Bing People Snippets

// // March 19th 2013 // SEO

This morning (thanks to a tip from Search Engine Roundtable) I began researching what looked like authorship snippets on Bing. While it's only been an hour or so here's what I've seen and what I think I've figured out.

People Snippets

The new faces (for the most part) showing up in Bing search results are not authorship snippets per se but are people snippets derived from entities. It's about who the content is about rather than who created the content.

If you haven't seen them already here's what one looks like when you search for Lauren Cohan.

Bing People Snippets for Lauren Cohan

They look remarkably like the authorship snippets that Google has implemented but they're most certainly different in their application.

Structured Data?

The first assumption here is that Bing might be using structured data to present these new snippets. Perhaps they're using the person attribute in schema.org markup?

Structured Data Results for Lauren Cohan page

Not so much. There's no structured data on this page and I've found plenty of others getting the people snippet that are devoid of mark-up. So if Bing isn't using structured data, what are they using to match and identify people?

People Pages

Clearly they rely heavily on sources such as Wikipedia, LinkedIn and Freebase. But they seem to be expanding their data sources on people to other sites and specific pages.

Simon Le Bon People Snippets on Bing

Searching for Simon Le Bon you'll find that a people snippet appears for Wikipedia, IMDb and Biography. Wikipedia is a no-brainer and IMDb makes a good deal of sense too. Biography was the surprising one.

I noted that both IMDb and Biography had namespaces or folders (underlined in red) that seemed to be easy identifiers for entities. So I decided to look for more sources and I found them. Lots of them.

CrunchBase

CrunchBase People Snippet for Jason Calacanis

MySpace

MySpace People Snippet for Pete Myers

NBA.com

NBA.com People Snippet for Pete Myers

Quora

Quora People Snippet for Jessica Guynn

TED

TED People Snippet for Seth Godin

ESPN

ESPN People Snippet for Claude Giroux

The Canadian Encyclopedia

Canadian Encyclopedia People Snippet for Douglas Coupland

Amazon

Amazon People Snippet for Tony Basil

MTV

MTV People Snippet for Paula Abdul

Last.fm

Last.fm People Snippet for Kim Carnes

Forbes

Forbes People Snippet for Mark Cuban

NNDB

NNDB People Snippet for Alan Greenspan

Facebook

Facebook People Snippet for Matthew Inman

Twitter

Twitter People Snippet for Neil deGrasse Tyson

Yahoo! Movies

Yahoo Movies People Snippet for Will Ferrell

Hollywood.com

Hollywood.com People Snippet for Will Ferrell

AskMen

AskMen People Snippet for Will Smith

FriendFeed

FriendFeed People Snippet for Louis Gray

TV Guide

TV Guide People Snippet for Andrew Lincoln

Comedy Central

Comedy Central People Snippet for Daniel Tosh

Most of these either have a namespace that makes it easy to identify as a person or are clear profiles in the case of MySpace and FriendFeed. Whether it's 'player', 'artist', 'celebrities', 'person', 'profiles' or 'speakers' it seems like Bing has determined pages that match these specific entities.

About Pages

People snippets show up far more often on about pages which supports the idea that Bing is looking for high confidence entity pages and not assigning real authorship.

Blind Five Year Old People Snippet for AJ Kohn

As you can see I get a people snippet on my about page but not on my site as a whole. Nor do I get it returned on any of my content. Here's another example.

0at People Snippet for Matthew Inman

Again, the about page on Matthew Inman's now defunct site is given a people snippet while the site as a whole isn't. The people snippet is showing pages about that entity, not authored by that entity. It just so happens that there's some overlap in those areas.

Sorta Structured Data

Many of these pages have a rich amount of data on them. While they aren't marked-up with any structured data per se, search engines can clearly parse and use that information. Here's a people snippet via Green Day Authority.

Green Day Authority People Snippet for Bille Joe Armstrong

That page has no structured data mark-up but it has structure.

Green Day Authority Page

Characters?

Further pushing on the choice of pages to use to apply the people snippet I began to search for characters. First Harry Potter and then Derek Zoolander.

Derek Zoolander Bing Results

No people snippets are applied even though it's still pulling from IMDb. The difference here is that it's plucking out a title page and a character page instead. Maybe that's not how it works but that's how my pattern matching mind sees it right now.

[Update 3/21/13]

ChaosSEO noted that he could get character names to render people snippets. Sure enough, you can.

People Snippet for Olivia Dunham on Bing

And ...

People Snippets for Jean-Luc Picard on Bing

I tend to think that there's some special casing going on with IMDb so that it only applies the snippet to the name pages, but if you get a snippet to render for an IMBb character page please let me know.

Going through characters was actually really instructive. First I began to see that there were associations between the entities of person and character.

People Snippets for Hermoine Granger on Bing

A search for Hermione Granger produces people snippets and a result for Emma Watson. Clearly there's some understanding that the two are related. You can get that same dynamic for a number of character searches such as Gandalf or Chewbacca.

Gandalf People Snippet on Bing

Chewbacca Result on Bing

Finally, I found a result that makes me very confident that this is not authorship at all but entity detection.

Han Solo People Snippets on Bing

Clearly Harrison Ford (or Han Solo) is not the author of these pieces but the subject of them.

Decentralized Images

There are few instances where a site will get a people snippet. This seems to be rare and only occurs when Bing has high confidence that they have the right person.

Bing Seth Godin Results - Different Faces

Here we can see that a people snippet is applied to Seth's site but that the image is pulled from that site and not from some central database. This provides some variety in what is displayed but also leads to some errors from time to time.

Bing Result for Jason Calacanis

So Bing seems confident that they have the right person associated with that site but the image they pulled is not Jason. It's Wesley Chan.

Authorship?

Is this a form of Authorship? Sorta, kinda, not really. Sometimes you'll see what looks like a people snippet pop up on a content page.

Tim Gunn People Snippet on HuffPo Article

Tim is the author of that piece so there's a chance that they've identified and are trying to present Authorship based on that fact. But it's more likely they just identified him as an entity. Because the images are decentralized it pulls what it can from that article.

Mathew Ingram People Snippet

Same thing happens with this piece by Mathew Ingram. In both cases there is structured data on that page that would indicate that each is the author of that piece (though they both don't have Google Authorship working.)

So it's not true authorship and very few pieces of content have a people snippet right now but if Bing decides to follow this path, make the connections with all of their datasets (including their social sidebar results) then you could see Bing being a legitimate authorship platform.

Right now it seems like the snippets on content results are more like a side effect of people identification.

TL;DR

Bing has introduced people snippets that look like Google's Authorship snippets but are more focused on identifying people as entities through a variety of sources rather than assigning authorship of content. For now.

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Comments About Bing People Snippets

// 7 comments so far.

  1. Anthony Pensabene // March 19th 2013

    i just toyed around a bit myself.. site searches don’t elicit any images for blindfiveyearold or my blog thus far… also, i don’t use bing very much, but notice suggested image searches (suggesting other people) when searching names?

  2. James A. Holloway // March 19th 2013

    Tried searching “Blind Five Year Old” myself, and got your main page but not your about page with headshot.

    Searched for myself using quotations “James A. Holloway” and it returned my About.me page, my Linkedin page (with headshot), my Google+ page, and my twitter page as well as several other results that were not me.

  3. Chase Billow // March 19th 2013

    And not just About pages. In the “Matt Cutts” example, all Bing needed was a human photo (after correction) and strong enough signals to display a thumbnail from the image on the page of the search result.

    My advice – if you care about Bing, have a Bio page (when appropriate) with a clear headshot and appropriate alt/title tags as this is also appearing for branded searches, not necessarily just people searches (although it seems the brand has to be pretty closely related to the person). One photo seems best.

  4. Lars Skjoldby // March 19th 2013

    Amazing how far you got at so little time.

    By the way, it only seems to work with Bing United States – English.

    I just tested in Danish, German, United Kingdom and United States – Spanish, and here’s no people snippets.

    And funny how it selects Matt Cutts halloween costume as the people snippet.

  5. Siegfried // March 19th 2013

    Ha!
    Correct me if I am wrong – is the autorship gonna be the word of 2013 ? seems so!
    best regards!

  6. Chad Henkel // March 20th 2013

    AJ here’s a question: for decentralized images, have you seen entity (like the Tim Gun example) game and/or test whether the images they use increase CTR? It’d be interesting to see…

  7. AJ Kohn // March 21st 2013

    Chad,

    There’s been some research on Google Authorship photos that different photos can lead to higher CTR. Just like in real life, pretty folks often have a bit of an advantage, particularly on that first glance. For Bing, you might be able to try to do that but the selection of the image doesn’t seem very uniform right now so I think it would actually be harder to game right now.

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