It is known that Google is the dominant search engine in the US with 84% of the market.
But did you know that when it comes to voice Bing powers almost as many voice search enabled devices as Google?
Bing’s 2019 voice report broke down which digital assistant their respondents were using when searching via voice:
Google Assistant and Apple Siri are powered by Google results (except for the image results on Siri which will still be powered by Bing), but Bing is the voice search results provider for All the rest.
This means that 45% of voice search results in that survey are provided by Bing search, not Google. It’s also important to note that Bing also powers Microsoft Xbox One and Alexa powered cars including:
- Austin Mini
Another study came out this year by Sumo Heavy that focused on voice assistant use by Sumo. It highlights that 11% of their respondents use personal assistants in their car. While this is small, it is a growing segment that shouldn’t be ignored.
In both search engines, for informational based queries, the voice result is often pulled from information from their Knowledge Graphs and/or information presented in the Featured Snippets or People Also Ask boxes.
Featured Snippets look like this in Bing:
And People Also Ask Boxes look like this:
Here’s a checklist to help get started:
- Set up Bing Webmaster Tools
- Start tracking your keywords in Bing using an SEO tool
- Note any keywords that trigger FS or PAAs where you don’t rank and make writing improvements
- Optimize your content overall for Bing’s understanding of topics and subtopics
- Make sure to use schema.org markup
- Make sure you’re giving Bing strong crawl signals
- Ensure that your site is Bing friendly
- Provide Bing with social signals
- Check and improve your page speed.
Set up Bing Webmaster Tools
Setting up an account with Bing Webmaster Tools is the only way to know definitely how you are ranking in Bing and if Bing is having any issues with your site. It’s also how you can nudge Bing to crawl specific URLs, which we will cover in step 6.
Considering that Bing doesn’t crawl your site as much as Google, you really have to direct BingBot’s crawl behavior. So you need to make sure to feed them your pages that perform the best via your XML sitemaps as its primary tool for prioritization within Bing. They even provide an XML sitemap plugin for you to use.
Start tracking your target keywords in an SEO Tool
Take your target keywords and track which of them are triggering Featured Snippets or People Also Ask boxes in Bing. All the major keyword tracking tools (like GetStat, SEMRush, and Ahrefs) have this tracking natively.
Note any “voice” keywords where you don’t rank and make writing improvements
In each of these tools, you can track the target terms that look like voice queries where a Featured Snippet appears but you do not rank. For those, take notes on what is ranking and what you can write that is a better answer. Either create a new page on your site or optimize one to a format that is friendly for Featured Snippets.
Keep in mind that you should:
- Write a great answer that answers the question naturally in a way that reads well. Make it quotable.
- Make sure your answer is accurate and has great references.
- If a Featured Snippet appears, make sure your content is better than your competitors. I have a full guide to writing for Featured Snippets you might want to check out.
- Keep in mind that Bing may feature two URLs, and they often pick snippets farther down the page than Google, so using HTML formatting in your copy is key. Make sure you’re optimizing for those Fraggles. Fraggles is a term coined by Mobile Moxie, and they allow Bing or Google to understand chunks of text, audio, or video as standalone “answers” to a searcher’s query. (You can read more about how to optimize for them in my February SEO news update).
Optimize your content for Bing’s understanding of topics and subtopics
Bing has been using its Knowledge Graph for years to understand topics and subtopics relying on sources like Wikipedia and schema.org to build its understanding of topics and subtopics. It’s also possible that (like Google) Bing is using clickstream data to enhance its ontology understanding of queries. Building your content around a structure found in known ontologies and using schema.org markup will help Bing understand your content better and may allow your content to appear for the Featured Snippet main topic and well as possibly some subtopics that appear in the navigation bubbles.
Use schema.org markup
As Bing outlines in their “Marking up your site guide”, structured data can provide enhanced search listings and “information-rich search results is a key component of our search experience.”
Schema.org markup is also a key component to adding entity understanding to your website copy and can help strengthen your brand especially if you use the organization markup to “link” your website to your Wikipedia article or Wikidata references of your organization or products.
Give Bing strong crawl signals
Bing doesn’t crawl with the same frequency as Google. They just don’t have the bandwidth to crawl every page on every site like Google. This is especially important for larger sites. You can learn more about how they determine which pages to crawl in this post and this post.
So, it’s important to look at your log files to see where Bingbot is spending most of its time (which URLs) and ensure that those URLs are in your XML sitemap file. They should be linked internally from other pages on your site to give Bing strong signals that those are important pages. You can also now use Bing’s API to submit up to 10K URLs a day to nudge them to crawl more of your site. They also have a feed you can use to submit images and videos.
If you notice that Bingbot is NOT crawling the pages you’d like, then you need to improve those pages’ overall quality and match to searcher’s intent (remember to look at Bing SERPs to figure that out). Use your web analytics metrics to ensure that organic search visitors are staying on those pages. The more high-quality user engagement that you have on your pages, the more Bing will crawl other URLs on your site.
Ensure that your site is Bing-friendly
Most of the time Google-friendly sites are also Bing-friendly, but there are a few key differences in how Bing handles crawling your site and what signals it uses in its ranking.
- XML sitemaps
A note about XML sitemaps: Bing doesn’t tolerate dirty ones, as explained by Bing’s Duane Forrester:
“Your sitemaps need to be clean. We have a 1% allowance for dirt in a sitemap. Examples of dirt are if we click on a URL, and we see a redirect, a 404 or a 500 code. If we see more than a 1% level of dirt, we begin losing trust in the sitemap”.
So make sure that your XML sitemaps only contain 200 status URLs.
- Robots.txt Crawl Crawl-Delay
It’s also important to note that Bing does respect the crawl delay you set in your robots.txt file, which looks like this:
Bing recommends that you either remove the default 10 that is added by Drupal and other CMS systems or set it to 5 seconds otherwise it might miss content (one of my clients got a direct email from a Bing rep asking for this adjustment so that it could crawl more of their site).
- Meta Refreshes
A meta refresh will actually terminate the Bing crawler from accessing any more of the website, so make sure you’re not using that type of redirect.
Provide Bing with social signals
Bing admits that social media plays a role in various parts of its webmaster guidelines.
Here’s a quote from those guidelines:
Social media plays a role in today’s effort to rank well in search results. The most obvious part it plays is via influence. If you are influential socially, this leads to your followers sharing your information widely, which in turn results in Bing seeing these positive signals. These positive signals can have an impact on how you rank organically in the long run.”
They also mention enabling social sharing on your site, and promoting your links in “social spaces”.
Check and improve your page speed
As you’re probably aware, nearly half of all visitors will leave a mobile site if the pages don’t load within 3 seconds. Page load speed is also a Google and Bing ranking factor.
Here’s Bing’s quote from its webmaster help guidelines related to page speed:
“This element has a direct impact on the satisfaction a user has when they visit your website. Slow load times can lead to a visitor simply leaving your website, seeking their information elsewhere. If they came from our search results that may appear to us to be an unsatisfactory result that we showed. Faster is better, but take care to balance absolute page load speed with a positive, useful user experience.”
If you’re curious as to how fast you might need to be to claim that Feature Snippet spot (top rankings) Searchmetrics’ latest ranking factors report found the 10 highest-ranking desktop pages load in an average of 1.16 seconds (compared to mobile’s 1.10 seconds), while the top 30 highest-ranking desktop pages load in 1.20 seconds (top-ranking mobile pages load in 1.17 seconds). Here are the tools that I use with clients to check on page load speed and create recommendations for improvement:
- Google Lighthouse
- Page Speed Insights
- WebPageTest — where you can stack your page speed up against your competitors, or change phone models and locations.
- Google Analytics Page Timings report.
If you’re working on developing a future-focused SEO strategy, Bing optimization needs to be on your radar. Drop us a note if you would like help to develop and implement a plan!
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