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Search Engine Rivalry – Google vs Bing

Search Engine Rivalry – Google vs Bing

When talking about SEO, it is easy to assume that we are talking exclusively about Google however, the search market is huge. Whilst Google continues to dominate, Microsoft has been seen to make good ground up on their competitor.

Depending on which source you trust, the market share can vary dramatically, sometimes by as much as 20%. Using Statista, the figures for the leading search engines in the UK for July 2017 are 83.49% Google and 14.89% Microsoft (Bing & Yahoo).

Although still paling in comparison to Google’s dominance, Bing’s UK market share has shown a steady unassuming increase over the last 2 years – from 9.69% in June 2015.

Further, Bing is making financial strides, with the latest reports from Microsoft demonstrating search advertising revenue (the majority of which coming from Bing) grew by 15% year on year the first quarter of the 2018 fiscal year, ending September 30, 2017.

With the growth of Windows 10 devices, it’s our opinion, here at Snipe Hosting, that now is the ideal time to make positive moves with Bing. By getting a head start, optimising your website for Bing and where possible investing in Bing Ads management you can ensure your business spreads across a greater search market share.

Bing vs. Google – A brief history

Back in the early-Nineties, when the internet was first beginning to spread into the home. Stanford graduates, Jerry Yang and David Filo created a website called Jerry’s Guide to the World Wide Web which was later named Yahoo in April 1994. Yahoo was initially a database of websites that was organised through a hierarchy rather than a searchable index of pages.

In 1998, Larry Page and Sergey Brin founded Google whilst engaged in their PhD studies at Stanford. Google was originally known as BackRub due to its methods of checking site backlinks to determine their authority over others. This was what gave Google the edge over its competitors, and continues to do so to this day. The name Google derives from the word Googol, the number referring to a 1 followed by 100 zeroes (1.0 x10100). but that domain name had already been taken. Incidentally, Googol was the correct answer to the million pound question infamously provided by Charles ‘major fraud’ Ingram who allegedly cheated in Who Wants to be a Millionaire in 2003 by having his wife coughing on the right answer.

Search has been Google’s primary area of expertise, by comparison, Microsoft’s has been much more diverse, through operating systems, software and a myriad of other devices. Microsoft’s Bing, meanwhile, is descended from Windows Live Search and MSN Search, which was rebranded as Bing in July 2009. Where it was also announced that the new search engine would power Yahoo. Other major updates included August 2011, which brought about the new index-serving technology incorporated into Bing globally known as “Tiger”. Further development was seen in May 2012, where the “Sidebar” was incorporated, a social feature that searches users’ social networks for information relevant to the search query. Most recently, in 2015, Microsoft launched its long-anticipated Windows 10 operating system, that has Bing Search playing a major role, notably with the intelligent personal assistant – Cortana. Bing is now heavily integrated with Microsoft’s platforms, Internet Explorer, Windows Phones, Amazon Echo and Xbox.

Google’s algorithm updates have been well documented, starting out sporadically with one in 2000 and then 2002, to progressively more over the years. It’s currently estimated 500-600 search algorithm changes are made a year, while most of these changes are minor going unnoticed, the occasionally “major” algorithmic update (such as Google Panda and Google Penguin) have had significant effects on the SERPs.

Bing vs. Google – Competition

Bing’s usage has risen by 5.2% in the last two years, while subsequently Google’s dropped by 5.8%. This may seem like small incremental changes, but, if this slow-burning trend was to continue could Google be looking at increased competition?

Competition is good, of course, it prompts changes and companies thinking of ways to stand out from the crowd and provide more efficient methods in their service provision. In many ways, competition ensures innovation and technological progress.

From an SEO standpoint, Google and Bing are in many ways very similar, but at the same time, a listing that appears in the top 10 of a Google search could not even feature in the top 200 listings of a Bing search, so there are fundamental differences that small businesses should be aware of.

Irrespectively, ~15% of the search landscape is too lucrative for any business big or small to pass up on. Ultimately, we must ensure that websites are optimised for both platforms to maximise user catchment.

Ranking Factor Differences Between Bing & Google

Don’t panic, you don’t have to overhaul your entire site or reinvent the wheel to optimise for Bing, but there are some notable differences to target and potential changes to benefit from.

While there are many similarities in the SEO ranking factors for Google and Bing, there are also some significant differences that can be optimised for to increase online visibility by placing your business in front of ~15% additional searches on Bing and Yahoo. A lot of potential customers.

Technical SEO differences Bing vs. Google

Investing in optimising behind-the-scenes structure and on-page technical factors for your site will inevitably yield positive results for ranking well on both Google and Bing, although there are certain discrepancies between the two.

Many factors play a part in Bing’s search algorithm and it’s well documented that over 200 components or “signals” contribute to Google’s ranking algorithm from keyword relevance in the title to mobile-friendliness and site speed.

In years gone-by however, a Googlebot would only crawl the first 100kb of a given page, this is no longer a concern for visibility in Google, as the crawling bots have developed. Bing still only caches the first ~100kb of a page, placing a great deal of importance on optimising content within that first 100kb.

Further, Google has established itself as the superior when it comes to interpreting the context of a page. Bing relies more heavily on conventional methods to explain such as keywords in the domain, page titles and metadata.

Some other differences include Bing demonstrating a strong correlation with ranking homepages over internal pages in SERPs compared with Google. Related to Bing’s preference for traditional site structure that goes from broad (homepage) to specific (product) landing page.

In SEO terms, it’s good housekeeping to use permanent 301 redirects as opposed to temporary 302 redirects. Although using 302’s is unlikely to cause any major indexing issues Google does prefer 301’s. Bing, however, actually interprets a 302 as a 301, after crawled several times, placing, even more, importance on opting for 301’s.

In addition, meta descriptions play a greater role in Bing’s assessment of a website than Google’s. Similarly, sites that use precise anchor text will benefit on Bing with higher rank, particularly when your anchor text matches that of the page title. Again google doesn’t focus as much on this element.

When approaching these components as a whole, it is best to be as direct as possible, whilst Google allows for some leeway and creativity in the way words are used, Bing is far more direct. It will be worth bearing in mind to fully state the name and purpose of your company and it’s relevant pages.

Backlink discrepancies between Google & Bing

Google is renowned for favouring backlinks. The more links to your site, the better it’s authority consequently, the better it will stand out in the search results. Although still a deciding factor in ranking, Bing does not place as much importance on backlinks.

For both search engines, sites with more backlinks seem to rank higher. Though the quality of those backlinks is increasingly more important over the quantity, especially for Bing, despite trailing Google in regards to the depth in which they evaluate said links.

While Google crawls and indexes every piece of content available on a domain, Bing contrastingly removes pages from their index if found to not be of value or carry enough link authority to rank in their SERPs. Meaning that usually at least one external website link is needed to a page to ensure a place in Bing’s index, despite having less weighting in Bing’s ranking algorithm.

Google vs. Bing on interpreting social signals

Perhaps one of best opportunities to optimise for Bing search, while also supporting the need for social media being an important component of your overall marketing strategy. As Bing tends to weight social media signals more favourably than Google, despite Google+.

This is likely due to Google not currently integrating social media into their SERPs quite as well as. When searching on Bing, for instance, I can see if a Twitter follower or Facebook friend has rated or recommended the company or product I’m searching for. With results higher in the SERPs tending to have a higher number of shares, likes and tweets.

Who values multimedia content more Bing or Google?

For both search engines, relevance and quality content are the cornerstones that correlate with ranking well. However, there is opportunity if some attention is focused on multimedia search, which is generally considered to be better rewarded on Bing. Pictures, videos and audio all add to improve search overall for Bing due to what is known as “entity understanding”, while Google relies much more on text-based content.

The reason being, Google’s algorithm is primarily based on HTML which can leave other media formats out in the dark. Flash, for example, is basically invisible to Google’s crawlers but Bing is much better equipped to interpret sites that use it. As you would expect, therefore, Flash websites generally rank better on Bing. Of course, flash is considered something of an ageing, almost archaic, format that was more popular in the late 90s and early 2000s, it can cause problems with responsive design and increasing page loading times which can all work against a page’s SEO ranking.

The crux being, to have a dynamic website that incorporates high-quality content but also features quality and original media will help to better position your site for high ranking on Bing as well as Google.

We have recently commented on the topic of visual marketing and how to better optimise image blocks for websites.

Bing favours top-level domains

Whilst Google prefers newer content as a sign of web activity, Bing will prefer established content that has either been live for quite some time or has gained a large amount of traffic. This trend is repeated with regards to domain as Bing prefers older websites over newer ones. While also favouring more official top-level domains, such as .gov or .edu for example compared to commercial or popular websites that are more highly regarded by Google.

This presents a unique opportunity depending on your target audience, as Bing is more likely to rank factually relevant results favourably over socially relevant sites and vice versa for Google.

Google will favour mobile

It’s well documented that Google is actively moving away from its current crawling and indexation of desktop-based content search listings to prioritise a mobile-first index. Which on inception, a site’s ranking potential will be determined by the quality of the mobile content.

Although Bing hasn’t announced any plans to follow suit with a mobile-first index. Optimising a site to accommodate for mobile-first future is only going to benefit regardless of the search engine, with mobile internet usage surpassing desktop worldwide back in October 2016.

To meet the needs and intent of customers interested in contacting your business, improving mobile user experience is paramount. When making changes or designing a new site, opt for a mobile-friendly responsive design while keeping contact or enquiry information visible with click-to-call buttons.

The more invested in understanding the needs of your mobile user, the greater success to be had drawing local traffic.

How local search varies between Bing & Google

Google Trends clearly shows a dramatic rise in “near me” searches, particularly since mid-2015 as seen in the below image. Google reported these local searches double in volume between 2014 and 2015 unsurprisingly with 80% occurring on mobile devices. Last year according to Google, 30% of all mobile searches were related to a location.

Local search is big business, WordStream reported last year that 72% of consumers who did a local search visited a store within five miles. While 78% of local mobile searches result in offline purchases according to Search Engine Land.

For local searches, Bing tends to show more, smaller businesses assuming the searcher wants the nearest results. Whereas, Google tends to lean more toward more established, larger companies, giving preference to what it interprets as the most credible results.

For businesses with a local location for customers, consideration should be taken to maximise your local search stake, especially those smaller independents have real opportunity to gain visibility with Bing.

Bing is dominating voice search

According to James Murray in a recent interview for Bing, voice search will be the next digital obsession and he is not alone in his prediction. Comscore predicts that half of all searches will be voice by 2020.

With supporting statistics from Social Media Today, nearly 50% of people are now using voice search when researching products and Google reporting a 35x rise in voice search queries since 2008.

Google’s Home device launched this year and has helped to make up some ground on Bing – undoubtedly the voice search frontrunner.

As mentioned previously with Windows 10, Microsoft created its own voice search assistant, Cortana, who is powered by Bing Search and now boasts a 133 million monthly users across the numerous Microsoft devices it is installed in. When considering that Bing search powers Amazon’s Alexa device, as well as Apples’ Siri and Safari web browser, which is the built-in web browser for all Apple mobile and desktop devices, this figure and dominance in voice search, is not surprising.

Voice search presents a big opportunity with Bing to gain visibility from all the points we have previously covered. However, with voice brings restrictions – namely only one top result from the SERP is used when answering a query in voice. It’s a matter of all or nothing.

When optimising your site for voice search, the way we interact changes significantly. Using much lengthier longtail keywords, often between 5 and 10 words. Contrasting to the typical 1-3 words used on average in typed search queries. Establishing these longtail queries would be essential to target for yielding success in the voice share of search.

Concluding points

Having touched on the main differences between Bing and Google and some of the opportunities that exist around those difference, we think it justifiable to make or at least consider some of the suggested optimisations to ensure that your site ranks well on both search engines going forward.

In doing so the potential to reach a wider audience increase while also gaining a likely headstart on your competition.

While we encourage the uptake and implementation of these suggestions to improve rankings of different search engines, remember to optimise the site for the user first and the searchbot second, while as ever producing regular, good quality content is key.

As SEO specialists we know only too well, the SEO landscape is forever changing as the search engine engineers tinker with their algorithms to improve the process. As such we have to stay alert, responsive and one step ahead of the competition.

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