February 8th we observed Bing experimenting with a new, cleaner search result layout and we got a chance to capture a screen shot to show you. This new design only showed when using IE9, Bing did not display these versions if you used Chrome.
The biggest changes are the removal of the tabs above the search results, with those options now at the very top of the page. Also a larger search box, no location information, and the addition of some related searches below the search box in addition to those in the left column. It’s likely this example was just one of many variations in test to get some data on an upcoming redesign.
Later in the month Bing turned off the test, reverting back to the old design for IE9 which we’ve included below for reference.
Bing added a new Rich Snippet Markup Validation Tool on March 3rd. Bing’s Duane Forrester reported on their Webmaster Center Blog the details of the new tool. The Validator is reported to support the following formats:
- HTML Microdata
- Open Graph
Don’t get too excited as this tool, which quite clearly is marked BETA, seems to have a few bugs. It seems to work great for Open Graph Tags, but when we tested it on some Microformat Event markup, it failed. That same markup when tested with Google’s Rich Snippet Tester works fine, and Google is indeed using that markup in their search results for that page. So, if this tool reports back to you that something is wrong, don’t get too wound up, it may be a problem with the tool and not your code.
Now we’re not saying we’re perfect on the code for the Microformat vEvent code example that was said to be in error by Bing, perhaps something is wrong in our code that Google tolerates, but not Bing. Regardless, it would be real nice if there was some kind of error explanation for this tool to help users identify where the errors are at, similar to other HTML validators.
Perhaps the biggest takeaway from this new tool is that you at least have a place now to test your markup from Bing’s point of view. Assuming your markup works with this tool, we would have to assume Bing should be able to use it in the search results. We do highly advise also testing with Google’s Rich Snippet tester as well.
If you would like to test a URL with extensive amounts of markup, try http://www.yelp.com/biz/the-parlor-phoenix in Bing’s new tool. Yelp makes extensive use of Microdata, Microformats and Open Graph tags as shown in the screen shot above.
Bing’s Duane Forrester put up this quick 3 minute video on their Webmaster Central Blog February 10th on how to become an Authority on Bing. It’s very light on details, but if you have three minutes to kill, you might pickup something from the examples.
In summary, he says to provide “Rich, Deep & Immersive” content on all your products and share your good quality content on Facebook and Twitter often.
February 22nd Bing announced a new feature called Linked Pages which is a customization of the search results to highlight social connections and is specifically designed to enhance People Search, that is searches for a person’s name.
With this new feature, when you do a search at Bing, pages that have been linked to your Facebook Friends will be displayed. The concept being if your friends are looking for you, the linked pages connections will help them find content about you, not other people with the same name.
This new feature allows you to Link search results to your Bing Profile, for example your Blog, Articles or Videos about you, or even things you find interesting. This lets your friends keep up with you, and the things you are doing.
You can also tag your friends in the results to make search results for their name even better. Before you get worried about what some of your friends might link you with, you can always unlink Linked Pages you don’t find are appropriate. We can already envision the evil that some friends might do to their buddies with this tool. Features like this may make you want to think twice about who is in your friends list on Facebook!
This also means it’s probably going to be a good idea in regards to personal reputation management to review what pages are being linked to your Facebook profile.
What Bing doesn’t tell you is when you link a page to your profile, they post it to your Facebook wall, without asking. We agree, that’s a bit rude and is something that should get your approval to do before they post it. They have this ability because you gave them permission to do it when linking to your Facebook ID, and they are taking advantage of it to promote their own site.
You can remove Bing’s posts to your wall, or hide it if you want on Facebook, but some people won’t realize this, so we’re giving you a heads up. Anything you link to your profile has the potential to get posted on your Facebook Wall as well, although if you do several at a time, only one of them will probably show up on the wall. Keep that in mind.
With this current permissions setup that Bing and Facebook are using, we’re almost certain this is going to get changed soon after people start complaining about it. That is, once they figure out what is going on, and where all this linking is going on at.
Ready to dive in?
Log in to Bing’s Linked Pages [www.bing.com/linkedpages], then log in using your Facebook Account Info.
Next review what results you want associated with your name, for example your LinkedIn Profile, Google Plus page, Twitter Page, etc. Do a search for your name, You’ll likely find a number of pages that aren’t about you. If your name is the same as an actor or other famous people, you might have to dig a bit.
If you want, you can also help out your friends and link pages to their Facebook profiles, here’s an example where I linked Casey’s LinkedIn Page with his Facebook Acct.
Let’s see what else we can link to Casey’s Facebook Profile, how about Casey’s General Store?
Note that anything you Link at Bing to your Facebook Friends is likely to get posted to their wall. For example, the first page I linked to Casey’s Profile showed up instantly on his Facebook wall.
But the second page we linked to him, the Casey’s General Store URL didn’t show up. Will he notice?
Casey probably will notice that connection if he logs into Bing and searches for his name. He can, and probably will, UnLink that connection to Casey’s General Stores. We’ve just done that as an example for you to see how this works, and what you need to be aware of in regards to reputation management.
So far this update seems to be entirely about people, not businesses. We have not noticed personal or fan pages for businesses showing up – yet. It seems like there may be the potential for this to happen. So, at this point we’re recommending that you do monitor search results for your Name, and your Business Name if you have a Facebook presence.
Here’s a quick video from Bing on the new feature for further review.
Bing launched an exciting new Keyword Tool February 28th that we’re sure you will welcome with open arms! Finally there is another source of Keyword Data from a high volume source, one with a different demographic than Google. Before you rush in to see what you can find, let’s review this new tool.
- Date is exportable
- Any Phrase
- History is saved for 6 months
- New API to use data in other applications and locations. This option is available in the left hand menu when you log into Bing Webmaster Tools. API Documentation
To get started, log into Bing Webmaster Tools at www.bing.com/toolbox/webmaster/. Next, look for the Keyword Tab at the top of the page after logging in.
Clicking the Keywords Tab will take you to the new Keyword Tools page, and you’ll see a form similar to below.
You can filter your Keyword search by Country, Language, and by Date range. Bing doesn’t say how far back the keyword history goes, however based on some searches it looks like the data set goes back approximately one year.
We say approximately because sometimes we could go back 6 months and the result would be the same as it was for 12 months back. Other times it would update with more impressions. Clearly something is not quite right here in their date filter; however, remember the tool does say Beta so it’s likely they have some bugs to work out. In general, it looks like they have data back to around August 2011 available in the tool.
There is also a Strict Mode option. If you select it, it will filter the results to show you only search volumes explicit to the keyword or phrase, excluding phrases which may include the original keyword. Well, that’s the way they say it’s supposed to work, but even in strict mode it seems to be working in a very broad match function in regards to the results returned.
While the query volumes change when you use strict mode, the returned keywords don’t. For example if you do a search for Harmonic Balancer it returns carolina auto parts which is, well, a bit screwy. While a Harmonic Balancer is indeed an auto part, it’s not a match with a company name, and really inclusion of a company name like that is useless for what we would normally look for in a keyword suggestion tool.
While some of its results are a bit odd for a tool like this, Bing does have some nice little graphs that indicate volume over time next to the suggested Keywords in the report. If this worked correctly, it would give you a quick idea of how the keyword is trending. While it looks cool, the graphs are unreliable and do not change based on the dates requested in your search. We altered the time frame of our Keyword Search and got the same little graphs regardless of the search dates entered. So, we advise ignoring those cute little graphs next to the impressions values.
Last but not least, Bing also pops up an Average CPC and Average Bid from Microsoft Advertising for your convience, which is also likely the sole justification for them building the tool in the first place.
In summary, the new Bing Keyword Tool is highly welcomed as another source to help you with Keyword Discovery and volume research. Even though it’s a bit odd the way it works, it is quite feasible that you may discover some keyword phrases that have some volume worth chasing and that makes it a win for us. Although we haven’t spent a lot of time comparing the numbers of impressions for the keywords, the ones we’re very familar with seem appropriate.
Bookmark this one and add it to your Keyword Research Arsenal as there’s no reason to ignore the #2 player in search when they are willing to share.
Remember the Bing ad campaign “Bing and Decide”? Looks like it’s time for a new slogan, the latest is “Bing is for #Doing”, it’s’ latest round of ad speak launched on January 20th. Our first thought was their marketing department spent too much time reading tweets from Charlie Sheen last year.
We can’t fault Bing for trying, and they have certainly been making headway slowly against Google, although at a cost that few other than Microsoft could afford.
Bing’s Duane Forrester posted a list of Things you should avoid with some common information such as don’t buy links, participate in link farms, cloak your content, duplicate content, etc.
While most of this is old hat, there are some new guidelines he posted on tactics you probably haven’t heard mentioned before as being “bad”.
So, let’s review these new bad guidelines from Bing…
Bing doesn’t want you to cloak your content which is nothing new. They would prefer that the content you show their Bingbot be the same content that you’re showing to your human visitors. While it’s simple for Bing to say this, they don’t really discuss upcoming issues regarding customizing content for different devices, such as Smartphones and Tablets. This is likely going to be a problem area in the future as more Web sites detect the device requesting the page and customize the output for optimum results. As Bing currently doesn’t have a Mobile only bot, this isn’t an issue – yet.
Bing says that they will give you no credit for purchased links, if they detect them that is. If link buying is taken to the extremes and it’s causing a problem for Bing, they may take action against the sites involved according to Forrester.
We rarely hear of this being a problem at Bing and this tends to reinforce that they don’t penalize beyond just negating those links when detected. That said, there is also limited recourse to getting back into Bing should you start to cause them problems. Keep in mind that “causing them problems” tends to mean make them look bad.
Link Farming is also something that Bing advises against. This is where you have a network of sites which link to your content, typically these sites would be under your control, or they might be paid links from a network of sites. Bing attempts to detect and devalue links from Link Farms when possible. Participating in a Link Farm is deemed a more significant violation by Bing than random Link purchases.
Three-way & Reciprocal Linking
This one you want to pay special attention to, as it’s a bit of a different response from an engine than we’ve seen before on this topic. Three way linking, that is where your site links to example Site A, which in turn links to Site B, which then links back to your site. One variation of this concept is also is known as Link Wheels. Bing advises that three-way linking is something that is not really useful, and the links get discounted. They advise if you want to reciprocal link, go ahead. Forrester wrote “Don’t sweat reciprocal links and avoid three-way linking”.
We’re going to add that we believe he’s talking about minor amounts of reciprocal linking, like when a company links back and forth between their different division web sites, or say you’re linking to other companies in your topic area. We don’t think he’s saying to fire up that old reciprocal link generator software that builds a directory of reciprocal links.
Like Google, Bing isn’t a fan of duplicate content. While they aren’t anywhere near as sophisticated as Google in detecting it, Bing still recommends avoiding duplication of content both on and off site. They advise you to use the rel=canonical tag and we might also add that it can be useful to use Bing’s Query Parameters for Normalization when applicable within Bing’s Webmaster Tools.
Facebook Like Farms
Most SEO professionals are aware of the impact that Facebook Like’s have on Bing Search Results, but not all that many may be aware of Bing’s position on “Like Farms”. In a nutshell, these are fake Like’s, which Bing says they ignore. A “Like Farm” functions similar to a Link Farm, but it’s based on social Like’s instead of Links.
Bing has mentioned in the past that they look at how fast a site gains links. They also look at how fast a site gains Facebook Like’s as well. This means if your site gets a few Like’s here and there, then all the sudden a bunch of Like’s show up in Bing’s Radar, they might be discounted. This is something you should pay close attention to. There are many companies that send out email newsletters asking customers to Like them, or participate in a contest for a Like and/or other promotions to gain Like’s that might get interpreted as fakes. If you do this, be aware that a sudden spike in Like’s (or links for that matter) can be detected, and if that network is clustered heavily as shown below, they may be discounted.
These images provided by Bing help illustrate that natural Like’s have more degrees of separation.
There’s more on this topic in a post by Bing that details what Bing believes the difference between real organic Like’s and artificial Like’s are, and how they can detect the difference.
Bing also advises against using an Auto-Follower for your Twitter account as you end up following just as many people as follow you. This looks to be non-authoritative to Bing. They suggest something like a 40 to 1 ratio of followers to each follow back to be a good sign of authority. Bing also has a resource on becoming an Authority in Twitter that reviews some basics of what they look for.
We’re not advising to rush right out and unfollow a bunch of people on Twitter, but do be aware of the way Bing looks at those numbers. You might want to think twice before clicking +follow next time.
Finally Bing advises against Thin Content, this is basically their version of Google’s Panda which is intended to reward high quality content that generates signals showing that users like it, such as low bounceback, good time on page and unique content not found elsewhere. A perfect example might be a one line product description that doesn’t give many details about the product; this would indeed be “thin”.
Bing also recommends reading this post How to build High Quality Content. We want to note it’s not only that you have great content, but it also has to generate signals that Bing can see to show that it’s high quality in order to get rewarded for it.
ComScore announced December 22nd that Microsoft has finally passed Yahoo to become the #2 Highest Traffic Collection of Sites on the Internet, with Google still holding a solid 1st place.
Based on November’s Traffic Data, comScore reported that Microsoft’s sites had received 175,499,000 visitors, where Yahoo received 174,481,000 during the same time period, and interestingly enough Google isn’t that far ahead of Microsoft, they are certainly within striking distance.
In regards to Search Marketing, these numbers don’t reflect how much traffic Bing, Google or Yahoo can send your way, we’re talking about total user traffic on all of each company’s sites here. In regards to sending traffic down stream, Google still has a huge overwhelming lead over Bing or Yahoo for referrer traffic.
In regards to search engine market share only, Bing is just about to pass Yahoo in comScore’s November Search Engine Rankings Report which is a more representative report of what traffic each engine may pass on to Organic or PPC search traffic. We’ve certainly seen Bing erode Yahoo’s market share month after month, and perhaps even draining a bit away from Google as well.
One place Bing won’t be gaining on Google is via the Firefox browser, a deal that fell through after Google reportedly paid nearly One BILLION dollars for a three year spot as the default search engine for Firefox. Anyway you look at it, that’s a lot of money, especially for a browser that is a direct competitor with their own Chrome product. Bing will however probably get a nice boost in the near future from the addition of Bing Search for Xbox which should start to show up in Decembers stats.
Microsoft announced December 4th that Xbox users with the Kinect voice control option will soon be able access the Bing search engine from within the Game Console. The free upgrade which will roll out to 57 million people in the near future will allow users to utilize Bing search to look for games, TV shows, movies and music with a focus on entertainment.
Microsoft has a number of Television, Internet and Cable Content providers lined up to provide Xbox optimized content to users as well. This reminds us a lot of GoogleTV, which even after a recent update hasn’t lived up to its hype. Regardless, with an installed base as large as the one Xbox has, the new voice search feature is certain to bump up Bing’s search volume a noticeable amount. Unfortunately, this is not something that will make a difference to most Web site owners in the near future as this new update appears to only allow Bing to search Xbox Optimized sites or content.
In order to use Bing on the Xbox 360, you must be signed in to your Xbox Live account. Once you’re signed in, you’ll see a new Bing option on the home menu. However, unless you’re wanting to use Bing to search for Movies, Games or other entertainment you’ll be wasting your time as it won’t show you standard Bing Organic search results. Even a simple query such as Weather was a failure with nothing but movies returned. In other words, this is not for using Bing regular search.
That said, one positive thing we can mention is that Xbox 360 voice search does actually work pretty good for a new feature. Searching for a movie title was generally accurate, as were names of games for example Transformers.In order to conduct a search using voice, you just say Xbox, Bing KEYWORD which is much easier than entering the text via the handheld controller. As an addition to the Xbox, the new Voice Search is ok, but it fails miserably at general Web search. We can’t overlook how the voice command uses the Bing name as a Verb, which is something that Google fought to avoid when it became popular.
Bing announced October 26th that all new versions of the Firefox browser will have Bing as the default search engine and home page. This move comes on the heels of Mozilla’s long time relationship with Google in November 2011.
This change will only affect new Firefox installations. However, for those that want to update their current installation, Bing has made a Bing Search for Firefox Add-on available.
The new agreement will certainly be a boost for Bing and increase traffic as Firefox currently holds 25% of the browser market share, and is the #2 browser in use as of September, 2011. Microsoft has been steadily making deals with whomever they can to become the default search engine on many devices including cars, phones and tablets. Now they’re taking it to the next step and including browsers that directly compete against Internet Explorer. For those that remember the 1990 Browser wars between Netscape and Microsoft, this deal does seem a bit ironic as it brings things full circle.