With 5.6 billion searches per day, Google may seem like the only search engine worth optimizing for—but it's not the only one in town. Microsoft's Bing is Google's noisiest neighbor. It might not have Google's clout, but it runs an impressive 12 billion global searches per month.
Bing may not have Google's level of reach, but it does come with distinct benefits. You're likely to find there's less competition on Bing. Because Bing is a natural language specialist, many voice assistants use it for their voice search queries. It's particularly popular with ecommerce businesses for that reason, and it's also great for reaching international audiences.
Optimizing your site for both search engines is a smart move. While the two search engines have a fair amount in common, there are subtle variations in how Bing and Google assess your content's quality.
Bing SEO vs. Google SEO
There are a few important differences between Bing and Google. Some of those differences can be exploited by fine-tuning your SEO strategy. Others are just there to be mindful of.
When ranking content, Bing SEO views social signals(i.e., shares and mentions on social media platforms) as important content quality markers. Google has also begun taking social signals into account when determining search ranking.
Both Google and Bing also use link quality to gauge what content they should rank highly. Either search engine will take notice if your content is getting backlinks from high-profile domains. However, their approaches to identifying high-quality domains vary.
According to Adam Riemer, Bing puts more emphasis on the pure number of backlinks an article has when determining an article's quality. It also puts a lot of importance on whether or not those backlinks have prestigious domain extensions. If you're getting linked to by dot-edu, dot-gov, and dot-org pages, expect Bing to rank your content higher.
Google is a little less sniffy about your domain extensions. Google uses the algorithm PageRank (which was introduced back in the original Google spec) to rank your article by giving it a ranking score. First, it measures the PageRank score of domains with links to your content. Then, PageRank combines them with the overall number of outbound links on each of the pages that link to your page.
The two search engines are also coming closer in their semantic search capabilities. With this feature, search engines assess the intent and context of a web query before returning results, as opposed to evaluating content solely based on exact keyword matching.
Google's Hummingbird updates have given it a greater ability to return better semantic search results. As a result, if your content is topically comprehensive, including related query items as well as your core keyword, Google will rank it higher. Bing has historically preferred exact match keywords but is improving its semantic search capabilities through deep learning.
The two engines differ in terms of the kinds of content they prioritize for search optimization. Various forms of content, including videos and audio, can be optimized for Bing SEO. On the other hand, Google can't crawl videos and instead focuses on text-based content (which is why it's a good idea to include transcripts of your video content!).
Bing and Google also have different policies on metadata and meta keywords in particular. Meta keywords, tags, and descriptions are types of metadata, which appear in your content's HTML code to help inform search engines of what your content is about.
Google's relationship with meta keywords is complicated. Its search algorithm hasn't used meta keywords to formulate rankings for over a decade, because it considers them too easy to abuse. However, clear meta descriptions and meta titles often attract readers' attention and lead to higher CTRs from organic search. Google does care about higher CTRs, and those higher CTRs will lead to higher rankings. For that reason, good meta keywords and tags will still improve your standing with Google.
The situation with meta keywords on Bing is considerably clearer. In short, Bing SEO uses meta keywords, tags, and descriptions as a key measurement for SEO. Bing SERPs tend to increase if you're diligent about featuring topical meta keywords and informative meta descriptions in your content.
Related: We compared Bing and Google's advertising differences, too. Read more about "Google vs Bing: The $175,762 Question."
How to Optimize Your Content for Both Bing and Google
Before we look at some of the SEO tips specific to Bing and Google, it's important to note those content best practices that will propel you up both search engines' rankings:
- Make sure you've taken care of title optimization.
- Be diligent about link building.
- Optimize your content URLs and anchor text.
- Use a high-performance SEO competitor analysis tool to figure out what your competitors are doing well and determine what you want to emulate.
Building a sitemap will also help boost your site when trying to rank on both search engines. Here is Google’s definition of a sitemap:
“[A] file where you provide information about the pages, videos, and other files on your site and the relationships between them. Search engines like Google read this file to more intelligently crawl your site. A sitemap tells Google which pages and files you think are important in your site and also provides valuable information about these files: for example, for pages, when the page was last updated, how often the page is changed, and any alternate language versions of a page.”
This definition is true for Bing as well. Both Google and Bing offer tips on creating and uploading sitemaps through their respective Webmaster Guidelines.
The bigger your website and the quicker you want your site to begin ranking, the more important a good sitemap is. It's like giving Google directions to your front door instead of just telling them what town you live in. A sitemap is also useful for helping you oversee the different parts of your site for future planning purposes.
Optimize for Natural Language Search
Search engine queries are often phrased in everyday conversational language, known as a natural language search. Natural language search optimization is a crucial SEO step if you're trying to appeal to users of voice search, who are usually in the mood to make a purchase. Natural language search is Bing's main focus.
Google does its natural language search business via Google BERT. BERT is the search engine's neural network for natural language processing. It allows Google to have a more nuanced and realistic understanding of sentence-length searches. It also helps Google to parse conjunctions and other modifiers properly so that the results it returns are relevant.
While it is not possible to optimize for Google BERT, taking an approach similar to the one taken to optimize for natural language on Bing will yield the right results. Content is more likely to land top ranking or a featured snippet through Google BERT if it is written to answer specific questions. We can see one of Google's own examples of BERT in action, below.
Here, the search item is "do estheticians stand a lot at work[?]." Before Google BERT's introduction, a more generalized piece of content ranked first. With Google BERT in effect, a piece of content that answers that specific question has taken the top spot.
Develop question-oriented content that will help you catch natural language searches that are relevant to your product. For instance, if you find that your user personas are conducting a lot of natural language/voice searches for the question "How can I improve my company's SEO performance?" you can build content centered on that particular question.
Google SEO Tips
Once upon a time, getting to the top of a Google page was about ranking for as many keywords as possible. This led to cynical practices like keyword stuffing. It also led to the prominence of the listicle article type. It's easier to stockpile keywords in a listicle in a way that's still helpful to a reader. While this content type is still popular, Google also shows a preference for ranking articles that deal with a topic at length. It has to do with topical authority.
Topical authority is one of Google's principal methods of determining site and page ranking. Ranking for a single keyword allows you to draw traffic from that keyword. A site with topical authority, on the other hand, will rank for adjacent keywords associated with the original topic. For example, a site with authority for the keyword "SEO" will start to rank for the adjacent term "site audit" as well.
The key to getting topical authority? Writing more in-depth content. A study by Backlinko shows that longer content leads to better SERP positions and signals to Google that you're running a high-quality site.
Be sure to include plenty of related keywords in your content to increase its topical relevance. A good way to go about this is through hub-and-spoke content.
Bing SEO Tips
Bing thrives on exact keywording and diverse content types. Fill your blog up with these, and double down on the precise use of keywords for an increased likelihood of success with them.
As we noted earlier, Bing is not a fan of semantic search. The search engine prefers diligent use of the exact keyword you're trying to surface for. Locate exact keywords relevant to your audience, and include the keywords throughout your articles. Use a dedicated keyword ranking tool to find out the exact phrases relevant to your audience.
Bing's visual search feature, another distinguishing factor, is especially advanced and represents another channel for surfacing your content. Bing also weighs the presence of videos and other multimedia content on a page more heavily than Google does. You can find more information about getting your diversified content types into a form that's crawlable by Bing by consulting the Webmaster Guidelines.
Searching for Improvement
Both Google and Bing want to surface the best content available to their users to answer their questions. That's the objective you need to keep your eye on when optimizing for them both. Produce content that is zeroed in on your users' needs and the questions they're asking, and you'll likely rank high in both Google and Bing results.
Related Reading: These differences are heightened when comparing Google vs. Bing advertising. Google Ads vs. Bing Ads: the $175,672 question