Search Marketers Consider Optimizing for Bing

Once Google cornered the bulk of the search market, many search marketers stopped optimizing their sites for other engines, but that could change when the Bing-Yahoo integration happens, experts speaking at Search Marketing Expo said.

"Now we're in a situation where we're going to have Bing powering up to 30 percent of the market," said Danny Sullivan, a search engine expert and editor of the Search Engine Land blog.

Using current search-market-share statistics, once Microsoft's Bing search technology starts generating results for Yahoo, Bing will account for about 30 percent of the search market, he said.

"That's nothing to sneeze at," said Janet Driscoll Miller, president and CEO of SearchMojo, speaking at the event on Monday in Seattle. "It's going to be a two-engine world in the future, where you'll have Bing and Google to worry about as SEOs [search engine optimizers]."

She said that some basic optimization techniques work the same for Bing and Google, but Bing has a few new opportunities for search marketers.

For instance, search marketers should make sure to have indexable content if their site uses Flash because otherwise neither Bing nor Google will display any metadata about the site in search results.

But Bing has a couple of unique features that marketers can take advantage of. For instance, on Bing, when users roll over results, a preview box pops up offering more information about the Web site. Site marketers have some control over what pops up there, she said.

Bing will display the H1 tag -- an HTML element -- in the preview box if it doesn't match the title tag. So to control the headline in the preview box, a search marketer can simply make sure that the title tag and H1 tags are different, and then include the wording of choice in the H1 tag, she said.

Bing then displays the first paragraph of text on the page, she said. It will also display contact information for the site if an address and phone number appear on the page. "Bing is really good at understanding what are addresses, phone and e-mails," she said.

The preview box will also display YouTube videos embedded in the site and will play the video in the preview box, she said. "It's a compelling reason to put videos on YouTube," she said. Only YouTube videos -- not Bing videos or any others -- will display and play in the preview panel, she noted.

Marketers can also shut off the preview by embedding a metatag on their pages, she said.

Bing has another unique feature that could turn into an opportunity for search marketers. On some search results people may see buttons that let them share a result on Facebook, Twitter or via e-mail. For instance, a search for "polar bears" reveals images that a user can share.

Currently, however, the images link back to Bing, not the original site. That makes it less interesting for a search marketer looking to drive traffic to their site. "It may not be ideal yet, but I'd keep an eye on it and see if that changes," she said. If it does, search marketers might be able to take advantage of getting additional traffic from such social sharing on Bing.

Once the integration with Bing and Yahoo takes place, marketers may consider whether it's worth it to optimize their sites for Bing. While Bing offers some interesting new features, it's not yet clear whether the optimization work will pay off, she said. "The biggest problem I have from Bing now is I can't get enough traffic from it," she said.

Predictably, executives from the search engines encouraged marketers to build their sites around quality content, rather than around how the search engines rank them. "Ideally, it's the content and the relevance of what users like that matters," said Sasi Parthasarathy, a program manager at Bing.

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