Bing! It’s that time again. OK, it might have passed some marketers by, but Microsoft has just published a new set of Bing Webmasters Guidelines (BWG), and it could be important for your online marketing strategy.
Google isn’t the end of the story when it comes to SEO. Bing is actually a surprisingly influential part of the search sector, and it can be an easier engine to master than Google, with it’s increasingly complex algorithm updates.
With that in mind, we’ve prepared a quick primer about the latest Guidelines Update to help you decide how (and whether) to prioritise Bing in your marketing planning.
Why do the Bing Webmaster Guidelines matter?
But what about the BWG? Bing’s Website Guidelines represent a set of rules used by the search engine to determine what counts as a “website” for search indexing purposes. This matters because many companies rely on multiple domains for different markets. Or they may use sub-domains from other sites such as WordPress to sell their products.
If these are incorrectly indexed, poor search rankings can result. So it’s important for website owners to know how Bing determines what constitutes a separate site.
The way sites are structured via backlinks and internal linking also feeds into the guidelines provided to webmasters. In the past, Bing has been associated with large numbers of backlinks, and relatively less focus on “quality” content than Google. The latest BWGs suggest that is changing.
How many people actually use Bing?
All of this wouldn’t matter if Bing was a tiny search engine with zero relevance. And that’s a mistaken impression that’s still pretty common among marketers. In some ways, that’s understandable. After all, Google claims to control 90 percent of the search market, so isn’t Microsoft’s own engine an afterthought that only really wealthy companies can focus on?
Actually, no. Bing may be smaller than Google, but in absolute terms, it’s still a goldmine for certain companies. It handles around 10.5 billion searches every month, and has 450 million active monthly users. That’s more users than there are American citizens.
Understanding the BWG update about website boundaries
So what can we learn from the latest BWGs? The first takeaway is that webmasters need to be extra sensitive to duplicate content. Bing has tightened up its mechanisms to detect “doorway”-style pages – large quantities of similar pages which have almost the same content, and all direct users to a single landing page.
This is part of a wider effort to make Bing results more relevant, and to prioritise higher quality content over keyword-stuffed spam. In general, the latest BWCs also suggest that redirects need to be used carefully, if at all.
Another important no-no is the use of subdomain leasing. In these setups, subdomains on high-performing sites can be purchased by third parties, potentially giving them an advantage by “leapfrogging” on the rankings of the original site. In the future, that’s going to be heavily penalised by Bing’s algorithms.
Thirdly, sites which rely almost completely on linking between different domains are likely to be downgraded. This will specifically target “Private Blog Networks” (PBNs), which create clusters of interlinked posts. Again, this implies that many webmasters will need to change the way they deliver content.
Adapt to Bing’s new guidelines with a content overhaul
What is the most important thing to take away from the new BWGs? The core message here is that inorganic site structures will incur penalties. This means that gaming Bing’s search engine via PBNs, duplicate content, and subdomain leasing wil become much harder.
This brings Bing broadly into line with Google, so the transition should be manageable for most companies. There’s a need for higher quality, more relevant content, delivered via well-structured websites that conform to Bing’s requirements – and achieving this is far from impossible.
If you need any assistance when crafting a BIng-friendly marketing strategy, greatcontent is here to help. Get in touch and we’ll be happy to organise an SEO audit that covers all of the Bing Website Guidelines, making your content ready to perform at its best.
Text: Sam Urquhart