On June 30, 2020, Bing updated their Webmaster Guidelines to include a ton of updated information about how Bing discovers, crawls, indexes, and ranks content, as well as best practices and guidelines.
Here’s what that update includes, and why it matters.
Prior to this update, the Bing Webmaster Guidelines started with a section about content, followed by links, social, and then indexation.
In the most updated version though, content discovery is prioritized first.
Older versions of the Bing Webmaster Guidelines do state that “Being indexed is the first step to developing traffic from Bing,” but the new layout seems to reflect that better.
The old version of the Bing Webmaster Guidelines had five sentences about sitemaps. The new version released on June 30th is much more extensive.
As one of the primary ways Bing discovers content, sitemaps are the first to be listed under the section on “how to help Bing find all of your pages.”
A few other key things to note from the new sitemap section of Bing’s Webmaster Guidelines:
The new version of Bing’s Webmaster Guidelines contains information about their URL and Content Submission API. This API lets you submit new and updated content to Bing for much faster indexing, and if you didn’t know, Botify’s FastIndex integrates with the Bing API!
In their new guidelines, Bing recommends that if you can’t utilize the API, then you can rely on sitemaps or individual URL submission via Bing Webmaster Tools.
As with the old version, the new version of Bing’s Webmaster Guidelines describe links as both a tool for content discovery and a signal of content popularity.
The main difference is that, while the older version seemed to emphasize links as a signal of popularity (and how not to abuse that), the newer version contains much more content on links as a tool for content discovery.
Just take a look at the side-by-side comparison. Language describing links as a popularity signal are in green, while language describing links as a form of content discovery are in purple. Take a look at how that changes from the old version to the new.
This could indicate that there’s less of a problem with link spam than there used to be, that Bing is better at detecting and ignoring link spam, Bing’s attempt to give a more balanced explanation of how they view links, or a combination of all three.
While the older version of the Bing Webmaster Guidelines did contain information about limiting the number of URLs in the index, it was more about duplicate content causing “Bing to lose trust in some of those URLs over time.”
The newer version, however, lists “limit the number of web pages” as a way to “help Bing find all your pages.”
Bing, like Google, doesn’t have unlimited time and resources to crawl and index the web. Help them out by using the canonical tag, configuring your URL parameters, and avoiding mobile-specific URLs (a new addition to the Bing Webmaster Guidelines).
The new Bing Webmaster Guidelines specifies that, “if you move content on your website to another location, use a 301 permanent redirect for at least 3 months.”
The rest of Bing’s guidance about redirects seems to be mostly the same, such as using 302s for temporary redirects (although they now clarify that “temporary” means something along the lines of “less than one day”) and avoiding the use of canonical tags for content location changes.
According to the newest version of the Bing Webmaster Guidelines:
Learn more about dynamic rendering.
While both the old and new versions of the Bing Webmaster Guidelines explain that robots.txt files tell Bingbot where to go and not to go, the new version offers some helpful points of clarification, such as:
Whereas content was the first section in the old Bing Webmaster Guidelines, the section on content is now nested within the “Help Bing understand your pages” which follows the “Help Bing find your pages” section.
We’re big fans of that new structure over at Botify, if you couldn’t tell from our “crawl to convert” methodology!
But it’s not just the location of the content guidelines that’s changed. They also added and removed some things from their content guidelines.
The old version of Bing’s Webmaster Guidelines had a dedicated section for SEO, listing instructions regarding everything from title tags to crawlability.
In the new version, the section on things like title tags, meta descriptions, and H1s is now listed under an HTML Tags section.
Things like crawlability and links are listed elsewhere.
This seems like an important change. Instead of SEO being viewed as one of many things you can do to “help your content be found and indexed within Bing,” SEO is now more accurately painted as synonymous with helping your content be found and indexed.
One of the biggest changes to the Bing Webmaster Guidelines is a new section called “How Bing ranks your content.”
Bing describes this as a “high-level overview” of their ranking factors, listed in order of importance.
Bing’s ranking factors include:
This is a helpful addition that removes some of the mystery behind Bing’s ranking algorithm. Interestingly, it mirrors how Google ranks web pages very closely.
Google’s ranking factors include:
One notable difference between how Google and Bing rank web pages is Bing’s user engagement signal, which they describe as:
“Bing also considers how users interact with search results. To determine user engagement, Bing asks questions like: Did users click through to search results for a given query, and if so, which results? Did users spend time on these search results they clicked through to or did they quickly return to Bing? Did the user adjust or reformulate their query?”
Bing is describing activities that SEOs have deemed “pogo-sticking” and “dwell time,” which are things that Google has never quite admitted that they consider.
In fact, Google’s John Mueller has said Google doesn’t use signals like pogo-sticking when it comes to search since there are a number of reasons why users might go back and forth between pages in search results.
Like the original version, Bing’s updated Webmaster Guidelines concludes with a section on abuse and things to avoid.
While the list remained mostly the same, there were a few key additions and one removal.
It’s easy as SEOs to be preoccupied with Google, but chances are, some percentage of your site’s search traffic comes from Bing. By understanding how Bing discovers and ranks content, we’ll be better equipped to reach that segment of our audience!