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Dean Marsden

A Guide To Bing Chicken, Bing Webmaster Tools & Guidelines

21st Jun 2013 SEO | 1 Comment


Bing Chicken EatingLast month I wrote a blog post featuring lots of Google Webmaster Tools Resources. Google Webmaster Tools is widely used by SEO’s looking to improve their site for Google, but people often forget about the other search engines, Bing and Yahoo. Of course Bing powered search only officially accounts for around 8% of UK searches, but I have clients with over 30% of visits coming from Bing and Yahoo combined, so it is completely in an SEO’s interest to make sure their websites are well optimised.

So this blog post is designed to highlight the benefits of Bing Webmaster Tools and hopefully give you some good info about Bing optimisation. I am a fan of the tools and information that Bing has been giving to webmasters. They even launched a Disavow tool before Google did.

At the end of May, Bing teased webmasters with what they called ‘Bing Chicken’. Everyone questioned the use of this particular animal name, was Bing following Google with algorithm update names? Or was it due to be a refresh in the search results design? Well as explained in this blog post, Bing Chicken is simply a term the webmaster team at Bing use to focus its efforts in helping businesses and website owners enhance their site’s visibility in Bing. Looking back at the tools and information that Bing has released in the last year, this is clear:

I’m going to take you through some of the highlights of optimising your site for Bing using the Tools and information provided by Bing.

Bing Webmaster Tools

Firstly let’s take a look at the actual Webmaster Tools suite. There is a great set of useful tools and information for your site.

Dashboard

The Bing Webmaster Tools dashboard shows a clear summary of how well your site(s) are performing in Bing with percentage changes (for the time period you select) in clicks from search, appeared in search, pages crawled and pages indexed.

Bing Webmaster Tools Dashboard

Configure My Site

As the name suggests, here you can set lots of different options to help Bing understand your site and add/remove webmaster tools users.

Sitemaps – Submit XML sitemaps to help your pages get indexed. Bing accepts RSS (or atom feeds) which is great for notifying them of the latest blog posts or content on your site. Bing also recommends that you reference the XML sitemap URL in your robots.txt.

Submitted URLs – Manually submit URLs for Bing to crawl. Useful for brand new pages that you would like crawled ASAP.

URL Parameters – Set different URL query strings for Bing to ignore. This helps prevent duplicate pages being indexed and therefore will give greater link value to the correct URL.

Crawl Control – Detailed settings for which hours of the day your site should be crawled at what speed. This is useful if you want to prevent Bing’s crawler from hitting your site during busy periods or if you have new content published at certain times of the day.

Bing Webmaster Tools Crawl Rate

Deep Links – This is the same as Google’s Sitelinks. You have good control over which Deep links are shown here, however in most cases you need to have a popular, high profile website to be able to have deep links, more so than in Google.

Blocked URLs – Got URLs you want removed from the search results? Bing will block them for 90 days then re-index them if they are still live after then. Like with Google WMT you should remove the page to prevent it from the URL showing again. Use the robots.txt file to block live pages indefinitely.

Disavow Links – Enter page URLs, website directories or entire domains to tell Bing you do not wish to be associated with these low quality, unnatural looking links.

Geo-Targeting – Don’t forget to set this option to help your site appear in the right country/region. You can set geo-targeting at subdomain, directory or even page level. This is very useful for international businesses with contact details for worldwide locations within pages in their site.

Verify Ownership – There are three ways to verify website ownership: an XML file on your server, a Meta tag in your Home page header and a CNAME record in your DNS settings

Users – Add and remove users to this Webmaster Tools profile at different user levels

Reports & Data

Bing provides detailed reporting on how your site appeared in the search results compared to how it was crawled.

Site Activity – See a graph of clicks from search alongside impressions, pages crawled, crawl errors and pages indexed. Choose dates from the date picker or the pre-sets.

Page Traffic – View how many clicks and impressions your pages received in the search results. This data seems more feasible than Google Webmaster Tools’ rounded up figures. Compare different keywords used for these clicked pages.

Index Explorer – Shows a hierarchical view of your sites pages. A good way to visualise site structure.

Search Keywords – The top keywords used to find your website. Compare which pages of your site were found for a given keyword.

SEO Reports (Beta) – A straightforward list of tasks for SEO’s to complete on-site, highlighted by severity: Title tag, Meta description, Alt tag, H1 heading optimisations. Bing is practically guiding you through what needs fixing on your site, very useful!

Inbound Links – View up to 20,000 links per page and download all links. The inbound links feature isn’t as powerful as Google’s as you can’t see a list of the top anchor text or see the latest links discovered for your site.

Crawl information – A breakdown of issues found by Bing whilst crawling your site, 404 errors, 500 errors, pages with 301 & 302 redirects, robots.txt exclusions, DNS and connection issues.

Malware – List the different types of Malware found on your site (if there has been any).

Diagnostics & Tools

Bing provides a suite of tools in this section to help improve your site or analyse your site visually.

Keyword Research (Beta) – Find the number of times a given keyword was searched in the Bing results for a given time period. Export these results to work carry on your keyword research. You could then use some search operators to get the competition for a given keyword within Bing.

Link Explorer – Good to use for competitor research as you can see the inbound links to any website URL. Add filters for linking sites, anchor text and additional queries to make it useful for seeing certain links. This tool is recommended for analysing your own site too.

Fetch as Bingbot (Beta) – View your site pages as Bingbot would see them when crawling your site.

Markup Validator (Beta) – Check your site for markup that can be displayed as rich snippets in the Bing results.

SEO Analyzer (Beta) – Analyse pages of your for issues in a visual way. Results are highlighted on an overlaid display of your site.

Verify Bingbot – Helps you identify whether traffic to your site was Bingbot.

Site Move – As well as using this tool to move entire sites to new domains, you should tell Bing which internal URLs have moved, even when you have set up 301 redirects for them.

Messages

Bing Webmaster Tools has its own message centre where you receive notices of any crawling, indexing or malware issues. But you will also more commonly receive messages from Bing administrators on features of Bing Webmaster Tools and you will also receive offers from Bing Ads such as free credit vouchers.

Webmaster Guidelines

As SEOs we should be well versed in the highly important and regularly updated Google Webmaster Guidelines, but what about Bing’s Webmaster Guidelines?

Let’s take a look at what’s in Bing’s Webmaster Guidelines:

Content

Bing say they love clear, deep and easy to find content. This means pages full of adverts, little content or that have lots of external links typically wont rank highly in Bing. They also prefer fresh content, I don’t usually see as many old whitepapers or web pages listed in Bing as I do in Google. Out of date content is unlikely to appear highly in the Bing search results.

Links

Bing too can devalue paid links and link schemes. Excessive link manipulation can lead to your website being delisted from the Bing results, however I’ve not seen any cases where this has happened and in my opinion Bing doesn’t have the same resources to identify and manage webspam as Google does. It seems easier to rank in Bing with lower quality links.

Social

Social signals do affect your organic rankings in Bing. If it can be seen your content is being shared well then these signals will help. Bing also has good integration with Facebook to show additional information in the results linked to what Facebook friends have liked, so bear this in mind when targeting your audience.

Indexation

Bing recommends using the features in Bing Webmaster Tools to tell them about your site’s content and this helps the crawling of your site. They also state that links to content are a good method of helping your pages to be indexed. I’d also recommend keeping a relatively flat site structure and controlling the crawling of your site to make sure that Bingbot isn’t getting bored or lost on your site.

Technical

Bing recommends a number of technical things to look at as a priority to help your site rank well in the results:

  • Page Load Time – If your site takes too long to load, Bing believes this reflects badly on their own user experience so if they notice a lot of people leaving your slow site they are less likely to show you for relevant terms.
  • Robots.txt – This is essential to helping Bing index the right content on your site.
  • Sitemap file – Keep this up to date and do not leave old URLs in the sitemap file. Bing crawls most sites daily to find fresh content so having new content in your sitemaps will help it get discovered. As mentioned previously, an RSS feed can be submitted as a sitemaps.
  • Site Technology – Avoid Flash and JavaScript navigation so that Bingbot and users without these browser technologies can navigate and read your site. Bing’s Webmaster Guidelines state that if you use rich media throughout your site then you should provide a low tech version of your website that can be viewed by everyone.
  • Redirects – 301 redirects are recommended for most content moves, 302 (temporary) redirects should only be used when content is definitely just being moved temporarily.  Using the rel=canonical tag is not enough to show page redirects.
  • Canonical Tags – Use rel=canonical to hint to Bing which is the original page that it should value and which additional pages are duplicates. Note the use of the word ‘hint’. Always use redirects where content is simply duplicated or changed.

SEO

Bing’s Webmaster Guidelines feature the usual best practices for on-page optimisation. You can see a list of these in more detail on the Bing Webmaster Guidelines page.  Here are some takeaways from the list:

  • Links to external  sites – make sure you trust them and use a reasonable number of external links
  • Internal links – Cross link your pages liberally and use relevant external links in content
  • Clean URLS – avoid using sessions ids and tracking in the URLs
  • HTML & XML Sitemaps – Bing wants to see both
  • Content level – keep valuable content close to the Home page in the structure
  • Navigation – use breadcrumbs and HTML list code
  • Title tags – up to 65 characters long
  • Meta descriptions – up to 160 characters long
  • Keyword usage – use the keyword a few times in the content, add variations
  • Content length – there is no recommended length, however the more relevant content you have, the better
  • Content management – only have unique content
  • Internal and external  links – create a plan for internal and external links
  • Link management – use social media to build links, ask for links but be wary of paid links

Things to Avoid

Their webmaster guidelines have some specific areas to avoid with your website:

  • Cloaking – don’t show a separate version of your site to Bingbot and one to users
  • Link Schemes – don’t participate in automated links schemes, in particular Bing gives the example of Twitter autofollow backs. Try to create social profiles that have better combined value of followers than those you are following, this indicates a stronger voice.
  • Meta Refreshes – Use a 301 redirect instead
  • Duplicate Content – Duplicate content on other URLs loses trust over time. Always fix the cause of duplicate content, use redirects as a primary fix and rel=canonical as secondary option. If excessive URL parameters cause issues then use the Ignore Parameters tool to fix

Conclusions

Optimising for Bing over Google can be a similar process but take note of some important ideas:

  • Bing loves fresh content, so make sure you submit an RSS (or atom) feed if your site has one to Webmaster Tools then Bing will see this new content daily
  • Bingbot loves simple to navigate websites that don’t have great content hidden away four directories deep. Make it clearly findable to users and search bots
  • Geo-targeting is a powerful way of setting certain subdomains, directories or pages appear in different localities. Use it well

I recommend checking in Google Analytics how much organic traffic Bing sends to your website, you might be surprised. Bing has made real advances in the information and tools they provide to webmasters and will continue to build on this in the coming year as long as Bing Chicken has anything to do with it. Follow the options above to make sure your site is optimised for well for Bing.

If you’ve noticed any specific issues or positive changes with your Bing rankings, please share them in the comments below.

Image Credit

Cute chicken isolated on white background from BigStock Photo

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About the author

Dean Marsden

Dean Marsden will be keeping you up to speed with video marketing and conversion rate optimisation. Dean excels at delivering video marketing solutions for clients and specialises in converting website visitors into customers.

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