sitelinks. Deepak Vijaywargi, a program manger on the Bing team, however, argues that, “with Action Buttons, it’s less about searching and more about getting things done” and that we should “stay tuned for more from [Bing] in this area.”

3:50 pm

Google’s Expanded Sitelinks: When Bigger Isn’t Better


Google’s expanded and enlarged sitelinks don’t add much to the search experience and just waste valuable screen estate.

Yesterday, Google updated the way it presents sitelinks – those extra blue links to a site’s sub-sections that often appear underneath the main search result link. When Google originally added those links to its results, it definitely made finding the right result easier and the links didn’t get in the way when you didn’t need them. Now, however, Google has decided to enlarge them significantly. Indeed, the font size of the secondary links is not the same as that of the main link. Google also expanded the number of links up to 12 (from a maximum of 8 before), meaning that for some searches, you now barely get to see the second search result on the page (especially if you have a smaller screen).

Here is how these results used to look like:

met old sitelinks

Here is the new version:

Met new sitelinks

What did we gain from this change? I would argue we got virtually nothing useful out of it. The green URL Google added doesn’t really add anything to the experience, the short snippet of text from the page is too short to add real value, and the smaller links in the original design were just as readable as the new ones.

Instead of adding any real value, the new design now puts greater value on the first search result than ever before. While most users don’t necessarily look far beyond the first search result, it would still be nice if you could see more than just two or three results per page without having to scroll down.

5:57 pm