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30th June 2021
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Categories: Digital Marketing

Bing Ranking Factors: What Can We Learn?

Estimated Read Time: 15 minutes

With SEO, it’s likely you know the basics. You understand the importance of relevant optimised content, a great page experience, and authoritative backlinks acquired naturally. However, when it comes to ranking your website in Bing specifically, do you know the key differences compared to Google?

Well, fortunately for you, Bing has published its ‘Bing Webmaster Guidelines’ publicly. This includes all the information a Webmaster needs to understand how Bing finds, indexes, and ranks websites. Essentially, in these guidelines, Bing is telling you everything you need to know for how to best optimise your website for the Bing search engine.

In this article we will cover some of Bing’s core ranking factors and their differences when compared with Google’s. We will also cover whether optimising more closely with Bing’s guidelines has any implications for Google SEO…

Bing’s Six Core Parameters for Ranking Content 

1. Relevancy

When Bing’s algorithm takes into account the on-site relevancy of page content, it essentially looks at the same factors Google does – it wants to see unique content (no duplication) that has been written for users and not for SEO. Content shouldn’t be thin; it should be engaging and readable. Though the weighting of content relevancy in the two search engines’ algorithms may vary, the factors remain the same.

Differences from Google

None!

2. Quality and Credibility

When it comes to determining the quality and credibility of content on a website, Bing looks at the website and author’s reputation, as well as any clear references to data sources. One thing that does stand out in Bing’s guidelines is “Bing may demote content that includes name-calling, offensive statements, or uses derogatory language to make a point”.

Differences from Google

When it comes to determining a website and author’s reputation, Google has its ‘E-A-T guidelines’ which looks at Expertise, Authoritativeness and Trustworthiness of a web page. Authorship plays a big role in this, and Google will investigate to decide whether the author is a recognised, reputable voice in the industry.

When it comes to offensive and derogatory content, in the past, Google didn’t appear to formally reference its feelings on website content that includes this when it comes to ranking factors. Back in 2017, Search Engine Journal stated that “Officially, Google takes no position on curse words in website content.”

However, we can see that today, Google’s Search Quality Guidelines state: “Harmful, hateful, violent, or sexually explicit search results are only appropriate if the person phrased their search in a way that makes it clear that they are looking for this type of content, and there is no other reasonable interpretation of the words used in their search.”

Google has also included guidance in different areas, for instance, in Google’s review markup guidelines, they prohibit profanity and/or vulgar language in reviews. For Google My Business Posts, in their guidelines they state that they do not allow “content that contains obscene, profane or offensive language or gestures”. From this, we can deduce that Google is not a fan of derogatory and offensive language, and it’s therefore fair to assume that this could demote a website in search for anything other than searches related to the harmful/derogatory content included.

3. User Engagement

As part of its ranking factors, Bing takes into consideration how users engage with the search results. Their guidelines confirm that they consider:

Differences from Google

User engagement has never been confirmed as an official ranking factor for visibility in Google. A quick search online will show you countless arguments, research and assumptions around user engagement and SEO over the years, and has brought about a lot of confusion.

However, it’s safe to say that improvements to your site would only benefit users arriving from Google. Even if Google didn’t take an increased click through rate of a page into consideration like Bing, it will still benefit your website in other ways – better traffic and potentially, conversions!

4. Freshness of Content

In their Webmaster Guidelines, Bing states that they prefer content that is ‘fresh’, in other words, they generally prioritise pages with up-to-date content. However, we can interpret from their wording that this will likely depend on the query at hand, where they state – “In many cases, content produced today will still be relevant years from now. In some cases, however, content produced today will go out of date quickly.”

Differences from Google

Bing’s guidelines follow similarly to Google’s, however, Google word it much more clearly, directly explaining that as a ranking factor, the freshness of content “plays a bigger role in answering queries about current news topics than it does about dictionary definitions.”

Freshness of content shouldn’t be a surprising ranking factor for either search engine, as this is completely logical – ultimately, both search engines want to display the most accurate, up-to-date content around an evolving topic.  

Our opinion is that it never hurts to revisit all of your top performing content periodically to keep it fresh, regardless of how much of a factor freshness is playing.

5. Location

Bing considers where the user is located when searching, including where the website is hosted, language used on the site and lastly, the location of other visitors arriving at the page.

Differences from Google
Google also look at where the user is searching and consider languages used. When it comes to hosting however, they state that: “Server location (through the IP address of the server) is frequently near your users. However, some websites use distributed content delivery networks (CDNs) or are hosted in a country with better webserver infrastructure, so we try not to rely on the server location alone.”

6. Page Speed

Bing wants your site speed to be fast, as this is likely to lead to a better page experience. In their guidelines, they explain that, “Slow page load times can lead a visitor to leave your website, potentially before the content has even loaded, to seek information elsewhere. Bing may view this as a poor user experience and an unsatisfactory search result.” “However, they have one stipulation, and this is that page load speed should always be balanced with a positive, useful user experience.

Differences from Google

Google feels exactly the same way Bing does. Site speed has been a direct ranking factor within Google since way back in 2010. It’s no secret that Google gives preference to websites that are fast, and so there are no key differences here between the search engines.

Not forgetting…. Link Acquisition

When it comes to link acquisition to build your website’s authority, much like Google, Bing wants external websites to link to your website naturally because you are offering valuable content. However, Bing appears to be more relaxed with other link acquisition techniques, so long as they are not done excessively.

With reciprocal linking, Bing actually states “Don’t skip this as a valid link building tactic, however. New websites need links, and exchanging a link is a solid way to not only gain a trusted inbound link, but potentially to gain direct traffic from the other website.”

On the subject of paying for links, Bing also explains “buying a link on a busy website can bring you direct traffic, so it does remain a valid marketing tactic. Just be careful how often you employ this tactic lest Bing form the impression you’re buying links to try to influence your organic rankings.”

Differences from Google

Unlike Bing, Google is a lot more tough about link acquisition tactics. They state that ANY form of paying for links can negatively impact your website’s SEO, this includes:

“Exchanging money for links, or posts that contain links

Exchanging goods or services for links

Sending someone a “free” product in exchange for them writing it and including a link”

However, much like Bing, it seems they have some lenience with reciprocal linking due to their choice of wording with ‘excessive’:

Excessive link exchanges (“Link to me and I’ll link to you”) or partner pages exclusively for the sake of cross-linking.”

At the end of the day, we know that Google is very strict on link acquisition when it comes to SEO, so it’s no surprise that the search engine is less forgiving than Bing. At the end of the day, the best links are those that are gained naturally from reputable, authoritative sources. So, if you’re following best practice, you have nothing to worry about.

If following Bing’s more lenient guidelines with buying and exchanging the odd link, you should approach with caution. There’s no saying if Google will be as flexible. We’d say it’s not worth risking flaunting Google’s rules for the sake of Bing SEO.

Optimising for Bing & the Implications for Google

It’s clear that when you compare Bing and Google’s guidelines in terms of ranking factors, Bing and Google are on a similar page. At the end of the day, both search engines want to deliver the best experience to their users, and so, it makes sense that they both oppose black hat SEO tactics and put quality, relevant websites with a great user experience at the forefront.  

Where there are differences, we would say approach Bing optimisation carefully and lean more towards following Google’s slightly stricter guidelines.  

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