Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Can Bing Be More Competitive In Search?

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Recently, Nathan Safran wrote a piece titled, “The Bing Dilemma: What To Do With The Little Search Engine That Can’t.”
In it, he posits that everything Bing has done in the past to grab market share is not working, partly because people are so used to using Google that any hope of capturing market share from the #1 player is an impossible dream. He suggests that, since the online division has been “bleeding rivers of cash with little to show for it” for many years, it might be time for Bing to give up altogether.
I would grant Bing a little more gravitas and a little more time. With new management at the top and guidance by its founder, maybe Microsoft’s Bing will become the little engine that could.
Remember, folks, Google may not always be the only show in town. While Google is powerful, successful and trusted worldwide, it’s had legal problems in Europe and could have more in the future with Glass. Who’s to say the US government won’t again go after Google for antitrust the way it went after Microsoft years ago? When it comes to business, Google is not exactly “sticking to the knitting,” with its driverless car projectfloating data center, private airport terminal and other interests that have nothing to do with search.
So, while most articles on SEO focus on optimizing for Google, Bing ended last year with an all-time high market share of search activity in the US. Not only that, Bing’s new CEO, Satya Nadella, has years of software engineering and business experience at Microsoft and will have Bill Gates by his side. His experience as senior vice-president of R&D for the Online Services Division and vice-president of the Microsoft Business Division makes Nadella uniquely qualified to take Bing to the next level.
With the new focus on cloud computing, big data, mobile marketing, semantic search and social media, the world of search and Internet marketing is changing rapidly. Nadella is well equipped to deal with these changes, as he was also Microsoft’s cloud and enterprise group executive vice-president in charge of building and running Microsoft’s computing platforms, developer tools and cloud services.
All that experience in search and related technologies, along with Bing’s social partnerships (Facebook, Twitter and Klout) and a renewed focus on mobile, could result in making Bing more competitive in search.
Bing was launched in 2009, having evolved from MSN Search and then Windows Live (Live). Later that year, Microsoft and Yahoo made a deal enabling Bing to power Yahoo Search. Since then, Bing’s search market share has increased at the expense of Yahoo.
Why focus on Bing when search optimization is more or less generic? It hasn’t always been that way. Some of you may recall the early days of search when SEO technicians complained about the difficulties of SEO because of all the different algorithms. Today, that’s mostly history — not because we complained, but because all the search engines are essentially trying to solve the same problem: identifying and satisfying user intent.
While differences in algorithms of course exist between search engines, we don’t know exactly what they are because search engines won’t divulge the nitty-gritty — it’s their secret sauce, after all. But the bottom line is that quality content, a good user experience (UX) and a mix of signals from links, social media and traffic, etc., all contribute to rankings, regardless of the search engine.
Still, the #2 US search engine has come a long way. It’s gotten serious about satisfying user intent by focusing on semantic search with its own Knowledge Graph (Snapshot). Bing also has a social sidebar which brings social information to the SERPs. Anyone familiar with Bing Blogscan tell you that Bing is serious about personalization with its focus on Adaptive Search.
All these changes and the gradual increase in search market share make it worthwhile to optimize for Bing. Even if that doesn’t involve any significant changes to your SEO strategy, it’s good to note that Bing has some useful tools to offer that can streamline your optimization efforts.

Optimizing For #2

In most aspects, optimizing for Bing will not require any additional work or adjustments to your existing SEO strategy. Bing Webmaster Guidelines provides a complete list of SEO best practices that will improve the technical and editorial aspects of your site for optimum visibility on Bing Search, and you can see that the recommendations are nearly identical to Google’s.
Bing Webmaster Tools does have a few features which help to ensure visibility within Bingspecifically, and you should take the time to checks these out:
  • Use “Crawl Control” Feature: Within Bing Webmaster Tools, you can define your high crawl rate hours. This helps Bing allocate resources more efficiently.
  • Do a “Fetch As Bingbot”: This verifies that Bingbot is not blocked accidentally at the server level. It’s rare, but something as simple as this could prevent you from being indexed in Bing.
  • Use the “Ignore URL Parameters”: This is under “Configure My Site” in Bing Webmaster Tools and allows Bingbot to understand which of your URLs should be indexed and which URLs can be ignored, saving Bingbot resources. In addition, you can use the <rel canonical> tag to help Bing understand which page should be indexed and have value attributed to it.
Additionally, Bing has been improving its search tools, making it easier for site owners to optimize for the #2 Search Engine (or any search engine, for that matter).
Webmasters would do well to use Bing’s SEO Analyzer, a tool that scans a single page at a time, making it possible to check your pages to understand where more work may be required. Another great tool is SEO Reports, which are generated automatically every other week using the same set of SEO best practices as the SEO Analyzer tool. SEO Reports provide aggregated counts of all the issues found, across the entire website scanned.
My advice? Consider optimizing for Bing. The little engine that could may continue to gain search market share and popularity. What can you lose? Organic rankings on Bing can provide you with many additional opportunities for conversions and revenue.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.