We know that most people think of Google as the only search engine around.
Proof of this is the fact that people generally refer to it as “Googling” something when making an online search.
How many times, for example, have you heard someone… anyone… pronounce: “Let’s Bing it!”
We’d guess a grand total of zero.
Even just reading that aloud sounds ridiculous. But telling someone to “Google it” – perfectly normal.
But that approach, especially from an SEO standpoint, doesn’t look at the whole picture.
In fact, there could be thousands and thousands of potential visitors to your site you’re completely ignoring if you take this view.
And that’s why this article is going to take a look at the other big name in the search engine world: Bing.
Specifically, we’re going to explore some of the similarities and differences between Bing and Google, some of the SEO considerations you should be taking, and why you shouldn’t ignore Bing in your digital marketing efforts.
Most SEOs are guilty of committing the same sin over and over again…
When talking about SEO, they talk exclusively about Google and entirely ignore the alternative search engine, Bing.
We’re going to commit a little sin of our own here because there’s an argument to be made that Yahoo! should be involved in the conversation as well.
But, according to GlobalStats statcounter, Yahoo! had a 1.9% search engine market share in 2018, versus 4.5% to Bing and a whopping 92.3% to Google (with smaller engines like MSN, DuckDUckGo and YANDEX RU making up the rest).
With Yahoo! taking less than half the search volume of Bing – and, let’s face it, Bing is already a loooong way behind Google – we’re comfortable eschewing Yahoo! for this particular article.
If you’re interested in learning more about Yahoo! SEO then let us know and we may put together an article about it.
But, for now,
We’re going to look at the two search engines that make up almost 97% of all searches that take place in the UK.
And actually, if you look solely at desktop searches over the past 12 months, Bing’s percentage actually climbs to 8.29%, with Google’s falling to 86.68%… even more reason to take a closer look at Bing.
The Slow Rise of Bing
While it seems obvious that the majority of your efforts should go towards optimising your site to suit Google’s complex and ever-changing algorithm, Bing should not be shunned.
Especially when you consider that Bing is continuing to grow and, albeit on a small-ish scale, they are eating into Google’s numbers:
“As more people used Bing, the search revenue (excluding traffic acquisition costs) also grew, so it looks like things are moving in the right direction.”
And this competition should be embraced by SEOs the world over. It should prompt improvements to both search engines and lead to further innovation that the end-user – that is, us – will benefit from.
With regards to SEO, Bing and Google share many similarities. But that doesn’t mean that your site achieving page #1 status on Google will mean it’ll rank anywhere in the top 100 on Bing.
But rather than needing to renovate your entire site so that it pleases the algorithms of both search engines, there are certain elements that you can focus your attention on.
Technical SEO Factors of Bing and Google
One of the biggest differences between Bing and Google is the fact that Google seems to have advanced to be more intuitive with regards to page context and content, whereas Bing is still far more straightforward, in relative terms.
Where page crawls are concerned, for example, earlier iterations of Google would only factor in the initial 100kb of a page. While Google has progressed to allow far more data to be digested, it’s widely thought that Bing doesn’t have much depth to its crawls.
What does that mean?
In a nutshell, it means that Bing is less sophisticated in the ways it can categorise the content and context of a page, placing more emphasis on simpler factors such as keywords in page titles, in descriptions and so on.
Likewise, should the most important elements of your content not feature near the beginning of your page (i.e. in this first 100kb) there’s a chance it won’t be factored into Bing’s crawl and therefore won’t play a part in the ranking consideration.
This is a problem if you don’t choose to include your primary keyword in the page title and/or in the first 100 – 150 words of text.
An additional point to consider is that a 302 (temporary redirect) is not likely to cause major indexing issues within Google, but Bing is likely to interpret a 302 as 301 (permanent URL redirect) if it is crawled several times.
This may lead to issues if you leave a 302 in place for an elongated amount of time but plan to remove it in the future, as Bing may have already categorised it wrongly as a 301.
Backlinks and Bing
Backlinks are obviously incredibly important to both Google and Bing. We already know, for example, that Google places backlinks in the top 3 ranking factors (along with content and RankBrain).
Likewise, Bing places great emphasis on backlinks, particularly where link quality (versus quantity) is concerned, but it seems to be lagging in the complexity it’s able to incorporate in the evaluation.
As Google tries to index all content available, Bing will instead remove pages from their index that don’t hold enough link authority to merit a rank on their search results.
That means that, in order to retain a place among Bing’s search index, a page will need to obtain and keep at least one external website link.
Voice Search: An Area Where Bing Fights Back
By now, we’ve already heard plenty of people in-the-know tell us that voice search is the next big thing. When actually, there’s plenty of arguments that it’s already here.
The fact is, with ongoing improvements to the Amazon Echo and Google Home devices, as well as the voice-controlled personal assistant available on most top-end smartphones, voice search is already huge and it’s only going to get bigger.
Microsoft’s own voice search assistant, Cortana, is powered by Bing search. That’s of little surprise. But did you know that Microsoft partnered with Amazon “to better integrate their Alexa and Cortana digital assistants”?
So, it could be argued that Bing’s position in the voice search market is on much more equal-footing than can be said of the traditional search variety. Upwards of 145 million users are active on Cortana each month, versus the 375 million/month claimed by Apple (using Siri).
The discrepancy is nowhere near as large as what we see on the regular monthly search volumes that are typed into the respective websites. To ignore the presence of Bing in this important and burgeoning area of marketing would be foolhardy.
Naturally, the way people use voice searches contrasts significantly with the way a typed search is executed. Far longer phrases (i.e. longtail keywords), with as many as 8 – 10 words are far more likely when the user is simply speaking the search term instead of typing it.
Likewise, the users are far more likely to pose the search term in the form of a question:
“How many searches are recorded by Microsoft’s Cortana each month?” (10 words) vs “Cortana monthly searches” (3 words).
Asking questions on your page content – and then answering them, of course – is a recommended way to target some voice search traffic.
Mobile-First on Google… How About Bing?
Google’s mobile-first index has been well documented, so we won’t cover the nuts and bolts of it here, rather than stating – in case you’ve somehow missed it – that Google now takes the mobile version of your site as the ‘main’ version (whereas previously the desktop version was given the higher indexing priority).
Although Bing is likely to follow suit some time in the future, there have not yet been any announcements to that effect.
In no way are we suggesting that you forego any plans to bring your site up-to-speed where mobile responsiveness is concerned. Google places huge emphasis on this – when “52.2% of all website traffic worldwide was generated through mobile phones” in 2018, this is no surprise – and so should you.
But if you can’t make that a priority right now, then maybe focusing more of your attention on Bing, where mobile-first is not given such significant importance, you will be able to exploit an opportunity your competitors have not thought about with little-to-no changes to your website required.
Bing Likes It When You’re Social
One of the best ways to optimise for Bing’s search engine is through your already active social media efforts.
Google hasn’t quite mastered the integration of social media into their results pages, whereas Bing will display social media interactions of your friends and followers if they are directly related to the search results.
Even results found towards the top of the Bing search engine results pages (SERPs) will often have a high number of social media engagements such as shares, likes, comments, retweets and so on.
The Effects of Multimedia on Bing and Google
Google generally relies far more on text-based content than does Bing, due to the former’s algorithm being primarily based in HTML.
This can lead to some media formats outside of basic text being overlooked by Google crawls.
Any Flash websites still out there (or even sites with elements of Flash, despite it being largely outdated) will generally rank better in Bing, for example.
Multimedia searches are also generally considered to be better rewarded by Bing’s ranking factors. Obviously, having high-quality content on your site is likely to assist you in achieving desirable rankings on both search engines, but a high variety of multimedia – pictures, videos, audio etc. – is likely to be favoured to a greater extent, by Bing’s ranking format.
While it’s clear that there are a number of ranking factors shared by both Google and Bing, we feel there are a sufficient number of unique variances to warrant a strategy that considers the ranking factors of each.
The inclusion of multimedia on your site’s pages enhances UX and provides visitors with an engaging experience.
Similarly, if you have an active social media strategy in place, as we would highly recommend, then that too will play into your hands where ranking is concerned, whether it be through increased traffic numbers in general or more directly through Bing.
On the other hand, if you’re structuring your website and creating content with the algorithms primarily in mind and your users a secondary afterthought, then you’re sure to fall short when trying to climb the ranks of one or the other; probably both.
The differences are subtle enough so that small tweaks to your approach are more likely necessary than wide, sweeping adjustments.
And by doing so, you’ll be opening yourself up to the opportunity of brand-new visitors – which is something that should never be ignored – and you may even get a leg-up on your competitors who still think SEO = Google.