Some people might say that search engine optimisation may as well be called “Google optimisation”. While Google is and will probably remain the big dog in terms of search engines, marketers should not forget about the other platforms people are using.
In many industries major search engine competitors like Microsoft’s Bing present an untapped market where search engine optimisation can be more or at least equally effective. Microsoft’s search engine is considered to have a more mature user base which usually means they have more money to spend, resulting in higher quality leads.
For a business wanting to optimise their ranking potential on Microsoft’s search engine they cannot simply employ the exact same strategies they have used for Google’s ranking factors. While many ranking factors work similarly there are just as many important differences to be aware of.
The search results on one of these platforms can be entirely different from the other. Knowing the core differences in ranking factors and how to appease both of them will make sure that a website is meeting its greatest potential.
For this reason it’s critical that search engine marketers educate themselves on these differences so that they can produce a highly nuanced optimisation strategy that will perform well in a new environment. The following will detail some of the most important ways that SEO performs differently on Bing than it does on Google.
Google’s search algorithm is famously focused on improving the accuracy of searches by working to comprehend contextual clues on each website in order to serve users the best results. This process uses a form of pseudo artificial intelligence to index a page’s content and determine its value to human users.
This algorithm is constantly being refined to favour high quality and authoritative website content that provides a meaningful experience for users. In this regard the relationship between exact match keywords and the optimisation of the page is less important.
Bing’s search algorithm is not so nuanced in its approach to evaluating website content. As a less advanced algorithm it can be more easily manipulated by the inclusion of specific keyword terms in elements of the on page optimisation. If a word being searched for has multiple meanings then the search engine will provide different types of results in the sidebar for users to select.
Microsoft’s search engine is also still a viable place for the use of meta keywords while they are completely useless in other search engines. This means that many websites with a good SERP in one search engine may have a worse SERP in another based purely on their usage of meta keywords.
The differences in each search engines’ valuation of keywords means that an optimisation strategy targeting both with need to incorporate contradictory elements in certain areas.
Images and other forms or multimedia content aren’t as important in Google’s ranking factors as they are in Bings’. This is because the former focuses on text relevancy as well as the descriptions of images in order to index websites.
Flash goes effectively unnoticed by most other search algorithms as it is considered an outdated form of multimedia since newer formats like HTML5 have become popular. This leaves room for sites with engaging flash content to perform better in Microsoft’s search engine.
Microsoft has used its search engine to differentiate itself from competitors by innovating in the field of visual searching. This includes the use of “entity understanding” which essentially means the search engine can better identify if an image contains a person, object or location.
The heavy use of high quality images and videos simply matters more for Microsoft’s search engine than it does for its competitors. This ability to effectively crawl and interpret multimedia content means that it will better reward sites that use it.
When performing search engine optimisation on either of these platforms it’s important to note the differences in how they value and interpret multimedia elements. This gives room for marketers to use different strategies depending on what platform they want to target.
In regards to Google’s ranking factors, social media influence is not incredibly relevant. The search algorithm will rank Facebook and Twitter pages the same way they do any other website. While having a strong social media presence will help a websites’ ranking it is not given any special consideration.
As a relatively new kid on the block, Bing has understandably put an emphasis on the social media presence of the website’s it ranks. This even includes ranking of Google+ shares. A high density of social signals such as tweets and Facebook posts are highly rewarded in this search engine.
Microsoft’s search engine makes an effort to show the social relevancy of a webpage based on the activity of a user’s friends in relation to it. If someone searches for a product and its page has been shared by their friends the search engine will display this data.
When planning a search engine optimisation strategy it’s important to know the difference between how Google and Microsoft’s search engine value the presence of a business on social media. This difference should be taken advantage of for those who want to optimise their website for each search engine.
Backlinks are an incredibly important part of off page search engine optimisation and while working much the same in each search engine they are valued differently. Both search engines use backlinks as a way to determine the authority and trustworthiness of a page.
Google’s more advanced algorithm is able to better evaluate the quality of backlinks in conjunction with the on-page optimisation factors. This means that a high page rank due to authoritative backlinks is just as important as the overall quality of what’s on the page itself.
The algorithm behind Microsoft’s search algorithm is less advanced and places a higher value on the superficial factors of backlinks to determine their quality. Whether or not a website ends with .gov .edu or .org is a major trust factor used by this search engine. It will also place more importance on other factors of the linking domain like its age and certain extensions.
This more primitive evaluation of backlinks means that on the whole Bing tends to reward a higher quantity over quality than other search engines. The search engine will actively remove pages from its index if their link authority is found to be too low. This means that it is absolutely necessary for a website to have at least a few inbound links on other domains for it to be ranked by Microsoft’s search engine.
While backlinks are necessary for the optimal success of websites on both search engines there are some noteworthy differences nonetheless.
Old Content VS New Content
With regards to Microsoft’s search engine, there is a particular favouring of older content when determining site rankings. Microsoft sees this content as more authoritative because it has been around longer and therefore wants to serve this content to its search engine users.
Another reason for this preference for older content is that Microsoft’s search engine indices are updated less frequently, about every 3 months. This means that older content appears to have a higher ranking because it takes longer to index new content as it becomes published.
This is in stark contrast to Google which updates it indices much more frequently and favours new content that is popular and authoritative. Knowing this means that search engine optimisation on Microsoft’s search engine will rely less on generating buzzworthy content that targets current trends.
Other Technical Factors
Of course as can be expected, the on page and structural technical factors of a website are important to optimise in order to rank well in both search engines. These are however evaluated in a few different ways.
As we have discovered when comparing both search engines, Google’s algorithm for indexing pages is much more advanced than Bing’s. Google’s technology is much better that interpreting the context of a web page while Microsoft’s search engine is comparatively basic, focusing on keywords in titles, tags and throughout the page.
As Google’s algorithm has developed has been able to crawl more and more of targeted web pages in order to interpret all of their content. Microsoft’s search engine is not as advanced and can only be expected to read the first 100kb of a web page before making its analysis. This means that marketers trying to achieve a high ranking in Microsoft’s search engine need to make sure that the most relevant parts of a websites content appear earlier in the chronology of the page.
The lessened capacity of Microsoft’s search engine means it is going to index less of a web page than Google will. For this reason marketers trying to optimise their site for Bing need to try and facilitate quality backlinks to as many pages of the site as they can to make sure they are all evaluated.
The search engine ranking factors for both search engines are mostly similar and can be approached in a largely uniform way with regards to SEO.
Both search engines aim to above all provide value to their user base. This means that the focus of each algorithm has been to prioritise high quality, authoritative and contextually accurate content. This evaluation of content quality is much more nuanced in Google than it is in Bing and this goes for a range of other on and off page factors.
In most respects it seems like the main difference between the two search engines is the intricacy of their indexing algorithms. Google’s long history means it has had more time to develop and attract expertise that has made it the industry leader is today. This has allowed them to build a ranking hierarchy than uses its increasing intelligence to evaluate the quality of web pages in much the same way as a human being would.
Microsoft’s less advanced indexing technology means that it is still placing a high value on keywords and their chronological appearance in a web page. This means that the content that is performing well on Microsoft’s search engine can be considered less carefully crafted and more dependent on implying relevancy through keyword usage.
Where Microsoft has outperformed their competitor is in its targeting of a user base that wants to explore the internet visually and through social media connections. Bing’s superior ability to index visually intricate websites as well as including flash content means they are providing an arguably more aesthetically pleasing user experience than their competitor. The greater inclusion of social media signals in their search results demonstrates relatability to current trends on the internet.
The search algorithm maintained and developed by Google is what secures it’s seniority over its competitors. This is ultimately what makes a meaningful comparison hard as there is arguably no substitute for its ability to index content based on the core factors that users care about. For this reason the comparison between how SEO works for both search engines boils down to a comparison of the effectiveness of competing technology trying to achieve the same thing.
When it comes to implementing a websites’ digital marketing strategy search engine optimisation remains one of the most important aspects no matter what search provider is targeted. With that said, there are some noteworthy differences in how the optimisation for each of these search engines should be carried out.
Ultimately while Bing can provide a superior visual search experience, optimising for it requires marketers to take advantage of its more primitive indexing algorithm. This means that an SEO strategy targeting Microsoft’s search engine will require less emphasis on quality content development and more on a broader use of keywords, HTML tags and backlinks. When optimising for Bing marketers still need to be careful not to fall into “Black Hat” SEO techniques.
On the other hand, Google seems to remain the market leader because of its constantly improving search algorithm that continues to find the most authoritative and sincere content for its users.
SEO strategies change only in the depth of their use when applied to different search engines. While both the search providers discussed here want to provide a quality end user experience their technical maturity is what separates them in terms of search engine optimisation.
Lucas is the Managing Director and the Head of SEO Strategy at SEO Shark. He has over 15 years of experience in achieving SEO results for small and medium businesses as well as multinational and ASX-listed brands. He is also an author of multiple publications about digital marketing.