SEO generally centers around Google, because it’s the dominant search engine. But just because they ignore Bing doesn’t mean you should. Bing SEO optimization is similar to Google, but not quite the same. I find Bing is an untapped resource, and it has benefits besides the increase in search traffic it provides.
Why optimize for Bing?
I was under the impression that Bing has less than 5% of the search engine market, because for years, Bing accounted for 1-2 percent of my traffic. This was a case of confirmation bias. I never saw any significant Bing traffic, and my coworkers told me no one uses Bing, which reinforced that belief, and I never thought to check it out for myself.
When I finally did check it out for myself, I learned that Bing and Yahoo combined have 30 percent of the market. Bing doesn’t own Yahoo, but Yahoo has been powered by Bing since 2009. Also, Bing has been the default search engine for Firefox since 2014. These deals resulted in Bing cornering a nice chunk of the search market. It also meant my confirmation bias cost me a lot of traffic. If someone were to tell me that I could increase my traffic by 25-30 percent, I’d be interested.
If you write it, they won’t come
Rule #1 of SEO is to write good content. But that’s not enough on its own. On the day I wrote this, I had a blog post on an obscure piece of computer hardware from 1986 that got 20 views. That’s the same number of views it got in all of 2015 and 2016 combined. The content is the same as it was in 2015. The page started getting traffic after I figured out how to SEO it.
Meanwhile, when I search for things, I find poorly written content all the time. It says the right stuff to get the search engine traffic, but I feel terrible for everyone else who has to suffer through it.
Search engines used to find stuff without you doing anything. I can remember searching for stuff in the 1990s and coming across web pages that say, “If you’re reading this, please tell me how you found it. E-mail me at…”
They could probe web servers for hidden pages in the 90s, when there were only a few hundred thousand active web sites. There are billions of sites now, so we have to help the search engines out.
How to optimize for Bing
The first step is to sign up for a Bing Webmaster tools account. This allows you to submit your site to Bing. The next step is to install SEO plugins if you haven’t already. I recommend Yoast at minimum and also find SEMrush very helpful. The paid version of Yoast has features that you really need for Bing.
The difference between Bing SEO optimization and Google
The ranking factors for search engines are trade secrets, but people have figured out what most of them are. To optimize for Google, I’ve found that if I pick a topic, pick one or more sets of relevant keywords, then write something that both Yoast SEO and SEMrush give good scores, it will generally do well in search results. How well depends on how much competition there is for those keywords. For tough keywords, I’ve seen it take two years, if ever. For keywords where there doesn’t seem to be a lot of competition, it can take days.
What are keywords?
I was always a little unclear on keywords when I got started. Keywords are just things people type into a search engine. Ideally they’re the ones people type so frequently that the search engine autocompletes it for them. Different SEO tools use keywords a bit differently. Yoast will tell you if it thinks you’re using your keywords often enough without being too frequent. It will also rate the quality of your writing and handle creating all of the metadata for you so search engines can make sense of your site.
SEMrush adds another element to it, suggesting other related keywords that you need to include in your content, based on what your would-be competitors use. This helps search engines to understand that you are, indeed, talking about the same thing.
Keywords aren’t just using words for the sake of dropping buzzwords. They ensure you’re speaking the same language as your readers. For example, I write about computer security a lot. I came up in an environment where they called it information assurance. If I write about computer security, calling it information assurance doesn’t help my SEO score at all. The government calls it that, but the private sector calls it security. Using the word “security” instead helps me rank higher.
There have been times I’ve turned old, ignored blog posts into hits just by running their keywords through SEMrush and changing phrases like “information assurance” to “security.”
How and where to use keywords
Ideally, the title of your blog post should have a keyword in it. Bing wants keywords in title tags. Frequently, my title is exactly what I expect someone to type into a search engine. I’ve given up on trying to write cute titles. Nothing I learned in journalism school about writing headlines helps me write titles for blog posts.
Ideally, that same keyword needs to be somewhere in that first paragraph, the meta description, and in about 0.5% of my text. It’s best to try to work other target keywords into that first paragraph too. My first paragraph is all about convincing the search engine and the reader that I know what information they’re looking for.
Secondary keywords should be subheadings. If you can use your primary keyword in at least a subheading or two, that also helps.
My highest-traffic posts score well on several keywords, and frequently some of the keywords weren’t on my mind when I wrote them. When you do your keyword research, look at it as an opportunity to make sure you have something to say that others aren’t. This way, you’re doing some good with your content, not just snarfing up traffic.
Optimizing for Google
Sometimes SEMrush and Yoast will give recommendations that contradict one another, especially when it comes to reading difficulty. I don’t believe in writing at the graduate school level just for the sake of sounding smart. I frequently write about things that I can’t explain on the sixth grade level they trained me to use in journalism school. But sometimes I can, and that may mean Yoast gives me a high score and SEMrush gives me a low one.
Once I work out that conflict, I schedule my post. And once the post publishes, I just have one more thing to do. I need to make sure something else I’ve written links to the post. If I do all of those things, and SEMrush tells me 300 people search on my keyword every month, I can pretty much count on the post getting about that many views each month. It’s just a question of when.
Why Bing SEO is different
Bing seems to treat keywords similarly enough to Google that my strategy for keyword optimization works there too. But I have content that does well on Bing that Google doesn’t touch. What I’ve noticed about Bing is that it really seems to care about the number of links my post has, and what my anchor text says in that link. Google usually wants me to have a few, but I’ve had content with no incoming links do decently on Google.
Bing’s attitude is different. Bing seems to think that if you don’t think highly enough of your content to link to it, then it shouldn’t either. And based on the numbers I see in Bing’s Webmaster Tools, if I don’t have other posts linking to that content, it looks like Bing may not even index it.
So I’ve made an effort to go back through my old content and try to at least make sure my posts on related topics link to each other, if nothing else. I try to be natural about it. Yoast makes it easy to see what posts don’t have any links coming into them. It will also suggest related content when you edit a post.
Bing really likes this, and it also makes my site stickier. I’ve been blogging for 20 years, so on some of my favorite topics, I may have 100 posts or more. Sometimes I can tell when someone stayed and read dozens of my posts on one topic. That’s good when that happens. That’s someone who’s likely to come back. It also means lots of ad impressions. That won’t happen every time, but you really want the majority of your readers who find you via search engines to read at least two blog posts before they bounce out. If you put some effort into Bing SEO, you’re more likely to get that benefit, on top of more Bing traffic.
Social media plays into Bing SEO
Social media plays a role in Bing SEO, moreso than Google. Bing’s Webmaster Tools lets you link your account to your social media pages so it can factor in social signals. This lets Bing credit you for your social media promotion efforts, and also lets you see what effect Bing has noticed.
Why else should you do Bing SEO?
There’s one more good reason to do Bing SEO. Bing’s Webmaster Tools gives you a keywords report. I look at that periodically, and when I find a keyword that’s making me wonder why I’m ranking on it, I investigate. Usually I end up writing something on it.
If the keyword isn’t in Google yet, I write it anyway. If a human being typed it into Bing, it’s only a matter of time before someone types it into a Google, and then my post is ready, with less competition. And since fewer people do Bing SEO, I stand a better chance of doing well on Bing.
The competition for Google keywords tends to be pretty stiff, so I’ve had good success optimizing for Bing keywords.
Be sure to review Bing’s Webmaster Guidelines, which goes into more detail about Bing’s ranking factors.