Why Optimize for Bing?

In the world of search engines, particularly in North America and Europe, there is an 800-pound gorilla that needs to be addressed: Google.

Since starting in 1997, the company’s brand has become synonymous with the concept of the search engine itself. With a worldwide market share of over 90%, it can be difficult to look beyond Google’s vast slice of the search engine pie.

And yet, Bing, Microsoft’s search engine, still retains a share of around 2.5% worldwide. This relatively small figure can be deceptive, as Bing is used at higher rates in some of the world’s largest markets, such as the US (6.5%), Japan (4.7%), UK (4.6%), Canada (4.6%), France (4%), Australia (3.6%), and Germany (3.4%). It should also be noted that, while Google dominates in mobile searches worldwide (95% vs Bing’s 0.45%), Bing clocks in at 5.8% on desktop, a platform preferred more heavily by an older demographic.

In addition, Bing’s search engine algorithm also power’s Yahoo’s search engine platform, meaning that Bing’s low market share is deceiving. By optimizing for Bing’s search platform, you are also optimizing for Yahoo. All this means that, for website owners and businesses looking to fully extend their SEO reach, Bing can still represent a small opportunity. In the world of online business, a few percent can make a big difference.

Though still dwarfed by Google worldwide, Bing’s continued presence in large markets, desktop search, and Yahoo partnership ensures that it will continue to play a significant, if somewhat minor, role in the SEO landscape with its own unique search engine algorithm and ranking factors to optimize around.

Bing Ranking Factors & Its Algorithm

So, what aspects make Bing unique from Google? How do you rank for keywords on Bing? What ranking factors should a webmaster or a SEO agency optimize when tailoring a strategy for Bing?

Bing and Google use largely the same ranking factors but handle these factors differently. Bing’s algorithm substantially differs from Google’s search engine in at least one regard: its reliance on machine learning. According to Search Engine Roundtable’s Barry Schwartz, Bing’s ranking algorithm utilizes machine learning/AI in over 90% of search results. Compare this with Google’s core ranking algorithm, which Schwartz guesses is “at about 20% or so.” Bing’s Senior Program Manager Lead, Frédéric Dubut claims, the search engine’s use of machine learning allows the algorithm to “rank documents in the same order as humans would…” On just a surface level, this coincides with Google’s long-standing goal of understanding query intent, the human side of search, but the mechanics are likely to differ.

What about Bing’s ranking factors? Here again Google and Bing have several significant differences. The table below gives a side-by-side comparison of the different factors used by Google and Bing’s search engine algorithms.

Bing vs. Google

Factor

Google

Bing/Yahoo

Mobile OptimizationMobile first index and unique mobile ranking factors including sites that fit in mobile browsersSites should fit in mobile browsers and be mobile optimized
Title TagsUsed as a ranking signalUsed as a ranking signal
Content KeywordsRecognizes synonyms and context of a keywordExact keywords work better
DA & PA (Backlinks)PA is weighted over DA with focus on quality of backlinksConsiders DA for rankings. Favors .edu and .gov sites.
Flash ContentDoesn’t support FlashIs able to crawl Flash and encourages it in some cases
Meta Keyword TagsIgnored completelyUsed as a spam signal, not a ranking factor
Social MediaUnknown or little importanceSocial media popularity and sharing are used for ranking
Double-Meaning QueriesFor keywords with multiple meanings, the more popular site will rank firstProvides local search results

 

Mobile Friendliness

Compared to Google, Bing is not as focused on mobile optimization. But it does still care. Google caused a lot of stress when it told the SEO world that it’d be moving to mobile first indexing in 2018 – signaling to the world that it was prioritizing the dominance of mobile internet browsing. Mobile friendliness is a Bing ranking factor – they even offer a mobile friendliness test tool for it, but not as much. Similar to Google, Bing considers viewport configuration, proper page fit, text readability, content spacing, and button size on mobile browsers.

Keywords in Content

Bing relies more on exact keywords in content. This is an area where there’s at least some overlap between Google and Bing. Both rely on the use of keywords in content to signal to their algorithm’s relevancy, but Bing’s ranking algorithms care more about exact match and specific keyword use. Google instead as broadened to include synonyms as part of its latent semantic understanding of content.

If you’ve curated a healthy keyword strategy for Google – with synonymous keywords, and valuable long-tail keywords – there’s a good chance that you are already half-way to better Bing rankings.

Domains vs URLs

Microsoft’s Bing also favors domain authority (DA) more than modern Google does. This means it more heavily weighs an entire website’s authority and relevancy when considering search. Individual page authority plays a role as well, but it is not as important as it is for Bing’s main competitor. Though Google has always considered DA, it’s grown over the years to focus on an individual page’s factors for ranking them in search.

There’s also evidence that domains with exact keyword matching tend to perform better in search. Something that Google has regarded as obsolete. There’s no reason to change your domain to try and capitalized on this – but if you have a keyword focused domain name, this is one area where you may see differences in your Bing ranking performance.

Flash

Bing sometimes prefers Flash content (as opposed to not supporting it altogether) and emphasizes local-specific search results. Both elements familiar to Google, but still handled differently.

If you’re interested in balancing your SEO efforts between both search engines – be sure that any Flash you use doesn’t detract from Google’s ability to read the main content on your page.

Backlinks

Backlinks do play a role in both search engines as well. But for Bing, the quality and age of backlinks are more of a key focus. It seems that older domains and those with authoritative TLDs (.gov. edu, org, for example) tend to be held in higher regard.

Meta Keyword Tags

One topic that distinguishes Bing from Google is its consideration of “meta keyword” tags. Google has completely ignored meta keywords for years now – since in the early days of SEO they were heavily abused. Bing’s algorithm does look at meta keywords in a page’s source code, by they are not used for ranking. Instead Bing’s algorithm uses them as a spam indicator. If the keywords listed in the “meta keyword” tag are not found in the pages actual content, it might lead to the page being penalized.

Social Media and Sharing

One of the biggest differences between these two search engines is the use of social media and social sharing as a signal for rankings. Google denies that social signals play a role in its rankings, but Bing has confirmed that sharing is an important SEO ranking factor based on influence. Content that is popular and shared frequently on social media may rank better on Bing because its algorithm is designed to acknowledge social signals.

For Bing, the more that content is shared and reshared the better it could potentially do on Bing SERPs. With this data also comes more SERP features on Bing that come from social media. For example, the search engine’s algorithm is able to source data from social media to place in its SERP knowledge graphs.

Though Bing is generally overshadowed by Google in the search engine arena, the place it holds in the online landscape should not be underestimated by webmasters and SEOs alike. With a unique algorithm and its own set of keyword ranking factors, Bing continues to demonstrate its prowess as one of the major search engines available.

 

For more information on how to rank on Bing and to get strategic SEO optimization, contact us. Get a free site consultation along with information on our complete SEO resources.