Microsoft has remodeled their search engine over and over again. The Microsoft Network, or MSN whose origins started as an ISP and an online portal when Windows 95 was launched, grew into a search engine that was always trailing as the 3rd most used search engine behind Google and Yahoo in terms of search engine usage with the United States.
From MSN.com to Live.com and finally Bing.com, it is now branding itself as a “decision engine.” Do they mean Bing has some unique decision algorithm in giving relevant results and that it can decide on what are the best sites for you to look at? Not really. It is a decision engine that gives you various types of results that may help you decide on what you are looking for. In my opinion this just sounds like Google Universal Search Results, they just gave it a new name (from Live to Bing) and slapped a full marketing campaign on various advertising mediums to spread the word of the Gospel of Bing everywhere.
Should I even care about Bing?
From daily SEO interactions with SEO friends working at an SEO firm, SEO friends on forums I interact with daily, to some SEO competitors who joined Sulumits Retsambew SEO Contest, a large percent of SEO professionals do not even care about Bing because they believe Google has the majority search usage worldwide. Based on some research data by comScore, last April 2009, Google websites receive about 8 times more search queries than Microsoft websites.
Is this the case forever? We cannot really say since Microsoft is really pushing their search engine in this all out marketing campaign for Bing. There are some sites showing Bing gaining in market share. As for the usage, several news sites and blogs are showing an increase in Bing search traffic but this can still be due to the campaign that makes everyone curious about Bing, thus everyone checks it out. In the end, it will still boil down to how pleased the search engine users are in being able to look for what they are searching for. So we still have yet to see in the next few months if Bing’s traffic sticks, continues to increase or will drop again to being only the 3rd most used search engine again.
Going back to the question: should you even care about Bing? Well, if Bing is only 8.2% of all search queries, this can still be a big number. The US has 220 million Internet users and about 73% of those use search engines for shopping. That is an estimated 13 million people searching with Bing in the US. Still a large market to target. Ok, you can say my numbers are not accurate. My B2C Local Business Search data was from Nielsen back in September 2007, but even 50% of 13 million is still a significant amount of people using Bing.
I’m an SEO and what do I need to know about Bing?
Ok SEO people, what do we need to know? Since Live.com, we have been seeing Microsoft reach out to SEO people, when they came out with their own XML Sitemap submission area, with some basic top 5 backlink info, and making an MS Excel plugin for keyword research from Microsoft’s AdCenter. Now with Bing, they have released a Bing webmaster guideline document for the SEO people that care about Bing.
Most SEO concepts are the same throughout search engines. Good SEO best practices are valid for most search engines. And in this 24 pages of information of Bing’s webmaster guidelines, after reading all of it, I will try to sum it up into 3 key bullet points that may be unique to Bing:
- Target Category Keywords that appear on the upper left of the SERPs. You want to make sure you appear on all of them that are good converting keywords for your business. People usually narrow down search results by adding in keyword modifiers and Bing suggest these, so that people do not have to think or type and may find it convenient to click. It is even placed on the top left sidebar where navigational menus people normally click on.
- Optimize the Document Preview of your pages. All SEO people know that the Title tag and Meta description tag does not only help in the ranking process but if written well, these can be more compelling to click and increases CTR. Now aside from these two, Bing now has the Document preview which based on current observations it is pulling in the initial content found on the page. Thus, for your first few paragraphs, it would be ideal to write something very unique that compels users to click on.Having your address and phone number which is a normal practice for Local SEO is a good thing since Document Preview will try to look for this information and place it in the preview window.
If you do not want this feature enabled, you can use the nopreview tag.
<meta name=”robots” content=”nopreview” />
- Implement SEO Flash Best Practices. Bing has expressed their sophistication in this technology by specifically stating the following:
When titles and/or Meta descriptions don’t exist on an HTML page, at runtime Bing creates a best-effort caption from relevant external sources of reliable information to populate the caption with meaningful data for the searcher. Bing, in the effort to improve searcher experience and avoid empty captions, can even construct captions using keyword inbound link text from external, authoritative websites to help create basic captions where no publisher data exists.
Initially this sounds good. But sometimes any information based on other websites may give you a limited amount of control. Every business has enemies and sometimes even if the enemies are a minority, they can sometimes be the “noisiest” online and could be creating a significant amount of negative publicity for your business. You do not want Bing to show this information thus as a precautionary measure: always do Flash properly.
Everything else mentioned in their webmaster guideline whitepaper is all standard SEO best practices applicable to other search engines, such as good content, unique title tags and Meta tags, avoid duplicate content, etc.
So if you know SEO already these are the 3 main differences you might want to look at when optimizing for Bing.