The ranking algorithm used by Bing is dynamic. “The ranking algorithm is a massive machine learning model that is continually evolving,” said Frédéric Dubut, Microsoft’s main project PM manager for core search and AI. Before you implement the following tips into your SEO approach, keep in mind that just because you optimize for the specific variables identified in the Bing Webmaster Guidelines doesn’t mean you’ll get better ranks.
“I don’t think it makes sense for us to talk about the top five ranking factors,” Dubut said, adding, “The model is constantly changing, so you receive new data from the web, you get new user behaviors; even the same query in 2019 doesn’t imply the same thing in 2021.” The model is constantly learning, so it’s taking into account all of these different factors… and combining them to determine which signals are the most predictive of relevance. That changes on a regular basis, as do the weights it assigns to each of these factors.”
This might indicate that if everyone prioritizes one ranking criterion, that signal will become less indicative of importance, and Bing’s algorithm will give it less weight. Rather than picking and choosing which ranking variables to optimize for, we propose that you cover all of the bases to the best of your ability while keeping in mind how Bing handles the following search aspects.
Relevance. The content on your landing page should correspond to what people expect to see as a result of their search (this is referred to as “search intent”). “Bing also examines semantic counterparts, such as synonyms or abbreviations, which may not be precise matches of the query phrases but are recognized to have the same meaning,” according to the standards.
This means that leveraging keywords found in a query may help you rank for that query. This advice applies to anchor text, page names, and page copy, among other things. Furthermore, search engines have improved their ability to grasp terms and synonyms, thus sticking to one rendition or conjugation of a term is no longer necessary.
Some may perceive this as a support for “keyword stuffing,” the practice of inserting nonsensical or irrelevant keywords or synonyms into text to affect search engine results. “These [illicit SEO strategies] are things that our language models are actually able to capture, and they’ll see that this paragraph on your page means nothing,” Dubut said of Bing’s spam protections. “So, while you might have a keyword match, we’ll be able to tell you that this is simply junk from a semantic standpoint, and that’s one of the ways we’ll be able to defend ourselves more and more.”
Bing’s language models can detect mistakes and when a synonym is used in addition to spam. Despite the fact that exact match keywords can be used as a ranking signal, “what we notice is that the value of the precise keyword is decreasing with time,” according to Dubut, who also said that semantic considerations are becoming more important as huge language models improve.
Quality and trustworthiness. Bing considers characteristics such as the site’s reputation, the author’s reputation, authorship transparency, completeness of content, and degree of dialogue when determining a site’s quality and believability.
Fabrice Canel, lead program manager at Bing, remarked during an episode of Live with Search Engine Land that “it is essentially about mapping and knowing that this website is an authority for this specific domain.”
“What does it matter if you [search] COVID-19? Is it Wikipedia because there’s something intriguing on everything? Or are you more interested in WebMD or government websites that provide the most up-to-date information on this?” As an example, Canel stated. This implies that if your site is dedicated to a specific topic, and you’ve been creating trustworthy content, it’ll be easier for you to rank higher on that topic than it would be for you to rank highly on a totally different topic (all other factors remaining equal).
Some website owners prefer not to attribute content to an author. That may be acceptable for some topics and certain types of content (a menu probably doesn’t need an author), but for topics in which readers expect an author to possess a high level of expertise and/or education, it’s best to be transparent about who wrote the content and what their qualifications are. This can be accomplished by including a byline or author bio pages on your website.
Having complete content does not mean that you must have the entire history of something on a single page. Whether it’s products, answers or general information, visitors click through to your pages from the search results expecting to find something. So long as you provide what they’re looking for in a direct manner, your content is likely to be considered complete.
“Just making sure that you have an article that’s a full article: If you’re talking about a topic, that you don’t just say one word or a sentence or an H1 tag, but you actually are then completing that thought, you complete the answer,” said Christi Olson, global media SEM team lead and former head of evangelism at Microsoft said. “So again, going back to the quality, [it has to be] useful and relevant based on the query and to the user, so they don’t have to click through 40 pages to get the answer,” she added, alluding to pages that force users to scroll through slideshow-like content before delivering on what was promised within the headline or page title.
The level of discourse also plays an important role: “An article with citations and references to data sources is considered higher quality than one that does not explain [or] cite data sources,” Bing stated in its Webmaster Guidelines. Providing links to your data sources can also help show Bing (as well as site visitors) that your content is credible and well-researched.
Bing may also demote negative content, including content that features offensive statements, derogatory language used to make a point and/or name-calling.
User engagement. Bing can use engagement signals to help it rank content. This can, but isn’t limited to, factors like clickthrough rate, dwell time and whether the user adjusted their query. As is the case with exact match keywords, there is a possibility that these metrics can be gamed to manipulate rankings, which is likely why Google has been so vocal about not using clickthrough rate as a ranking factor.
“We have detection mechanisms for people who like to fake engagement,” Dubut said when asked about whether manipulated metrics were a concern for Bing, adding that the same team that works on curbing spam also works on these issues. “Engagement is more complicated than CTR or dwell time . . . It’s a more comprehensive view of what users like for certain classes of query, it depends on the query topic, it depends on the user,” he said, adding that Bing looks at all of the ranking signals in a holistic manner in order to stay ahead of bad actors.
Freshness. Bing generally prefers fresher, up-to-date content, especially for topics in which timeliness is a crucial aspect of relevance. For those working in industries where freshness isn’t as critical, “content produced today will still be relevant years from now,” Bing said in its Webmaster Guidelines.
“When freshness matters to the user because it’s breaking news, because you want something really accurate that changes over time, [freshness] is going to be a ranking factor,” Dubut said. Freshness may be less important for certain types of content (think photography tips or home improvement tutorials), and when that’s the case, Bing may not consider how recent a piece of content is when ranking it. In addition, Bing can detect when a publishing date has been changed but the content itself hasn’t actually been updated, Dubut said.
Location. Where a user is located, where a page is hosted, the language it’s in and the location of other visitors can be used to inform search rankings. This information enables Bing and other search engines to provide more relevant results for local searches, like “vegan food near me.” And, there are still language discrepancies even among countries that share a language; for example, a search for “last night’s football scores” is likely to refer to a different sport in North America than it does in the U.K.
There isn’t much you can do to optimize for this set of ranking factors aside from ensuring that your content is in your target audience’s language and using language meta tags.
Page load time. Site speed matters, because if your pages take a long time to load, visitors may bounce before they even get to see your content. “Bing may view this as a poor user experience and an unsatisfactory search result,” the Webmaster Guidelines state.
On the other hand, speed isn’t the only factor being evaluated: “Webmasters should balance absolute page load speed with a positive, useful user experience,” the Guidelines recommend. This means you should evaluate how your content and user experience impact load times so that you can strike a balance that satisfies potential visitors.