A fleeting thought in many SEOs' mind as they finish a project — wait, what about Bing? Should I start optimizing for Bing too?
Absolutely. A resounding 'yes' – and you should have started two Drake albums ago. So if you’re reading this now, it’s too late. Well, not really. And alright, no more forced Drake references. I promise.
While the Bing Rewards program continues to draw those web users constantly on the lookout for freebies, Microsoft rolled out with Windows 10 last year, creating something even cleverer to boost the usage of their search engine. Just a month or so after the free Windows 10 upgrade became available across all devices, powered-by-Bing search results had amassed a total US market share of over 30% in late August 2015 – and that’s a 14% increase from the previous year.
Month over month so far in 2016, Bing still seems to be nibbling away at the Google dominated US market share.
So what’s the connection? As we know in search, traffic is no accident.
Those of us who may have upgraded to Windows 10 are aware that web searches either default to Cortana (Microsoft’s Siri equivalent) or the Edge browser – and from there, all roads lead to Bing. With such traffic, total ad clicks from paid media were only bound to go up and CPCs along with them. In October 2015 (just three months post-Windows 10), Tech Crunch reported that Bing indeed for the first time had become self-funded with search bucks, and in fact, profitable.
This release from Microsoft also happened to include an interesting little factoid missed by many – nearly 20% of Bing’s quarterly search revenue came from devices recently upgraded to 10.
Now it seems to make sense why the newest version of the world’s most popular OS was distributed for free. Every new upgrade would end up paying for itself. And then some.
With next to nil mobile use and many more 2015-critical obstacles, Bing managed to gain more influence than ever before.
And now that the dust has settled, with powered-by-Bing searches occupying a solidified 25% or greater market share, SEOs need to make sure they are paying attention to this search engine – or they could be possibly neglecting a quarter or more of their overall users depending on the industry.
Optimizing your site for Bing may not exactly triple your traffic, but it can help you reach your SEO goals when you feel stuck.
Bing Yields Quality Traffic You Need to Cultivate
Many search marketers have noticed that while Bing traffic overall is still smaller, engagement is much higher – meaning Bing users represent a smaller bounce rate, visit more pages, and more frequently subscribe to newsletters. But even more importantly, what I personally have seen overtime is that our clients’ Bing users have a quicker path to conversion and generate a 2x greater average conversion value.
This can be explained by the fact that the average Bing user is older than 35. They need to buy more stuff, have a higher propensity to spend more per purchase, are not averse to luxury items, and belong to more consumer markets on average than a Google user. If you’re 43, you probably have a few dependents, less time to shop in-store, a larger income, and a few luxurious hobbies. For these reasons, it may be clear why gaining max visibility for this demographic is so important.
Essentially, Bing equals quick wins. Here are some easy ways to make the most out of it for budding SEOs, as well as some refreshers for those who’ve been in the game a little longer.
SEO Best Practices for Bing & Key Differences from Google
1) A picture’s worth a thousand rankings.
Bing favors images – just look at its homepage. But on top of just images, Bing loves image alt attributes a lot more. While it’s often an important keyword opportunity neglected by many SEOs, it’s double-y important for Bing optimization. These small descriptions in an HTML img tag enable search engines to read images on your site, and if Bing detects you’ve got a high quality relevant image along with high-quality content based on your alt attributes, then you’re making a strong case to start ranking. Alt attributes should be anywhere from 4 to 10 keywords and can be implemented easily via almost any CMS. (Don’t let lazy developers tell you otherwise).
2) Accessibility is not a given.
Googlebot is that guy who’s fine with a Bud Lite as long as it’s cold. Bingbot will refuse anything other than the finest lager, brewed only seasonally by Benedictine monks in the Bavarian village of Breckfrüchenwichzensten.
Ok, not really. But you get the idea – write something worth reading and make sure it’s not something a tweet could say better.
3) A better set of branding tools.
Bing Webmaster Tools is a fantastic all-in-one resource for SEOs. With over 25 analytical features, it blows Google Search Console out of the water in terms of helpfulness and direct impact. Perhaps most helpful for beginners is the SEO Analyzer. It crawls your site and provides recommendations for your site similar to what a paid software or other resource might do. Also, Google optimizations that prove more time consuming like setting up Google My Business properly or optimizing the knowledge graph are leaps and bounds quicker within Bing, thanks to the breadth of Bing Webmaster Tools.
4) Meta data goes further.
While the jury’s out on whether or not click-thru rate is a direct ranking factor for organic Google results, it almost assuredly is for Bing results according to the vast majority of case studies. What better way to ensure a high CTR for your site’s pages than with perfect meta data and titles?
Make sure they are keyword-rich (not so brand-heavy), describe your page succinctly and accurately, and that you yourself don’t fall victim to the temptation of click-bait. Don’t promise anything about your site that you know it can’t deliver. Otherwise, your bounce rate will skyrocket, which could ultimately negate a good CTR. Remember that users are unforgiving, don’t like to be confused, and have a short fuse when their intent is not immediately met.
I would also recommend watching your competitors closely – and when you notice one of their newer pages rising or a meta data refresh on their part – do some investigation. All it takes is a spontaneous Twitter hashtag or a hit single to change the United States’ vocabulary for the next 6 months. Bing relies heavily on signals from social media – which itself has catapulted a wide variety of slang and nu-speak into the mainstream just this year. If your brand is not closely aligned with what social media users are buzzing about in your related industry, you may suffer a rankings decline.
5) Keep building high quality links, but be sure to optimize onsite for social sharing and interaction.
Bing tends to prefer a diversity of links and those links that have hyper-relevant anchor text. Case studies as far back as 2012 found that Bing rewards the best results on SERPs to pages whose inbound links have the same anchor text as their title.
But beyond links, Bing directly states that if your brand is considered a social influencer, this is a positive ranking signal. Not only does Bing have a freshness component to its algorithm (frequent social activity to the rescue!), but also explicitly in its Webmaster Guidelines, Bing says that social influence can impact rankings for the long run. Download a scrolling social icons plug-in, implement open graph tags & Twitter cards, and push a robust social media content distribution schedule – Bing likes likes – and they’re very open about it.
These five steps should provide your site with a solid foundation for real Bing optimization. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org to take your SEO to the next level.
by Ken Trojanowski, SEO Analyst