Google often dominates the SEO conversation with most businesses optimizing solely for the reigning champ of search engines, but it turns out, to have a solid SEO strategy you need to take Bing into account as well. “Great,” you think, “now we have to optimize for Bing, too? Is it really worth it?” Well, now that the combined strength of Bing and Yahoo dominates around 30% of the market share for search, and the paid search share of the network is expected to continue it’s trend of upward growth, Bing is increasing grabbing the attention of those looking to reach a wider audience and rank higher on both search platforms.
Fortunately, you don’t have to completely reinvent the wheel to optimize for Bing, but there are some factors and potential changes you need to consider. While there are some similarities in the SEO ranking factors for Bing and Google, there are also some significant differences that should be considered when optimizing your site. So, now you’re wondering, “how is Bing SEO different than Google SEO?” Let’s take a look, and find out what you need to do to best position yourself for ranking well on Bing. Keep in mind, we are talking about organic search engine rankings here, not pay-per-click.
Why Bother with Bing?
In addition to Bing’s growing market share, there are a number of reasons that optimizing your site for Bing is a good idea. To begin with, since so many websites focus on optimizing only for Google, you can help put yourself ahead of your competition by positioning your business in front of the 30% of searchers using Bing and Yahoo. That’s a lot of eyes, and a lot of potential customers that your competitors may be ignoring.
There are also some differences in the demographics of people who search using Bing and Yahoo compared to those who most often use Google. Depending on your target audience, you may want to consider the parts of the country (Great Plains, Rust Belt, Southern States) or the types of households (politically conservative) that are more likely to use Bing over Google.
And, as we know, Google frequently updates its algorithms, which can sometimes leave company’s scrambling to adjust to the changes. Should this happen to you and your high ranking position suddenly drops, its good to know that you’ll still reach a wide audience on Bing and Yahoo, while you work towards adapting to the new Google changes.
How Is Bing SEO Different than Google SEO?
Alright, let’s get down to the differences that you came here for. To begin, take a look at the key Bing SEO ranking factors found to be most important by a recent SearchMetrics analysis.
- Top brands tend to rank higher, just as they do on Google.
- Social signals correlate very closely with higher rankings.
- Backlink numbers are closely linked to higher rankings as well.
- Relevant and quality content are important for search rankings.
- On page technical factors also play an important role.
Here’s a closer look at these factors, as well as some others that you should consider when optimizing for Bing.
Brand Preferences and Website Type
Similar to Google, Bing seems to give ranking preference to brands and doesn’t necessarily apply the same criteria as it does to other domains. Both search engines seem to consider it natural for brands to have more backlinks with the name of the brand in the in the link text alone, known as “brand links”, and not rate them negatively as they might with others. That said, Bing does seem to have some difficulty distinguishing brands from related competitors.
Bing also seems to favor older websites with more official domain names, such as .gov or .edu, more than newer, commercial or popular websites that tend to be favored by Google. This means that Bing is more inclined to favor more factually relevant results over socially relevant sites, a factor to consider depending on your target audience.
Perhaps because it’s the new search engine, Bing tends to put more emphasis on social media signals than Google, including even Google+ ironically. Well-positioned results tend to have a higher number of shares, likes, tweets, and +1s, and specific URLs stand out in top results that have a high mass of social signals.
When a user searches on Bing, they can immediately see if a Facebook friend or Twitter follower has recommended or rated the company or product mentioned in the search, as well as find related Pinterest boards when searching for images. Google hasn’t yet been able to integrate social media into their search results quite as well as Bing. This is just another reason why social media should be a component of your overall marketing and SEO strategy.
While Bing seems to put more emphasis on social signals, backlinks are still important. Sites with more backlinks seem to rank higher with Bing, just as they do with Google, though the quality of those backlinks are increasingly more important that their quantity. Bing even offers a helpful link explorer tool to help better understand the value of the links on a given page.
That said, however, Bing is still a few steps behind Google with regard to how elaborately they evaluate these link features. Instead of seeking to index every piece of content available on a domain, as Google does, Bing actively removes pages from their index if they are found to not have enough link authority or value to rank on their search results. What this usually means, is that in order for a page to maintain a place in Bing’s index, it must have at least one external website link to it.
Content and Location
Relevant and quality content correlate strongly with good ranking on Bing, just as it does with Google. However, Bing seems to be more likely to reward pictures, videos, audio and more, due to what is known as “entity understanding”, while Google relies much more on text based content. And unlike Google, Bing is better equipped to interpret sites that use flash, which is all but invisible to Google. All of this is to say, having a more dynamic website that incorporates high quality content with quality and original media may help to better position your site for high ranking on both search engines.
When it comes to local searches, Bing also tends to show more small businesses, assuming the searcher wants the most proximal results. However, Google tends to sway in favor of larger, more established companies, giving preference to what it sees as the most credible results. For businesses with a local location for customers, this aspect should be an important consideration.
As you might expect, on-page technical factors and behind-the-scenes structure for a website play an important role in ranking well on Bing, just as they do with Google, though in some slightly different ways. Everything from the site speed of a URL to the position of keywords in the title can be factored into the ranking of a site. Bing has a strong correlation with homepages outranking internal pages in results to a lesser degree than Google. And while Google has evolved to be much more intuitive when it comes to the context of a page, Bing is still much more straightforward, relying upon keywords in page titles, meta tags, and specific keywords.
In the early days of Google, googlebot only crawled the first 100k of a given page, though as the crawler has matured, page size is less of an issue. Bing, on the hand, still only caches roughly the first 100k of web pages, which means that it is critical to place the most important elements of your content within that first 100k or it won’t make it into Bing’s results.
Google is good at determining a site’s Canonical URL even if it is not coded properly to return the Canonical URL, whereas Bing did not used to, but now does support the Canonical tag. They still do seem to have some issues with it.
While Google prefers a 301 (permanent URL) redirect, a 302 (temporary redirect) will not usually cause any major issues with indexing. Bing, on the other hand, will interpret a 302 as a 301, after they crawl it a few times.
Bing and Google also handle Meta Refreshes differently, a factor that should be taken under consideration. Google will follow a zero second Meta Refresh and treat it like a 301, while Bing will not. Meta Refresh will actually terminate the Bing crawler from accessing any more of the website. Bing is working on this and it may be changing soon.
While there are many similarities in the ranking factors considered by Bing and Google, it’s clear that there are enough differences to warrant making necessary adjustments to ensure that your site ranks well on both. Not only will you potentially reach a wider audience, and beat your competitors to the punch, you’ll also rank well on both Yahoo and Bing, as Bing powers Yahoo search. And while taking all of these technical components and ranking factors for the different search engines into account is important, remember to be sure that, first and foremost, you optimize your site for the visitor. As having a great, user-friendly site that people will use and return to is what will make all of the other SEO work worthwhile.