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Why am I not ranking on Bing like I am on Google?

2013 June 24
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by Kathy Alice
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bingMany SEOs will tell you to focus on optimizing your site for Google and that will be sufficient to rank well in other search engines such as Bing. But there are times where it’s useful to look at how your web pages are ranking in Bing, as there are times that pages rank differently in Bing than in Google.

Recently I took a look at a case of a site that was ranking in position #1 for a search term on Bing – but was not even on the first page in Google. The question from my client (who consistently had the number one spot on Google but ranked third or fifth on Bing) was “why is this site beating me out?” I did a comparison of the two pages to see if I could figure out the answer.

Initial look – Moz specific page metrics

When I first looked at two pages, there seemed to be no good reason why the competing site was ranking better in Bing. Moz’s OpenSiteExplorer is a handy way to compare two pages at a glance (although you will need a paid account to see the social media metrics). Below is a screenshot of the Moz specifc page metrics for the two pages, the metrics for the page ranking in position 1 in Bing is in the first column:

Moz OpenSiteExplorer Page Metrics

Based on the Moz factors, the second page SHOULD be ranking #1 in Bing

When you look at the above data, Page B is superior on all accounts; higher Moz Rank (Page B has a Google Toolbar PR (Page Rank) of 5 vs. Page A’s Toolbar PR of 3), a lot more backlinks, a lot more external backlinks. And the site is crushing it on social media. Now Google hasn’t confirmed that social is a ranking factor, but both Bing and Google have admitted that social does add value (exactly what that means is a subject of some debate). Regardless, Page A is steadfastly in position 1 on Bing – whether I am logged into Facebook or not, so social does not seem to be in play here.

Link anchor text and homepage advantage?

Digging deeper though, I found one interesting metric that Page A did seem to have the slight lead on. If I looked just at the metrics for banklinks for the specific search term, Page A had a few more unique linking domains (66) than Page B (53). In fact overall the site used the keyword more often in the URLs and in the title tag in other pages (I found at least three) – and those pages all linked to Page A with the keyword as link anchor text. Furthermore there were several inbound links from external pages that had been optimized for the keyword, again it was the leading keyword in both in the title tag and in the URL. So overall Page A was better optimized for the specific search term in it’s backlink profile.

This guest post on Bing.com and this webmaster thread both comment that Bing places a lot more emphasis on exact match keywords in titles and link anchor text, while Google also looks at synomyms and related keywords. Page B has a lot of backlinks that fall into the “related keyword” category. Which brings up an interesting question for those of us knee deep in Penguin related link remediations, “where is the line where your percentage of exact match anchor text is low enough to avoid problems with Google, but yet there is enough for Bing?”.

I also noted that several of the backlinks to Page A were on a press release style of site, at the recent SMX Advanced Matt Cutts was quoted as saying “a press release link is a paid link essentially”. So these well optimized external pages might be helping Page A with Bing, but it might explain the lack of presence on Google.

There didn’t seem to be strong advantage for either page when you looked at on page factors, but there was one unique advantage Page A had that Page B didn’t, in that it was the homepage for the site. A 2010 Moz study concluded that Bing had double the propensity compared to Google to rank homepages over interior pages. It would be interesting to hear if there is more recent data that confirms this.

Other factors to consider

A few more factors to consider which is not relevant to the above example but might be to you:

  • Bing is much slower to index than Google. So one answer to the question “why is my web page not ranking in Bing?” is simply that your page hasn’t been indexed by Bing yet and you need to be patient (registering your site with Bing Webmaster Tools helps). The site: search modifier works on Bing.com as well, type in the modifier followed by your URL to see if Bing has found and indexed your page yet.
  • EMD (exact match domains) Neither Page A or Page B had the keyword present in the domain. However this is another factor to keep in mind. Last year (Sept. 2012) Google released a change that devalued the importance of exact match domains, Bing may have not followed suit.

Do we have to optimize specifically for Bing?

I don’t know the answer to this, but given the case study, I think it would be prudent for site owners to check their rankings in Bing and see how different they are compared to Google. Bing Webmaster Tools now has an excellent SEO tool, so if you haven’t already, register your site with Bing and check it out.

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Kathy Alice

Kathy Alice Brown is a technologist, author, blogger and SEO consultant with a background in web operations and engineering.In her spare time she loves to get outside.
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2 Responses Post a comment
  1. October 17, 2013

    Hey Kathy, thanks for you thoughts. I was asked this question by a client today who ranks really well on Google but poorly on Bing and given the way the search market is here in the UK I dont worry about it too much, but I said id look into it.

    One of the points you made is that there were more exact keyword anchor text links on the page that ranked well in Bing and not Google. Given we know that Google has moved away from this and in fact actively penalises sites that have too much exact match anchor text I think I’ll let sleeping dogs lie!

    regards, Andy

  2. Kathy Alice permalink*
    October 20, 2013

    Thanks Andy. Yes, it would definitely be a balancing act between incurring the wrath of Google’s Penguin algorithm and optimizing for Bing. If Bing is a low percentage of your organic traffic, I think you are smart to not push the exact match anchor text too much. Besides, I would think Bing would be moving to a more semantic web as well.

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