Search has been synonymous with Google for over a decade and a half. Even as search marketers, we are guilty of focusing a disproportionate amount of our time and resources into optimizing our campaigns, websites, and social media to Google. Google dictates what is acceptable and shape content strategies, campaign messaging, even business models. But what are the differences between Bing and other search engines.
However, even if Google does dominate nearly three-quarters of all search traffic, we cannot afford to ignore the leftover 25%. In fact, as marketers who hunt down every single percentage point growth in traffic, conversion, and market share, it’s our job to ensure not a single user is left unnoticed and unattended.
This is where Google’s only real challenger enters the picture. Say hello to Bing.
In many ways, Bing was painted as everything Google was not. While it unfortunately did not live up to that promise completely, many strategies for Bing are different from conventionally accepted SEO wisdom – wisdom that is designed nearly entirely on Google’s search algorithms.
History of Bing
Back in the early-Nineties, when the internet was first beginning to spread into the home. Stanford graduates, Jerry Yang and David Filo created a website called Jerry’s Guide to the World Wide Web which was later named Yahoo in April 1994. Yahoo was initially a database of websites that was organised through a hierarchy rather than a searchable index of pages.
In 1998, Larry Page and Sergey Brin founded Google whilst engaged in their PhD studies at Stanford. Google was originally known as BackRub due to its methods of checking site backlinks to determine their authority over others. This was what gave Google the edge over its competitors, and continues to do so to this day. The name Google derives from the word Googol, the number referring to a 1 followed by 100 zeroes (1.0 x10100). but that domain name had already been taken. Incidentally, Googol was the correct answer to the million pound question infamously provided by Charles ‘major fraud’ Ingram who allegedly cheated in Who Wants to be a Millionaire in 2003 by having his wife coughing on the right answer.
Search has been Google’s primary area of expertise, by comparison Mircosoft’s area has been much more diverse, through operating systems, software and myriad other devices. Microsoft’s Bing, meanwhile is descended from Windows Live Search and MSN Search, which was rebranded as Bing in 2009. Where it was also announced that the new search engine would power Yahoo. Bing is often heavily integrated with Microsoft’s platforms, Internet Explorer, Windows phone and xbox.
Differences Between Bing And The Other Search Engines
To begin with, let’s state the obvious, visually Google, Bing and Yahoo are all very different in terms of design. Google’s interface is kept very minimalist and simple, to a point in which just the search input and logo dominate the screen, the white background and bold colouring of the Google logo all working together to inform a design that approach. In terms of ideology, the Google homepage represents a blank canvas – suggesting to the user that ‘from here, you can go anywhere’. You aren’t sidetracked from what it is you want to search, ‘googling it’ is kept very simple and direct. Occasionally of course, Google will change its logo to coincide with a historical anniversary or the celebration of a renowned personality from history. These are called ‘Doodles’ – find more HERE
Bing on the other hand adopts a far more visual approach. With a large high res image dominating the page, that changes with each day. Dominating the page is the search query but a number of tabs below, to reveal what is trending and what the daily image refers to. Yahoo in contrast opps for a more old fashioned approach, a hub of sorts for news and media, essentially providing a snapshot of what is trending on the internet of the day.
The best resources to better understand the ways in which Google and Bing crawl, index and rank through websites are their respective webmaster guides (Here are the links for Google and Bing). On the surface, these guides read quite similarly, they both ask for your site to have a structured layout complete with metatags and titles. As SEO specialists know only too well, the SEO landscape is always changing as the search engine engineers tinker with their algorithms to improve the process.
Google is renowned for favouring backlinks, the more links to your site, the better its authority, the better it will stand out in the search results. On the other hand, Bing does not hold backlinks with the same level of importance. Instead, anchor text and meta descriptions are very important to Bing’s assessment of a website. When approaching these elements it is best to be as direct as possible, whilst Google allows for some leeway and creativity in the way words are used, Bing is far more direct. It will be necessary to fully state the name and purpose of your company and it’s relevant pages.
Similarly, with content, whilst Google, prefers newer content as a sign of web activity, Bing will prefer established content that has either been live for quite some time or has gained a large amount of traffic. Reports claim that Bing takes longer (up to three months) to refresh its indexes, this means that older content can rank higher in searches compared to Google. In addition to this, Google is far more suited to utilising social media buzz as a way of determining the popularity of content and the prevalence of inbound links, whilst Bing doesn’t really look at this.
Multimedia search is generally considered to be better on Bing. Since Google’s algorithm is primarily based on HTML which can leave other media formats out in the dark. Flash for example is basically invisible to Google’s crawlers but Bing is capable of detecting it. Flash websites generally rank better on Bing. Of course, flash is considered something of an aging, almost archaic, format that was more popular in the late 90s and early 2000s, it can cause problems with responsive design and increasing page loading times which can all work against a page’s SEO ranking. With HTML5, there is a lot more flexibility with how coders can build sites.
Bing’s image search is arguably more precise and generally provides better quality images than google. Bing has what is called ‘entity understanding’ in which the search engine interprets whether you are looking for a person, place or thing, which leads to more relevant results. In addition the results it presents are usually of a higher resolution.
Optimising for both Bing and Google
Having touched on the main differences between Bing and Google, how do we then optimise our web approach to gain the best of both worlds? Well, there is still the golden rule surrounding content as a means of gaining high quality links, with the emphasis being on generating strong content that is designed for public consumption. If you can increase the read and likes of your content, and commit to generating content on a regular basis, this will help it stand out more to search engines.
- There are a couple of finer points to acknowledge in specific regards to Bing optimisation.
- Bing’s search algorithm is still relatively new compared to Google’s. This means that it is actually limited to the lengths in which it analyses your web pages. It is usually advised to keep the most important information relating to your business (as in location of operations and purpose) within the first 100K of any given page. Ensure keywords and links are found at the top of your page.
- Whilst Google understands the difference between a 301 and 302 redirect. The former means that the website has moved to a new location permanently, whilst the latter means that the location is temporary. Bing does not recognise a 302 redirect and will treat it as a 301. This means that meta refreshes should be avoided when trying to improve Bing rankings, you should disable any time orientated refreshes.
- Stronger and quality backlinks. Bing focuses on checking out the link authority of webpages in its index. It removes webpages on its index that do not have at least one website that links back to the pages.
As of January 2014, Microsoft had a new CEO in the form of Satya Nadella, it is expected that Microsoft will refocus its efforts on software, the cloud and mobile devices. This will likely include Bing as it will integrate with mobile devices which is becoming a primary way people search.
Whilst all search engines effectively exist in Google’s shadow, you can expect Microsoft to pursue the market dominators relentlessly. Microsoft’s support for Bing is only going to increase in the future. Google may be the most trusted search engine, but it shouldn’t be the sole platform on which your SEO strategy should rely.