Microsoft and Yahoo both use search results provided by Bing. Together, nearly 1 in 3 U.S. searches is handled by Bing—and a new contract with Firefox could put that number even higher. Yet “Google” and “search” remain synonyms for many of us, and most SEO guides speak only of “ranking with Google” as if that’s all that matters. Is it?
The answer is definitely no. While some SEO tactics will work well with either search engine, the results that make the top page on the two are different, often with less than half of the same domains achieving the top spots. That’s because Google and Bing weigh search factors differently, and that means it takes extra work and effort to achieve good organic traffic from both major engines.
While many factors are the same between Google and Bing, here is a high-level look at some of the most crucial differences—and how to rank on Bing:
- Bing gives more weight to social cues and less to links: Both factors matter heavily to both search engines, but in an analysis of 300,000 websites Bing gives more weight than Google to Facebook shares, Facebook comments and tweets. Meanwhile, Google gives far more emphasis to the pure number of backlinks and to other link-related factors. This is partly just because Bing is the younger, less developed search engine; Google has indexed far more pages and has developed more tools for sorting and rating the quality of various links. As a result, Google can give more weight to links without worrying that they have blind spots in their algorithm. Lacking this data and experience, Bing relies more on social signals, essentially leaving the quality-screening to the masses. This could change as Bing catches up to Google, or Bing may keep it as a way to differentiate themselves and be more “by the people.” Either way, if you want to rank on Bing, you need to have a very active and effective social media strategy.
- Links still matter—a lot: Despite the above, Bing still weighs backlinks very heavily. In particular, since it indexes less content per page than Google, Bing effectively gives more weight to links found early in blog posts, articles and pages. The tactic to develop good backlinks is the same for either giant, however, you need to produce a good amount of high-quality content of your own, so that consumers, bloggers and journalists will find you useful and voluntarily link to you in their own content. The more and better the content you produce, the more natural links you’ll get and the more both search engines will notice you.
- www- and non-www matters more to Bing: We wrote recently about choosing a “canonical” URL—either with or without the “www” at the beginning—and making sure all other versions of your site point to that one. While this is good advice with both search engines, it matters less with Google because it is better at determining a canonical version on its own, and lets you simply tell it which version is canonical in Google Webmaster Tools. Bing, on the other hand, needs some hand-holding. Follow our simple steps to set a single canonical version of your page and Bing will be sure to index it correctly.
- Bing is focused heavily on mobile-friendly content: Both search engines index mobile content and want to make sure it looks good to mobile searchers. However, Bing recently revealed its mobile ranking factors as part of shoring up its mobile search results. They did this for good reason, because they’re hoping webmasters will code sites to be “responsive,”—in other words, for a single page to change its appearance for mobile versus desktop users. (The alternative is for a site to have two different versions of a page, one mobile and one conventional.) This is definitely the better design and UI choice, but Google is far more forgiving of sites with other setups. Google makes an effort to recognize multiple versions of a page as non-duplicate if one is mobile and the other is for traditional screens; Bing wants webmasters to do the heavy lifting. We recommend responsive design for all new websites, so that this becomes a non-issue no matter which search engine is looking at you. (Existing mobile sites can still rank with Bing as long as they are readable and device-friendly.)
Of course, a successful SEO plan will consider a lot more than just these high-level factors. At EverSpark, our site analysis looks at hundreds of factors that affect over 50 potential trouble spots in ranking on both Bing and Google. We conduct these analyses to give you a complete picture of why you rank (or not) the way you do, and to recommend concrete steps that will move you to the top—on both engines. To learn more about a site analysis for your website, schedule a free consultation today.