Here at Advantec, a lot of our blogs focus on Google, particularly when it comes to SEO. After all, Google are synonymous with search – it’s how they got their start in the industry way back in the late 90s, and no other search engine has come close to their global market share since.
But this time, we thought we’d talk about another search engine which has been largely forgotten by the SEO community – and why you might want to give it another look.
What is Bing?
You’re probably already aware of Bing, the latest in a line of Microsoft-owned search engines (previous efforts including MSN Search, Windows Live Search and simply Live Search). Launched in 2009, Bing takes a slightly different approach than Google, with Microsoft initially marketing it as a counter to ‘information overload’. (We’ll talk more about how it does this later in the article.)
What you might not know is that these days, Yahoo Search and Bing are essentially the same thing. Following a deal back in 2009, Bing has been powering Yahoo’s search engine with their own technology, which means that optimising for one of them is really the same as optimising for both of them. Since the start of the new year, AOL searches are now powered by Bing as well.
Why bother with Bing?
It’s certainly true that Bing hasn’t reached the level of success that Google has had with their organic search – or the ubiquity. When was the last time you ‘binged’ something? We’re guessing it was back when it was first released. When was the last time you ‘googled’ something? You’ve probably already used Google a few times today.
Many web marketers don’t see the point in optimising for Bing, viewing it as an inferior service with a tiny user base. But hang on – there are actually a lot of good reasons for concentrating at least a good portion of your SEO efforts on the underappreciated search engine. Here are just a few:
Bing’s market share is growing
As of January 2016, Bing has a UK market share of 9.44%, while Yahoo has a share of 3.77% – that’s 13.21% altogether. It may not seem like much, but when you consider that Google (with their 85.71% UK market share) receive an estimated 1.2 trillion global searches per year, you can still potentially reach an audience of billions just by focusing on Bing alone.
What’s more, that figure is growing. This time two years ago, Bing’s market share in the UK was 6.26% – last year, it had gone up to almost 7%. With Google’s share slowly beginning to dip, could we one day see the two search engines levelling out with an equal share of the market – or perhaps see Bing overtake its rival altogether?
It’s leading the way for certain audiences and industry sectors
As with all areas of marketing, your SEO should be optimised for particular segments of your audience, rather than trying to pull in everyone at once. Here’s where Bing can help you with that – their audience is not only smaller, but it seems to have a slightly different genetic makeup.
In the US at least, Bing is more popular than Google with adults 35 and over, and has more female users than men. Households with children also favour Bing, as do households with incomes over $75,000. If these areas match up with the audience you’re targeting with your business, you might find yourself bringing in more traffic and conversions by optimising for Bing.
In addition, Bing seems to have conquered the market for certain business sectors. Here’s an example: on Bing Ads, the search engine’s PPC platform, 11 million of the 14 million searches within the automotive sector in the US were exclusive to Yahoo and Bing.
It’s not the only sector, either – the Yahoo and Bing Network also has the edge on Google for business & finance, education and travel, among others.
You’re putting all your eggs in one basket with Google
So you’re currently number 1 on Google for all of the keywords you’re targeting. Search traffic is flying through the door and your site is bringing in money faster than you can count it.
Then, Google makes a significant change to its algorithm. Suddenly, your site has vanished from the first page of results; and the second page, and the third page…
Traffic numbers take a huge drop, and so does your income. What’s more, you’re going to have to invest more time, money and effort into working out what went wrong and how you can put it right – if you can put it right.
This premise isn’t as exaggerated as you might think. It’s no secret that Google’s previous algorithm updates have upset a lot of small business owners; when the infamous Penguin update rolled out in 2012, some legitimate companies saw their traffic from search drop by over 90%, simply because they mistakenly hired black hat SEO firms which (unbeknownst to them) were actually crippling them in the long run.
Of course, this wouldn’t be such a problem if more businesses relied on more than one source for their search traffic. Limiting yourself to Google and only Google means you’re always at the mercy of Google’s algorithm; branch out to other search engines and make your success more sustainable in the long run.
How do I optimise my site for Bing?
Some companies assume that SEO will automatically cover all search engines, and getting good rankings on Google probably means you’re getting good rankings on Bing too.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t work like that. While they share some common ranking signals (such as having healthy backlink profiles, good content and staying away from black hat techniques), Google and Bing operate using their own individual algorithms. The key here is to optimise your site in a way which appeases both services – not the easiest task when their individual approaches to search deviate in a few particular ways.
Remember, Bing aims to avoid ‘information overload’, and this philosophy carries through into the way it indexes and ranks each site. Here’s a few tips on effective optimisation.
You’ll want to start by getting your site indexed on Bing as soon as possible. Submitting your site is pretty straightforward – you just input your URL and that’s all there is to it – but you need to make sure your site is crawlable first, so get all your regular technical SEO elements (such as your robots.txt, canonical tags for duplicate content and working link structures) in place first.
It’s wise to open a free account with Microsoft, as this will give you access to webmaster tools where you can upload a sitemap to assist Bing’s crawlers. Indexing takes a bit longer on Bing than it does on Google, but be patient and it should appear.
Select an older, authoritative domain
Unlike Google, which tends to favour newer sites, Bing actually looks for the age of a site as an indication of its value to users. If you’re starting a new site and you’re looking to pursue high Bing rankings from the get-go, it might be worth purchasing an older domain to host your site.
Bing also likes ‘official’ domains such as .gov and .edu. Obviously this isn’t the most helpful information if you’re a commercial business rather than an authoritative organisation, but it’s something to keep in mind as it gives an insight into Bing’s strategy – putting an emphasis on information with heritage rather than new, socially-oriented content.
Be more literal with your keywords
Bing places more value on keywords placed in your URL, title tags, meta descriptions, H1s and other meta content than Google does; and rather than recognising and returning results for synonyms like Google will, it tends to take keyword queries at face value.
You need to make sure you’re using exact keywords in your meta data, but don’t overdo it or you might incur a Google penalty.
List your business profile
Good news for small, local businesses – local results are a big deal for Bing. If the user’s search query has more than one potential meaning, Bing will usually try to send them to local results first.
Make sure you have your business listed on the search engine’s Business Portal – you’ll probably find it’s already there, but you’ll need to claim it and ensure all your details are there. Make sure they match up with the details you have on your website and other areas of your web presence.