While Bing may only make up a small percentage of your overall search traffic, it can provide you with some useful tools and data that many people overlook.
If you haven’t got around to setting up a Bing Webmaster Tools account, then don’t delay it any further. You may be under the impression that a Google Webmaster Tools account is all you need, but while Bing may not have won over the general population of internet users, it does do a good job of helping webmasters to improve their sites.
Here are some of the great features that Bing Webmaster Tools has to offer, along with some tips on how to make the most of them:
The disavow tools should only be used as a last resort – we always recommend having spammy links removed rather than relying on the disavow option to answer your prayers. If your suspect back-link profile caused you to get penalised, you need to provide evidence that you are taking measures to have links removed when submitting a reconsideration request – simply uploading a disavow file is unlikely to fix things.
Yahoo was actually the first search engine to launch the disavow tool, after it became clear that negative SEO was actually a thing, capable of sabotaging rankings for entire website.
A website that I worked with in the past suffered from a negative SEO attack that caused Google rankings to completely disappear on the targeted term, as well as causing most other keywords to fall in the rankings. I first knew something was wrong when the site went from ranking on page one for a high value term, to page 15.
I quickly did some digging and found thousands of exact match anchor text links pointing to the previously ranking page, all placed within profiles created on forums. As I was the only person doing any kind of link building for the site, I knew that this was a negative SEO attack. This was before Google released the disavow tool, so we were left powerless.
After several painful months of waiting, Google finally released its version of the disavow tool. Luckily, unlike the Yahoo disavow tool, Google allows you to bulk upload links rather than disavowing one by one, so I quickly disavowed all the domains involved. While other rankings returned, the site never recovered for the keyword that was targeted in the negative SEO campaign.
While this tool could be the difference between ranking and not ranking, I would recommend checking your performance in Bing before writing off your suspect links. I recently came across a site that was involved in some serious article/directory spam, causing Panda to wipe it off the face of Google. However, this site still appears on page one of Bing and Yahoo for some competitive terms that were linked to in the article spam.
Saying that, it’s only a matter of time before Bing starts catching people out for these low quality links, so I definitely wouldn’t recommend getting involved in these old school link building schemes!
Bing allows you to submit your .xml sitemap when setting up your account, providing the search engine with a list of URLs on your site, along with any other data you may have added, such as the date the page was last updated, and the priority that you have assigned to each page.
This is another tool that you may recognise from Google Webmaster Tools, giving you the means to highlight any parameters that you want Bing to ignore. Parameters can cause duplicate pages to be generated and, if handled incorrectly, can be left open for the search engines to crawl and index, potentially causing you all kinds of issues. A very common example of this is when webmasters fail to block the search engines from accessing their on-site search result pages. These pages are seen as low value pages, so it is recommended that they are not available to the search engines. For example, below you can see that the Sainsbury’s website has not prevented the search engines from indexing its search results pages:
In this case, they could add the ‘search’ parameter to tell Bing to ignore URLs that include the search parameter.
This allows you to highlight any URLs that you don’t want Bing to display in its search results.
This allows you to set the country that you want to target for your site. You can also set different directories or sub-domains to different countries, for example /en/ to the UK and /fr/ to France. This will ensure that the correct version of a page appears to the right audience based on where they are geographically when carrying out the search.
Provides performance data based on web pages visits, including clicks, impressions, CTR and average position in Bing. You can also drill down at page level to show keyword data. This is particularly useful for spotting opportunities, where impressions are high but the click-through rate is low, which may be due to things like meta data that isn’t engaging enough, or a page that needs tweaking to push it further up in the search results.
This is a very useful tool that highlights SEO suggestions that could help your site to rank better. These include things such as images that don’t have the ALT attribute defined, missing meta data and lots of other useful pointers.
This section identifies links pointing to your site. You can see the most linked pages and drill down to see the linking pages.
This allows you to find web pages that link to a particular URL. The tool also lets you filter by site, anchor text and other queries, as well as selecting URLs or domains, and Internal/External/All links.
Much like Google Webmaster Tools’ crawl errors section, this highlights pages with crawling issues. For example, broken pages causing 404 errors.
Another great tool – just enter a URL on your domain to get a visual breakdown of issues on the page, from multiple <h1> tags, to missing image ALT attributes.
This is important if you are moving your site, either from one place to another within your current site, or to another domain.
This feature allows webmasters to set up access to Bing’s Webmaster Tools functionality through the API interface.
To sign up to Bing Webmaster Tools, go to www.bing.com/toolbox/webmaster and create an account. If you have a Microsoft account (includes Hotmail) then you can sign in using this account, otherwise you can sign up using any email address. To verify the account, you will wither need to upload an xml file to your root; add a custom meta tag to the <head> section of your default webpage; or add a CNAME record.
Bing and Yahoo have both announced that they are following Google by moving towards secure search, which saw keyword data slashed, replacing it with the infamous ‘(not provided)’.
The secure search craze was allegedly sparked by concerns that the NSA was tapping into search data without the permission of users or search engines, but it is also believed that it was partly motivated by the prospect of increasing sales, as keywords can be tracked through paid search.
Google now encrypts all searches so, in theory, it masks all keyword data with ‘(not provided)’. However, despite an increase in hidden keyword data, I continue to see around 20% from Google organic traffic.
Bing and Yahoo aren’t forcing secure search on the UK just yet, so if you drill down in GA you should be able to find out exactly what users searched for to reach your site. However, this is set to change for Yahoo at the end of March (who already use secure search by default in the US), as they prepare to go secure with all searches.
Users are currently given the choice to use secure search on Bing, although this requires them to consciously go to https://www.bing.com, an option that isn’t being promoted.
After carrying out some tests I found that the traffic from Bing secure search shows up in GA as ‘Direct’, with the ‘Source’ as ‘(not set)’, making it impossible to track. This will also artificially increase your direct search volumes, something that will become more apparent if Bing does decide to go secure by default.
By Sam Gooch