When it comes to optimizing content for search, any discussion is typically focused on Google. No surprise—Google not only transformed search, it remains the 800-pound gorilla.
But there are other search engines that many people use instead of Google. Among those, Microsoft’s Bing is a real factor. It also presents an opportunity to gain traction quickly, as long as you take some steps to optimize for Bing.
Why should I care? The traffic potential of Bing
It’s fair to wonder if investing time and resources in Bing is worth it. After all, Google dominates every conversation about search. When people say they are doing SEO, it is generally assumed they are talking about optimizing their content for Google.
If you look deeper, however, you’ll see that Google may not have the stranglehold you imagine. Yes, they are dominant—about 75% of all internet searches are done through Google.
But 75% isn’t 100%. Let’s talk about that other 25%—it’s significant market share and Bing has the biggest portion of it.
As Morgan Taylor, CMO at LetMeBank, notes, “So many people are focused on Google SEO that they don’t even think about the fact that between 25% and 35% of users are going to use Bing as a search engine. The fact that most people are considering Google and not Bing indicates that Bing is going to be less competitive which means you have a better chance of having a higher ranking.”
For starters, Mozilla, the popular open-source browser, recently ended its relationship with Google. It has turned to Yahoo as its default search engine. Yes, that Yahoo.
Why does Yahoo matter when we’re talking about Bing? Well, since October of 2019, Yahoo search has been powered by the Bing search engine. Optimize for Bing and you are basically doing the same for Yahoo—the Yahoo Webmaster Tools have been replaced by Bing Webmaster Tools. Many people have started to refer to it as the YBN—the Yahoo/Bing Network.
Together, Bing and Yahoo account for a serious chunk of search activity in the United States. The demographics of its users also make Bing attractive—roughly ⅓ of Bing users have annual incomes of $100,000 USD or more. What’s more, because many companies underestimate the value of Bing, it’s easier to rank well in search queries than it can be on Google since the competition is not as fierce.
And what about the B2B audience? 57% of B2B marketers say search is their best lead source, and Bing has outsized numbers when it comes to reaching this audience. It makes sense—so many companies still work in Windows environments. On these systems, Microsoft Edge is typically the default browser, and employees are often required. That means their default search engine whenever they’re at work is Bing.
Here are eight ways to improve your search results on Bing.
1. Learn Bing Webmaster Tools
Part of optimizing for Bing is using and understanding Bing Webmaster Tools. If you rely on the tools that Google provides—and you should—make sure you’re getting the most out of them on Bing as well.
For starters, it’s powerful. There’s a great dashboard, a tech diagnostics panel, a keyword research tool, a controller for managing outbound links, a reporting tool, and more.
Together, these features make it easy to track overall search performance, the Click-Through Rates from each search, pages that were crawled and indexed, and the top organic search keywords. You’ll need a Microsoft account to use Bing Webmaster Tools, but if you want to rank well on this search engine, you really need to use it.
For instance, if you’re finding it’s taking a while for Bing to find your site and do a crawl, Bing Webmaster Tools has a feature called Crawl Control. Use it to set a crawl rate and specify the time of day when you want your site to be crawled. Before you do that, however, make sure your site map is sparkly clean. Just like in Google, Bing has little patience for “dirt” in a site map—too many 404 redirects, for instance, will result in your site being penalized in search rankings. You also need to manage your 301 and 302 redirects well—remember that a 301 redirect will be treated as permanent while a 302 redirect is viewed as a temporary change by search engines. The best practice is to make sure that all your permanent redirects are written as 301s.
Finally, as much as we believe Bing has real value, you do want to ensure that your efforts to optimize for it don’t damage or hinder your SERP on Google. Use the panel in Bing Webmaster Tools to diagnose and analyze results—and compare them to Google. If you see your SERP on Google dip because of your work with Bing, you may need to make some adjustments.
2. Take Care of Bing Ranking Factor Basics
Some of the first steps you take to optimize for Bing are similar to tasks you need to complete with Google.
In Bing Webmaster Tools, submit your site and provide the URL with your site’s XML site map. Then make sure your site is tagged and categorized, if you haven’t already done that. Ensure robots.txt allows indexing and Bing should find it, but it doesn’t hurt to submit it as well. Once these details are handled, you should begin to see rankings improve.
It’s also valuable to use Bing Places for Business—create a new listing or claim ownership of an existing one. This is especially important for local search.
3. Insist on Quality Content
Like Google, optimizing content for Bing means ensuring quality. Both search engines serve their customers by providing quick access to content that matches their needs and answers the questions they’re asking.
First, it needs to be relevant. But it also needs to be complete—both Google and Bing seem to be rewarding content of greater length than in the past, believing that it indicates more thoroughly researched material and greater comprehensiveness.
Make sure your content is information-rich and valuable to the reader. While Bing may have a more old-fashioned take on keywords than Google does, it still rejects content from its rankings when it believes there is keyword stuffing. Images with text, video, infographics—use these to enhance the experience for the user and improve the rank of your site in Bing.
Remember to factor in these elements when creating quality content for Bing:
- Be comprehensive and satisfy search intent.
- Write in a style that is appropriate for your target audience.
- Source the information and credit the author whenever possible.
- Format and present content in a way that is easy to follow.
- Maintain a clear distinction between sponsored and owned content.
4. Use Keywords Correctly
Target keywords are just as critical with Bing as they are with Google, but there are subtle differences.
Bing, for instance, places more importance on exact match keywords, in a way that is a bit more like the way Google did in its early days. Topic completeness also matters—every search engine wants to point users to results that answer as many questions as possible.
Semantic keywords are less valuable. This can be challenging when you’re trying to rank on both search engines since Google can view that as keyword stuffing, especially if your content doesn’t flow naturally or fails to completely address the topic.
That said, Bing is still looking for quality content. Just try to find a balance—get your exact match keywords in without stuffing.
Overall, Bing can be considered slightly less advanced because it relies more on some legacy search factors when it comes to ranking. Exact match domains, the use of specific keywords in headings, title tags—all of these appear to carry more weight as the ranking factors.
While Google may now incorporate other elements in its algorithm, these elements still carry clout in its rankings, too. In other words, you’re unlikely to hurt your results on Google by making sure these details score well with Bing. In the long run, the work will yield positive results.
5. Push User Engagement
According to Tonya Davis, Marketing Manager at ThoughtLab, “One of Bing’s largest ranking factors is user engagement. So ensuring you have a low bounce rate is going to play a critical role in your rankings. This means monitoring your Bing Webmaster tools and using various tactics to improve user engagement is key.”
Whether you’re trying to rank for Bing or not, it’s a good practice to monitor this anyway. Google may not place quite the same premium on bounce rate as Bing does, but the two search engines have begun to converge around many of the same factors. For instance, both are beginning to rely more on RankBrain, a machine learning artificial intelligence system, to drive search results.
Finally, and again this is true for any search engine, backlinks matter. But they do seem to carry more weight on Bing than Google. Marcu Tober, CTO and Founder of Searchmetrics, notes that, “The number of backlinks seems to be the most relevant metric for Bing.”
Here’s how Bing explains their approach to backlinks.
“The site linking to your content is essentially telling Bing they trust your content…Bing rewards links that have grown organically…links that have been added over time by content creators on other trusted, relevant websites made to drive real users from their site to your site…links buying, participating in link schemes (link farms, link spamming and excessive link manipulation) can lead to your site being delisted from the Bing index.”
6. Use Social Media to Drive Bing Search
Bing makes no secret of the importance it places on social media. It may see this as a way to differentiate itself from Google, and it’s definitely a key ranking factor.
Bing places more importance on user engagement. The search engine values connections to social media influencers and a consistent presence in social media channels.
According to Bing’s own webmaster guidelines, “Social media plays a role in today’s effort to rank well in search results. The most obvious part it plays is via influence. If you are a social influencer, your followers tend to share your information widely, which in turn results in Bing seeing these positive signals. These positive signals can have an impact on how your site ranks organically in the long run.”
In addition to social influencers, Bing places a premium on things like Shares, Likes, and Comments, since it indicates the level of engagement it values. Encourage your customers to be active on your site, and use your social media brand to build your audience.
Make sure your main ranking pages are ones that perform well on social media. If Bing sees traffic move from social to your site, and that is followed through with a low Bounce Rate, you will eventually be rewarded with higher rankings on Bing.
7. Turn to Bing as a Tool for B2B
Were you surprised about the size of the group that uses Bing for search? Well, you should also consider some of the specific industries that rely on Bing more than Google.
Bing can be a valuable tool for B2B, especially in categories such retail, finance, and technology. In these sectors, perhaps owing to the popularity of platforms such as Yahoo Finance, Bing has traction. And remember—the Windows operating system still powers desktops in the corporate world, and many companies require their employees to use Edge as their browser. And using Edge is going to mean they will most likely use Bing.
If you’re trying to reach a B2B audience, don’t ignore Bing—both organically and with Bing Ads. This platform can be especially valuable for smaller companies up against larger competitors or startups that with bootstrapping budgets. As with organic search, the competition is less intense, so the Cost-Per-Click is lower than it is when you use Google Ads.
8. Try Bing Places
Geographic targeting has real value when you’re working to rank in Bing. While you can focus on audiences this way through the structure of your website, Bing lets you indicate the location of your audience by using Bing Places.
Free to join, simple and straightforward, using Bing Places also helps you optimize for Bing search rankings. Within Bing Webmaster Tools, you’ll find the instructions you need to list your business—they’re easy to follow. Bing Places is an important tool for local SEO, and works in a way that is very similar to My Business from Google.
Is this the Big Bing?
Well, that might be a stretch. No SEO expert sees the importance and dominance of Google diminishing anytime soon.
But Bing is a channel that far too many companies ignore. There are clear benefits to optimizing quality content for Bing—less competition, an opportunity to leverage social media, a demographic that skews slightly higher, a B2B slant. Make sure your site is Bing-ready, compare the results to Google, and you will eventually see the value of your efforts.