How Will Microsoft's Bing Effect SEO

Usage of the Microsoft Bing search engine grew by 70 per cent in 2009 and was responsible for 4.1 billion searches, according to figures from search engine research provider comScore.

As Microsoft's Bing search engine continues to rise in popularity, Computing found out what organisations need to know about Bing and how much attention they should pay to Google's new challenger.

One of the catalysts behind Bing's recent boom is Microsoft's partnership with Yahoo. Microsoft is providing the technology behind Yahoo's once-dominant search engine.

Bing is currently responsible for 12.1 per cent of all searches and Yahoo is responsible for 18.3 per cent, according to comScore's most recent figures.

This means that optimising a search engine ranking for Bing will also improve content relevance for Yahoo's search engine as well.

But in what ways does Bing's technology differ from Google?

According to Cedric Chambaz, Microsoft's marketing manager for search and SMB, successful search engines have a lot in common.

"A search engine, irrelevant of the technology or the brand behind it, is all about delivering the most relevant results. The question is: how do you qualify relevancy?" he said.

Experts say Microsoft has worked hard to emulate the Google search.

Richard Baxter, founder and director of SEO consultancy SEOgadget, said the major difference between Bing and Google's search engine is how it presents search results, rather than the criteria it uses to rank them.

"It's really clear that Bing has invested a lot of time and effort improving the search algorithm to improve the quality of the results for users, so their results do tend to mimic Google's a lot more frequently than you'd expect," he said.

"Google and Bing rankings are more similar than they've ever been before. What's quite interesting is that, from the perspective of the ordinary user, there are very few differences."

But there are some differences.

One feature of Bing is that it takes into account the experience a user has on a web site, according to Chambaz. He said that Bing assigns a quality score for each page that appears in its search engine.

"If people are clicking on a link and land on a web page, then realise it's not what they want, click back and have a poor user experience, that shows the content doesn't match the intentions of the consumer," he said. "The algorithm can learn from that by observing that pattern."

He said that the best advice is to be genuine to your business and focus on its core strengths and uniqueness, such as the focus of the business and its location.

"If you are a florist, focus on floristry. Use keywords that are relevant and make sure you have locally relevant information, so that if you're a florist, you're not competing against worldwide organisations if you are just based in Hammersmith. Make sure the word Hammersmith and florist are properly populated across your site," Chambaz advised.

He added that the best web sites are built to address consumer needs and that content should be consumer-friendly, not only in terms of the website experience, but also in the words that are used.

Some organisations have attempted to improve search visibility by trying to dupe the search engine into thinking that the site's content is something it is not.

Chabaz said one example is where companies use a white background and add popular keywords in white text.

"Don't try to fool the search engine because there will be a backlash. The algorithms are very intelligent and they identify when you are trying too hard," he said.

Such sites are added to a blacklist and fall in the search engine's rankings, he added.

Microsoft offers tools to businesses hoping to understand how it ranks search results. Its advertising intelligence tool is a free Excel add-on aimed at providing keyword expansion, research, pricing and key performance indicator data, allowing firms to maximise marketing return for their paid search and content ad campaigns.

"You enter a keyword in Excel and another button click will give you a demographic of people searching for it and how often this keyword is searched for," Chabaz said.

Microsoft's SEO Toolkit analyses a corporate website and finds ways to boost hits. It uses SEO recommendations to improve traffic and increase revenue streams and helps people discover and solve common problems in website content and design to enhance end-user experience.

"It is is also free. You download it to your PC and it will go through your site and give you recommendations on how to improve it," Chabaz added.

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