Written by: Drew Lyon Austin, Texas
In the realm of search engine optimization, Google is frequently referenced: the Google algorithm, the Google Panda update, your Google rankings, etc.; but in the realm of search engine optimization, there is another powerful player—that player is BING.
For a moment, let’s consider SEO an actual piece of land—of territory. In this scenario, King Google is the most powerful ruler in the land, controlling the largest piece of the search engine territory and imposing his rules upon many humble subjects. A lesser king, King BING, has fewer subjects roaming about but still holds enough power to make his own rules. And though fewer people use his search platform, it’s still important to know exactly what rules he is using to formulate their (search) rank (after all, you wouldn’t want to be expelled from the land of BING, would you?). Furthermore, you might have already noticed that your rankings in BING often differ from those in Google, which begs the question, “What exactly is BING doing differently?”
A brief history of Bing
On July 3rd, 2009, Microsoft’s un-celebrated “Live Search” was re-branded and re-skinned as “BING.” BING’s homepage design, featuring full-size background photos (swapped-out daily) with fun trivia bits, marked a drastic departure from the all-white minimalist design signature to Google. This was an intentional attempt to show users, right from the start, they were putting a different spin on search.
Soon after launch, BING’s marketing team dropped the “search engine” moniker in favor of the label “decision engine,” claiming that their platform would not only help you find the information but could help you disseminate the answer. One of BING’s distinguishing features is it’s inclusion of relevant information within search results. If you search “baseball scores,” you see the latest game scores directly in the search results, if you’re looking for “cheap flights to las vegas,” BING Travel will show you prices right in their results, in theory, helping make your “decision” easier.
Later in 2009, BING made a deal with Yahoo in which their search engine would power Yahoo’s. By combining forces with Yahoo, BING instantly secured it’s place as an important force in the search engine world—now powering nearly 30% of searches (between BING & Yahoo). In keeping with the previous analogy, once BING conquered the land of Yahoo, they more than doubled their user base and basically reduced the search engine race to a field of two.
Unlocking the BING algorithm
Fancy design excluded, we return to the question of how BING’s algorithm is formulated. In the past month BING has released information on how it weights content and backlinks to produce search engine rankings. In both respects, the BING algorithm is similar to that of Google in the sense of quality over quantity. With that in mind, a large quantity of quality content and backlinks is always your best bet for high search rankings on any search engine. Instead of explaining the details of their algorithm, BING offers a series of things to avoid when creating content and establishing backlinks.
First things first – Evaluating content
When it comes to content, here are a few rules, according to BING, to keep in mind:
- Make sure your content is not thin, that is to say you don’t want to create pages with little to no actual content. If you don’t have enough to say on the subject, you probably do not need a webpage for it.
- Bearing the previous point in mind, while you want to position yourself as an authority on the subject at hand, you should not have content purely for content’s sake. Make sure your content has a purpose and is cohesive.
- Never steal content from another source. Search engine spiders are trained to spot duplicate content and will only reward original content with higher rankings.
- Make sure you balance between text and images on your webpages. Ultimately you are constructing your website for visitors, and a good combination of both things will be most likely to keep your audience engaged. Too much of one thing will hurt not only your search rankings but also conversion.
- Avoid online translation utilities if you plan to launch your website in another language. These are unreliable, and an illogical translation can lower your search ranking and drive away the very market you are targeting.
- Perhaps it should be number one, but most importantly, build your website for your user. Use meta tags to make sure BING can easily find your content, but ensure everything on each webpage is engaging and user friendly.
What about backlinks?
Backlinks establish your company as an authority to search engines, but there is no magic number for how many you should have to be number one in search. This is mostly because backlinks are only one piece of the SEO puzzle (just as content is another). It’s much more complicated than getting more backlinks than competitors. But as BING representatives explain, for keywords with high search volume, your website will probably need more backlinks to compete. For more specific, less trafficked terms, fewer backlinks will be necessary to improve rankings. Is that vague enough?
The most important thing to keep in mind is DO NOT buy backlinks or try link farming. BING recognizes patterns in backlinks and can tell a purchased backlink from an organic one. With good content, comes quality backlinks, and having a large social media presence can also help build links organically.
Quality over Quantity
While the Google and BING algorithms do differ slightly, as seen in varying search rankings across both platforms for the same website and keywords, one thing remains true in the entire search engine realm: quality trumps quantity. If you are debating between keyword stuffing and paying for original content, taking the time to establish quality backlinks or paying for link farming, you should always choose original content and quality backlinks.
Regardless of platform, your efforts in quality and originality will be rewarded with higher search rankings. When search engine optimization is done right, it improves the user experience AND benefits the business by generating more traffic. A win-win.