The Big Bing Theory
Written by Matthew Woodward and published
A lot of people do not pay attention to Bing SEO or ranking factors and purely focus on trying to rank in Google and nothing else.
However, over the last couple of years, Bing’s market share has been slowly increasing as Microsoft challenges Google in the search arena.
The Big Bing Has Already Happened
Mozilla released version 34 of its Firefox browser December 1, 2014. At the very top of the release notes is a critical piece of information that is going to change the search landscape forever. I’m officially dubbing the event “The Big Bing” to commemorate the day.
Firefox removed Google as the default search engine and replaced it with Yahoo!
In case you didn’t know — Bing powers Yahoo’s search results.
Interestingly, they also removed Google as the default search engine for Russia which suggests they may remove Google as the default from other countries in the future.
What Does That Actually Mean?
Let me get straight to the point – U.S. search share for Yahoo jumped from 9.64% to 29.4% overnight for users of the new Firefox.
Google usage dropped from 82.14% to 63.46%. In 24 hours.
That is a critical change you should be giving your full attention.
Let’s not forget that this impact was felt just 24 hours after the update was released which means there are still millions and millions of people that haven’t updated, yet.
Is Bing Traffic Valuable?
I have heard a lot of claims that Bing traffic isn’t worth as much as Google’s, it doesn’t convert, people don’t buy things, and so on.
So I decided to look at my data to measure the quality of Bing traffic, and this is what I saw.
That data tells me everything I need to know.
Traffic coming from Bing:
- Has a lower bounce rate.
- Visits more pages.
- Spends more time on site.
- Subscribes to my list more frequently.
- Clicks on more affiliate links.
Take a look at your data before passing judgment though.
The Great Bing Advantage
The best thing about change is people hate change. Change pushes people out of their comfort zone; humans are wired to avoid that.
So for those that are willing to evolve, this change represents a great opportunity.
Since 1998, SEOs have purely focused on ranking sites in Google. For 16 solid years Google has had the sole attention of nearly every single SEO on the planet.
This had made Google’s search results highly competitive for people that have honed their SEO skills for almost 20 years.
Bing, however, has been largely ignored. The general theory is that if you are ranking well in Google, then you will rank well in Bing.
But that is not the case – the algorithms are very different. Just compare search results for the same term, and you will quickly see what I mean.
So, it is important that you understand those key differences to take advantage of ‘”The Big Bing.” (It will catch on.)
Bing Marketing – Free Tools & Resources
So with that said and before we get into the top Bing ranking factors, you need to familiarise yourself with the free Bing marketing tools and resources.
Unlike Google, Microsoft actually produces a number of helpful tools and guidelines for Bing SEO.
It is also worth noting that Bing is very SEO friendly as evidenced by the tools they offer.
Bing Webmaster Guidelines
First of all, you should read Bing’s Webmaster Guidelines, and get yourself up to speed.
Their guidelines are no way near as complicated or involved as Google’s guideline, so it won’t take long to read and absorb.
Bing Webmaster Tools
The Bing Webmaster Tools are superb – if you don’t have your site set up, stop and do it now.
Bing provides an awesome suite of tools including a backlink explorer. (Did you know Raven’s Site Finder is powered by Bing?) You can also see exactly which keywords you rank for, how your site indexes, diagnose problems, and much more.
And, they’ve doubled their Webmaster sign-up credit. You’ll receive $100 of free advertising to play with – sweet!
Bing SEO Analyzer
The Bing SEO Analyzer is also a great tool to discover if your pages are following Bing SEO best practices.
Just enter your URL, and it will return a list of suggestions to improve your rankings across Bing and Yahoo.
Microsoft SEO Tool Kit
The free Microsoft SEO Tool Kit is a desktop application that spiders your website to find SEO problems.
Bing Webmaster Blog
Just like Google, there is also a Bing Webmasters Blog. Many of the posts are actually quite entertaining and often contain golden nuggets.
Bing Search Quality Blog
Imagine if Matt Cutts and all of the Google search quality/anti-spam team published a blog sharing what they’ve been trying and testing. Well, Bing does exactly that with their Search Quality Blog, offering amazing insights into the world of search.
Contacting The Bing Webmaster Team
Last but not least, perhaps one of the best features is the ability to contact the Bing webmaster team.
So if your site does have problems or search visibility declines for any reason, you can easily get in touch with the team directly to work things out.
A Baker’s Dozen of Bing Ranking Factors
So what makes Bing tick at its core? What are the key differences between ranking in Google & Bing?
No. 1 – User Engagement Is Very Important
One of the strongest signals in Bing is user engagement. Demonstrating a strong user engagement will increase your rankings in Bing.
They measure this through what is known as “pogo sticking,” which is when someone performs a search, clicks on a result and then clicks back to return to the search engine results page (SERPs).
If a lot of people visit your site from the search results and click the ‘back’ button, then this is a clear indication of poor user engagement, according to Bing.
However, if a lot of people visit your site from the search results and do not go back to the SERPs to continue searching, then this represents a very strong signal.
No. 2 – Click Through Rates Matter
Bing also measures click-through rates (CTRs) from its SERPs and uses that data combined with user engagement data to improve its results.
For example, all things being equal, if the #1 position receives a 20% CTR, but the #2 position receives 40%, then this is a clear indication the #2 result is more relevant.
This means you have to write your titles and descriptions with humans in mind while being specific with your keyword. Think keyword-based click bait.
No. 3 – Social Signals Do Matter
There is a lot of debate about whether social signals impact Google search rankings. Matt Cutts has categorically denied that social signals play a role in SEO.
However, I can tell you with 100% certainty that they do, and I’ve been using them to rank consistently for the past two years. I revealed exactly how at the recent BHW/UnGagged conference.
So rather than getting caught up in a charged debate, you should be making social signals a core part of your SEO strategy now. It affects your rankings in Google, and it affects your rankings in Bing. You can read more about how social signals impact the two search engines‘ rankings here.
However, Bing actually displays posts from Facebook and Twitter embedded directly into search results that stand out from normal Web results.
Bing relies heavily on social signals more so than Google. Use that to your advantage, and you’ll benefit with better results in both search engines.
No. 4 – Take Advantage of Bing Authorship
Google introduced Authorship allowing people to claim content they have written so Google can determine who the true experts are in any given industry.
Granted, they have removed the pretty little pictures from search results now, but Authorship is here to stay.
Bing has its own version of Authorship after they integrated Klout verified snapshots.
The Bing search results will then show
- Your LinkedIn summary
- Other social profiles
- Klout score
- Influential topics
- Two most influential moments from Twitter in the past seven days
- Two most influential posts from Instagram in the past 90 days
You can also take advantage of the Bing connected pages feature.
No. 5 – Backlinks Are Less Important
It’s important to note that backlinks are less important in Bing then they are in Google.
If you compare the search results between the two, you will notice that top ranking sites in Bing have noticeably fewer backlinks.
However, Bing does favor editorially-vetted type text links placed within body copy rather than sitewide links found in the sidebar or footer or a link on a “resources” page. Site relevancy does matter.
No. 6 – Inbound Anchor Text Is Important
Bing puts more emphasis on anchor text usage than Google does. So, if you want to rank for “blue widgets,” the you need links that include “blue widgets” as anchor text.
Bing isn’t as good as Google at keyword matching, so while Google recognizes synonyms and context, Bing needs keywords spoon feed specifically.
However, the risk here is that over optimizing your anchor text will trip the Google Penguin filter.
So the trick here is to make sure that the links coming from high authority sites focus on exact anchors while the others use a mix of anchor terms.
That will allow you to rank in Bing while dodging Google Penguin.
No. 7 – Keyword Domains Matter
Having your keyword in your domain name will help you to rank in Bing easier. It isn’t critical, but it does help.
However, Google does have a filter for exact match domain names, so it is best to use a domain that includes your keyword but isn’t an exact match.
No. 8 – Page Authority Is More Important
The other thing that you will notice when comparing search results is where Bing doesn’t place as much weight on backlinks, it does place weight on site authority.
It is much harder to rank a new domain in Bing than it is in Google. Having an aged domain will give you a leg up across Bing’s results.
So if you have an older domain that includes your keyword, you are golden. If you just have an older domain you’re still in a strong position. Where it’s hard to compete is with a brand new domain.
No. 9 – PageRank Is Irrelevant
PageRank is a measurement of authority Google created in the early days although it’s not as relevant as it once was and no one but those housed in the Googleplex knows when it’s updated.
Google PageRank does not seem to have any correlation with Bing rankings, which makes sense.
No. 10 – Content and Keyword Density Is Important
Bing prefers sites that has a lot of unique content. They place much higher value on longer, more engaging content than shorter content.
Similar to how they are behind Google in language processing such as with anchor text, this applies to content as well.
You need to feed Bing the specific keyword you want your page to rank for. It is much better to focus on one keyword per page with Bing, but, again, be careful you don’t trip Google Panda publishing duplicate content.
Also, Bing tries to eliminate duplicate content at the point of indexing. Redundant content is recognized and eliminated from the SERPs but may still be available in the index.
No. 11 – Site Structure and Code Is Important
Bing offers advice regarding your site structure and coding, such as content should be organized close to the surface. In other words, no content should be more than three clicks away from the Home page.
You should also use a broad to specific navigation. So you might go with SEO > Link Building > Blog Networks or Garden > Furniture > Chairs for example.
No. 12 – General Onsite Optimisation
Onsite optimization is similar for Bing as it is to Google. You want to make sure you’re using meta title and description tags and including exact match keyword(s).
Bing places a lot of emphasis on title tags but keeps the user engagement signals in mind.
You should only have one H1 tag per page to establish the main topic, then use the H2 and H3 tags to talk about sub topics.
It is also worth noting that sometimes Bing will swap out your meta description with your H1 tag in the search results so be creative with your page headings – don’t just rely on exact match headings.
No. 13 – HTTPS Is Not A Ranking Factor
Google recently announced that HTTPS is now used as a ranking signal – although a minor one. Here’s one way to explain it to clients.
Bing Lead Program Manager, Vincent Wehren, said that HTTPS is not a ranking factor, and they would not consider it because they don’t want to mess around with rankings based on a factor that has no real relevance.
Bing Search Engine Penalties
We don’t know a whole lot about Bing’s penalties, but what we do know for sure is they are a much friendlier beast than Google.
There are certainly no crazy black and white animal updates to deal with here!
The Bing Spam Filter
The Bing Index Quality team has published a few articles about the types of things they look for that are worth reading, such as
They go as far as to show you actual case study examples along with a lot of details about each update they make.
It is very important that you stay on top of your outbound link profile and make sure you are only linking to clean and related sites. Bing will punish you for this.
Reciprocal linking will also get you in trouble, but if you have any experience with ranking sites in Google, then you will already know to avoid that practice.
It’s clear that Bing’s spam detection methods are much further behind the times than Google’s.
How To Check If You Have A Bing Penalty
Bing also makes it very easy to check if your site has a penalty or not.
All you need to do is go to Bing Webmaster Tools and click on the Summary Tool.
Next, look at the Site Status section – if it says Blocked: Yes – your site has been penalized.
If this is the case, then take a look at this post to learn how to get out of the penalty box.
Are You Prepared For The Big Bing?
The Big Bing has already happened and over the coming months it’s control of the search market will grow rapidly thanks to the latest Firefox update.
In 24 hours, Google usage dropped from 82% to 63% while Bing/Yahoo usage jumped from 9% to 29% – those are numbers you cannot ignore.
This shift occurred simply by changing the default search for the U.S. I would not be surprised to see future Firefox updates replacing Google for other countries as well.
The future of search is changing – whether you like it or not.
So have you prepared for The Big Bing?