For the better part of a decade, Google has been the first name in search engines for both users and search engine optimization professionals. It’s about time, however, that marketing professionals take notice of Bing as a new source of potential traffic for their search engine marketing efforts.
In this article, we’ll detail how Bing indexes pages and serves search engine results, talk about the search audience demographics of Bing, and analyze their latest advertising campaign, “Bing It On.”
For years, professionals have looked only to Google for maximizing their search engine optimization budget, and this was a reasonable choice to make when the majority of a company’s marketing dollars were spent outside of digital marketing and Google was commanding 80% or more of the search traffic. Over time, however, Bing’s search result quality has increased significantly, culminating in their latest “Bing It On” advertising campaign, which featured a blind search engine test similar to the Coke vs. Pepsi blind taste tests from the nineties. Bing It On encourages Web users to compare search results side by side and select their preferred search engine. According to bingiton.com, the results are staggering – individuals prefer Bing to Google by about 2 to 1. If it was ever time to start targeting a new search engine, the moment it surpasses Google in blind surveys seems like the best time to get on board, preferably before Bing explodes and your competition begins optimizing their pages for Bing.
Bing vs. Google
Bing works differently from Google, which may be hard to understand for many individuals who use Google every day and view it as an archetypal search engine. A couple of main differences to take note of: Bing presents multiple sets of search results together based on related searches that other individuals made after conducting a search and bouncing back to the search engine to change the search. On searches that often reveal poor results, Bing will include other keywords that the user has not typed in order to help the user mine better results.
Bing is for Doing
How else does Bing differ from Google? Bing promises to be a “Doing Engine” with new user-interface features that are not frequently found on search engines, like the ability to make reservations for hotels or restaurants, conduct related searches, or otherwise interacting with your site without users necessarily visiting the page they are interested in. Many of these UI enhancements have been rolled out, and many are planned for the coming quarters, but you can get an idea exactly what options for user interface customization are currently available by reading Bing’s Webmaster Center. Since the engine is changing so fast, this article might become dated very quickly, but we’ll take a look at some of the changes that are currently in place, like the Explore pane.
The Explore pane offers a consistent way to refine searches through Bing without going back to the search query box and adding new search terms. About 20% of search terms include a Quick Tabs box which allows searchers to refine a search into its most popular related searches. For example, a search for Chicago will turn up a Quick Tabs box for options like Tourism, Attractions, Weather, Events, Hotels, and Images.
Perhaps one of the biggest changes Bing has made to how search engine results are displayed is by including a “Best Match” result. Bing’s normal search results are your typical blue-underlined hyperlinks, but if the search engine algorithm reveals a very high match, Bing will turn the result into a Best Match which allows the search engine to include more information about the match than it does for normal listings. Information that can be included in a Best Match result includes customer support phone numbers, deep links to areas typically visited by searchers, or internal search boxes or other forms that are often filled out by users.
As Bing evolves, schema tags will likely be the place the search engine looks to determine what types of content are on a page. Schema tags are HTML tags that you can use to differentiate types of content in ways that search engines, including Google and Bing, can understand. Schema tagging is covered in a separate article, but looking forward two to five years, it is highly likely that the full schema.org microdata protocol is implemented in all major search engines. As a result, by including microdata in your content as you create and upload it, you’ll be ready to anticipate any further changes by the search engines. In fact, it’s very possible that the search engines are already using schema tags to determine a good deal of the content that is out there now, but they have not yet found a way to let the user interact with varying types of content differently than other types of content.
What types of websites should be rushing to implement Bing’s advanced user interface functionality? Bing typically appeals to an older demographic, men and women aged 30 and over, but they are also actively targeting the 18-34 crowd. Pages that are information-heavy, like blogs, may not benefit much from Bing’s added functionality. On the other hand, if your site features a shopping cart, software or document downloads, or newsletter opt-in forms, it is likely that these will be promoted within the Bing search engine, and conforming to Bing’s Webmaster Guidelines in terms of tagging these objects correctly could help you increase conversions from individuals who are using Bing for its “doing” qualities, rather than clicking through to websites.
The key to understanding Bing at this point in time is to think further out. The industry is moving so fast that any changes we implement now will be old-hat by the time we finish implementing backwards compliance across our entire website. Adopting a forward-looking compliance with current and future trends in SEO for both Google and Bing will be instrumental in maintaining a site that pulls in a healthy amount targeted organic traffic.