Understanding How Bing’s New “People Snippets” Work

bing logoLast week, the SEO community began noticing a new element in the Bing SERPs. The snippets and images that started to appear underneath results look like Google authorship, but they seem to act completely differently. Several theories were quickly developed on how Bing is generating these snippets, all of which generally focus on the idea of subjectship.

Authorship Confusion

Since SEOs are used to Google’s authorship snippets, the first assumption was that Bing was rolling out its own version of author tags. Like Google authorship, Bing’s new snippets present an image related to an article and offer a short description of a person related to the article. Also like Google, Bing’s search results present a more extensive persona description on the right side of the page.

However, the similarities between the Google author snippets and Bing’s new snippets end there. Different titles that have been applied to this new element include person schema, people snippets, and subjectship, since SEOs were quick to point out that the snippets were generally based on the subject of the result rather than the author.

Although the author of a post might be occasionally linked to the result, in general these snippets seem to identify the subject or focus on the content of the link. SEOs are theorizing that Bing could be trying out a new base of subjects that can be linked to articles.

Bing’s Sources

Bing appears to be drawing its information from high confidence pages, primarily ones that include a namespace in the URL. Wikipedia and LinkedIn are clearly major sources, but other sites that influence these snippets range from MTV, ESPN, and NBA.com to Forbes, Myspace, and Amazon.

Since Bing is relying on these high profile sites, their information is generally correct, although SEOs have already spotted a few mistakes, such as misidentified images. Another interesting twist on the images is that they vary even when related to the same person since they are drawn from the content of the link.

Further Evidence

The final piece of evidence that convinced SEOs that Bing was focusing on subjectship is the fact that searches for fictional characters also generate person schemas. For instance, searching Bing for “Han Solo” produces results with a photo and snippet about the character. An interesting side note is that Bing’s database is able to link characters to the actors that play them in these snippets.

How To Deal

Until Bing is ready to present an official explanation of the new subjectship, all SEOs can do is continue to practice reliable, white hat SEO, which means encouraging organic links, conducting keyword research, and offering exciting new content.

What’s your take on Bing’s new people snippets?

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Sarah Beth

Sarah Beth Wiltse earned her BA in English at Boston University. Though she currently lives in Dallas, TX, she spent a year in Paris, France after college, cultivating her love of the French language and a passion for travelling. She has spent much of her life developing her skills in the arts, primarily as a ballerina, violinist, and pianist - and now, a writer! Follow her on Twitter!

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