In my last post for Web Content Blog, I discussed changes in SEO for 2013 focused on Google. That’s for two very good reasons. First, Google is dominant in search with over 66% of core searches. Second, Google talks about its changes while other search engines generally don’t. However, Bing broke through the 17% core search threshold for the first time this year – Search Engine Land, May 15, 2013.
The Search Industry
Because Google is dominant in search, it leads the rest of the pack in maintaining the technology. The others follow suit or make changes that help them market against Google. But occasionally, the others change their algorithms to suit their own business aims, and without alerting webmasters, it can send the industry into a tizzy. Bing, for instance, made three algorithm updates in 2012 and their forums lit up trying to figure out what was happening. To date in 2013, Bing has made only one algorithm update. Yahoo uses the Bing algorithm and so a change to the latter is a change to the former, although each tweaks its results to suit its needs.
There has always been a tension between search engines, which are naturally loyal to their search users, and webmasters on whom search engines rely for the sources of those searches. Search engines set the rules for how webmasters may run the gauntlet of a search engine indexing but have been little helpful in the navigation of the gauntlet.
Google is secretive with details about its updates, but it has communicated upcoming changes and it has answered questions, without giving away details that might negate the changes. Contrast that with Bing, which simply makes updates.
While you can generalize that a broad rule change in Google won’t hurt you with other search engines, it’s to the specifics that you need to pay attention (Bing Webmaster Guidelines, for instance). While some rules apply universally to all search engines, some don’t, so it’s important to know your search engines. If you see in your analytics that a large or growing share of your traffic is coming from Bing, for instance, you need to make sure you don’t set up roadblocks to being found there. A “roadblock” is something that interferes with indexing, including not meeting their guidelines and blocking access to your site.
Both Google and Bing recommend unique title tags and description tags for each Web page. However, Google only says to keep them brief. Bing gives specific limits in its guidelines. If you’re targeting Bing, the limit is 65 characters for titles and 160 characters for descriptions.
General Changes to Search
Some general changes in 2013 that apply to all search engines might be:
- Links for the sake of links can be a bad thing. Focus on links that apply to your content.
- Using too many keywords looks even more like keyword stuffing.
Technorati suggested no more than three uses of a keyword on a page. However, search engines would counsel, write naturally.
I said “might be” above. That’s because these rules have always been under close scrutiny by search engines. They are just getting more enforcement among more search engines now.
A forum earlier in the year noticed that Bing and Yahoo were updating their algorithm for links to give an edge to branded domain names. That gives the brand owner the authority of the link, not you the website linking to it.
A contributor on Search Engine Land focusing on maintaining links noted more relevance was being given to links to interior pages instead of home pages. In fact, if you check the links to your site and there is a higher percentage going to your home page than to interior pages, it suggests your content is of less quality. It pays to maintain your links!
Making the Differences Between Search Engines Work for You
Most businesses – and some SEO practitioners – have decided that since Google is the dominant search engine, they should just optimize for Google. But that’s ignoring huge swaths of the marketplace. Bing is working hard at being competitive and its share of search is steadily growing at Google’s expense. Their recent advertising blitz comparing their search results against Google’s is making a difference.
Here’s how you can make the differences between search engines work for you.
- Roost on your site analytics and watch where your traffic originates. There are dozens of search engines, some of them focusing on unique markets, which may be searching for your site. Don’t lose traffic because “Google is dominant in search.” Here are the current 15 most popular search engines. If you have a specialty site, some of these smaller search engines may help you increase traffic.
- Register with Webmaster Tools on Bing as well as Google and watch for things like Link Alerts (Google) and Crawl Error Alerts (Bing) for opportunities to improve site performance. (Yahoo uses Bing Webmaster Tools and Ask uses Google Webmaster Tools.) Follow their guidelines – note the similarities, and if traffic flows from a particular search engine, note and make use of the discrepancies.
- With recent revelations of search engine compliance with NSA snooping into citizen Internet use, there has been noticeable growth in smaller, more secure search engines like StartPage and Ixquick. Remember to consider their effect in your traffic increases or decreases. Note: StartPage gets search results from Google; Ixquick sources its results from multiple search engines.
The truth remains: If you write quality content for the reader, you are unlikely to run into problems with any search engine. Optimization remains the art and science of showing up in a search on any search engine.
Frederic Gonzalo says
Interesting angle, Alan. I wonder what are your thoughts on Facebook going into this sphere with its Graph Search rollout, and its partnership with Bing? We spend so much time within Facebook and its reach is now worldwide that if it could get us to do more and more searches on its platform, what could it mean to competitors, i.e. Google, Yahoo? And more importantly, what will it mean to brands active on the web but not necessarily on Facebook?
Would love to hear your thoughts on that one. Cheers,
Alan Eggleston says
Hi Frederic, great questions. My article really dealt just with search engines per se, but there are other powerful forces in search like YouTube (second most powerful to Google and a Google property) and social networking platforms like Twitter and Facebook. Twitter lost some of its search influence when it didn’t renew its contract with Google but as a topical search engine to see what people are talking about NOW, it remains powerful. Facebook continues to add search capabilities like Facebook Local, hashtags (and now associating independent URLs with the hashtags for attribution elsewhere), and now Graphic Search. But the problem for Facebook is a huge mistrust by users of its privacy policies and a need for users and businesses to tag their pages, photos, and so forth associated with the elements of the search. If few people use those elements, Graphic Search loses its power. When they do, it not only makes Graphic Search within Facebook very useful and powerful, but also a powerful tool through its association with Bing. One of the elements of a search engine’s algorithm is popularity of a page or image or other page element, and if it shows a lot of likes or shares or hits, that can positively affect its ranking. For Bing, Facebook is just an added attribute. Facebook fan pages and some limited Facebook elements like user profiles and comments on third-party pages (such as RSS feeds on home pages) are even indexed by Google. So while I suspect Facebook use helps feed some Bing growth I don’t think Bing (or Yahoo, which uses Bing) depend on it as much as actual users searching on Bing for growth. In the end, any search engine – Bing, Yahoo, Dogpile, and Google among them – depend on results to attract loyal users. Bing is marketing for Google users with its comparison ads, but if its actual results don’t compare to Google’s more than its glitzy presentation, Facebook activity won’t help. And Facebook’s apparent disregard for user privacy concerns hasn’t helped its case, either. For Google’s part, it (like other search engines) is continually testing new designs, new applications, new attributes. Don’t count anyone out.
Brands active on the Web but not necessarily on Facebook face an increasingly more diverse Web. They need to be aware of where their audiences (or consumers) are active and be there for them. That may mean having a Facebook Fan page, or a Google+ Brand page, or a Twitter business page, or Pinterest pages, or be on Yelp or a host of other pages or a combination. Then they need to engage their audiences to like or share or pin or retweet their pages to show up naturally so the search engines pick up the activity and their popularity. They need, in short, to be social on the social media in a way that says to search engines, they are very relevant for those keywords.
Hope I answered your questions. Facebook is trying very hard to be useful. They just need to also prove to be trustworthy. It will come.
Frederic Gonzalo says
Wow, thanks for the very information reply. You confirm my suspicions about Facebook as not really a player in the search world. Yet. Indeed, it’s more complex than it may appear at first glance, but brands looking to have effective SEO in place need to also have a proper social strategy in place in order to secure all bases, and be relevant wherever applicable.
Alan Eggleston says
That’s it exactly – more complex than it may appear. Graphic Search is pretty good for finding things on Facebook, if things are adequately tagged on Facebook. It would be good for finding things in common … people who do this or were here or there or who like this or that. But it requires peoples’ participation and cooperation. A proper social media strategy is definitely important. You’ve got it right.
Gazalla Gaya says
Interesting question, Frederic. I was also wondering, Alan besides Bing Webmaster guidelines, are there any other sources that would help us optimize for all these other search engines? Thanks for an informative post!
Alan Eggleston says
Thanks Gazalla. I find the most useful posts about search and SEO on searchengineland.com and searchenginewatch.com. Others also like SEOMoz (now Moz). Mashable.com and technorati.com also touch on search and SEO. These sources tend to provide the most objective information and news on the industry. I also find that beyond them you have to be careful that what you are reading isn’t simply self-serving hype. But beyond these reporting media, the search engines are getting the winnie from the horse’s mouth, so to speak. The media merely interpret. So my advice would be, read the search engine guidelines and then look to these other sites for interpretations, updates, and great questions from other webmasters and web editors. Hope that helps.
Alan Eggleston says
Hi again, Frederic. I tried to include a link to a Search Engine Land article on “14 Ways Facebook Homes In on Local Search” but Gazalla’s blog cms looks at it as spam. It’s from April but touches on Facebook’s dive into the world of search including Graphic Search and hashtags. Worth a read. I’d search that title.
Frederic Gonzalo says
No worries, Alan. I will look it up and read it. Many thanks for the heads up on this article.
Alan Eggleston says
Thanks for the great questions and comments, Frederic. Good reading. Cheers.
Carol Lynn says
I agree that there’s more to SEO than Google but partly for a completely different reason and that’s because Google is more and more about the money. In the wake of recent updates, businesses have been booted out of search right and left. Our recourse is… buy ads. Google shopping is ads. Google results is “content” – with ads. And then they removed the keyword tool except for… ad buyers. It’s time to think past search, period.