If Google’s great innovation was organizing the Web around editorial votes, or links, Yahoo! went in the opposite direction for many years: analyzing the websites themselves and returning search results based around on-page factors. Today, Yahoo! is powered by Bing, and so it puts much more faith in links than it used to. However, Bing’s technology holds onto this page-based legacy in some important ways. Most optimizers appreciate the fact that on-page factors matter to Bing because it makes optimization easier. Google’s system of needing to essentially ask for other websites’ votes is much more difficult than just following best practices when building your site.
Keywords in content: The biggest difference between Bing and Google is their respective emphasis on keywords within the content of the site. I have already discussed the main ways that keywords matter to Google—namely when they appear in anchor text, the meta page title, and the URL. But Google does not care very much about keywords in the content of your site. That’s why, when optimizing for Google, most people just write their keywords whenever they come up naturally in the site’s content. Aiming for a particular “density” of keywords in your overall word count is a relic of the past and can actually have negative effects with Google.
Bing is much more receptive to keywords written within the text of your pages. Many webmasters report great strides in their Yahoo!/Bing rankings just by using keywords more often. But you might see a bump in your ranking just by leaning a bit more heavily on the keywords you are optimizing for. Playing around with these keywords for maximum effect in this area is a must, especially because Bing is constantly refining its keyword detector. Someday, keywords inside content may matter less than they do. But for now, sprinkle liberally. First-page rankings may blossom.
Meta Page Titles: Another area that Bing seems to care a lot about is the meta page title. You already understand the importance of this bit of code to Google, and it matters at least as much to Bing. Run a search for any popular term on Yahoo! or Bing, and you will notice that most of the first page results will use that exact term in their meta page titles. Google, in contrast, tries to return results whose meta page titles have the same words that the user searched for but not necessarily in the same order. So if you search for best brownie recipe, Google doesn’t differentiate too much between
web pages whose meta page titles are “The Best Darn Brownie Recipe” and “Mom’s Recipe for the Best Brownie Ever” even though neither of those titles contains the exact phrase best brownie recipe. Bing, on the other hand, is more likely to rank a web page at the top if it has that exact phrase in its meta page title.
Meta Description tags: Meta description tags are a factor about which Bing cares a lot more than Google. Meta descriptions are—like meta page titles—text that is written into the code of every web page. They then become the two lines of text that show up underneath the blue underlined heading of every search result. Unlike meta page titles, though, they usually don’t show up anywhere on the web page or browser after you’ve clicked the search result. They exist merely to improve the experience of using the search engine.
Google cares about meta descriptions a small amount. Bing cares about them a good amount more, specifically looking for keywords in the meta description that also appear in the meta page title and on the page itself.
So when you are optimizing for Bing, make sure your page’s meta description includes your keyword at least once and that the same keyword appears in your meta page title.
Headings: Another important on-page factor to Bing is headings. Headings are the text at the top of a page, usually in larger letters, announcing the title or subject of the page. They’re sort of like a meta page title except they’re in the actual content of the page, front and center to visitors. Headings used to provide one of the bases of the early search engines’ algorithms, but as soon as people started manipulating headings so that more traffic would come to their websites from search engines, headings became de-emphasized. Google, for instance, gives headings almost no weight in its algorithm. Bing must not have gotten that memo, though, because it still factors headings into its algorithm quite a bit.
Alt tags: Alt tags are nothing more than little text descriptions of the images on your site. They are a required part of the code because as smart as the search engines are, they are not yet smart enough to look at a picture and identify precisely what it is. If you have ever seen a web page load slowly, you might have noticed a descriptive phrase sitting in the empty box that the picture soon occupies.
Bing shows images in its regular search results as well as, of course, its image search, and relies heavily on the alt tag in its algorithm. Google does the same and also puts a strong emphasis on alt tags. For that reason, I highly recommend that you properly describe all of your images. Searchers click pictures way more than most people realize, and having lots of properly labeled images can bring a ton of traffic to your site.
Outbound links: Outbound links are the opposite of inbound links, or backlinks. Instead of pointing toward your own site, outbound links point out of your site toward other websites. The philosophy behind using outbound linking as a tool for SEO is simple: Acknowledging other authoritative sites is considered good Internet behavior and is the sign of a quality site. Whereas this philosophy is not held by Google in the least, Bing does abide by it.
The practice of liberally linking to other websites is not exactly a crowd favorite among webmasters, who generally want to hold on to visitors at all costs. But many of the same webmasters have found that a few well-targeted links to other sources can help demonstrate mastery of a subject. Also, the Web is very much an open place to explore, and so being too protective of visitors is not a winning strategy. Linking to authoritative sources will not cause a visitor to be lost for life if your site is providing something of genuine value.
Site structure: The final on-page factor that matters to Bing is site structure, or the layout of your pages and the way they are interlinked. This principle is common to all search engines including Google, and if you think about it, how could it not be? A site that is easily crawlable by search engines is usually easily navigated by people as well, and is therefore a good website to present to users in a search. Both Bing and Google favor clean, easy-to-navigate architecture, fast-loading pages, and easy-tofollow links.
Links: Bing actually uses an equation that works like Google’s TrustRank system to determine which sites have earned the credibility of other webmasters. In fact, links are the most important factor in Bing’s algorithm, too, although by not nearly as wide a margin as in Google’s.
Domain age: A final element of SEO that is important to Bing is age. We know by now how important age is to Google, and Bing feels even more strongly about it. Of all the factors that affect a site’s ranking, only links and age cannot be easily controlled by the webmaster, which is why they are so essential to the algorithm.
As with Google, there is no substitute for an old website, and the only way to acquire the credibility that comes with age is to buy an old website, preferably one with lots of inbound links.