The search engine landscape has already changed since Microsoft released Bing: all SEOs expected the unexpected; we all knew that Bing was just the first step towards something bigger, louder, and in the end more significant. Microsoft didn’t disappoint – the latest deal with Yahoo has already stirred controversy in all SEO circles.
The pondering just started: is the deal a threat to Google?
“We’re more nervous about making sure we stay focused ourselves rather than what the competition does.” – Google’s Tim Armstrong said in 2008, in an interview about a possible Microsoft/ Yahoo merger. Will he say the same thing today, knowing that together Microsoft and Yahoo share 30% of the search market? Will he make the same statement when everyone knows that Google is losing money (proof the last AOL stake move)?
These questions concern more the SEO community and the investors than they do the users, who generally believe that the “unexpected” deal between Google’s main competitors will not change their search habits. Bing did not bring ground-breaking technology to search – all it brought was a different way to categorize results, probably copied from hakia or Kayak, but this is beside the point.
As far as how does the Microsoft/Yahoo deal change SEO, there are at least two important aspects we cannot ignore:
- Bing will be the exclusive search engine for all Yahoo sites for the whole duration of the agreement (which is 10 years).
- Microsoft will also have exclusive access to Yahoo’s core search technologies and will also have the ability to integrate these technologies into its existing platforms if necessary.
Based on the information above, the following conclusions are a no brainer:
- SEO for Bing is worth the effort. Bing’s results are different from what Google and Yahoo display now, somehow “richer” in displaying a variety of results for a given query. With Bing powering Yahoo search we can assume that this way of serving search results will probably be adopted by Yahoo too.
- We cannot be sure if Yahoo’s local search is part of the deal, but if it is Bing will have a lot to gain. Since Bing is serving local listings in the search results it becomes vital for companies to be listed in Bing’s local listing center. This does not impact businesses outside the US just yet, but it is still an important SEO pointer for the future.
- Based on personal experience, it is a mistake to ignore Bing Webmaster Tools – if you don’t have an account there you are probably missing a lot of Bing traffic. Unless you want to ping Bing each time you publish new content it is advisable to submit a sitemap to Bing via Bing Webmaster Tools.
To ping Bing simply follow the formula:
http://www.bing.com/webmaster/ping.aspx?siteMap=[your sitemap web address]
Other important data you could gather from Bing Webmaster Tools: filter backlinks by top-level domain, subdomain or subfolder and filter outbound links by top-level domain, subdomain or subfolder. Bing also offers a tool that helps you see how your site performs in search results for searches using specific keywords. Comparing the data from Bing Webmaster Tools to Google you can also learn how the two search engines see your site. This will give you the tools to plan better SEO strategies for the two.
- With Yahoo out of the search spectrum, Yahoo site explorer may go away too. This was an important tool to gather link information for SEOs. Many SEO tools that relied on Yahoo for link data will break too – so SEOs will face new challenges when it comes to link research.
- Last but not least, MSN AdCenter will probably get more attention from advertisers in the US (where the impact of the deal is the strongest) as an alternative to Google AdWords. Microsoft ads already provide for better conversions than Google ads, but this is the first time Google actually faces serious competition in this field. 30 % of the market doesn’t sound like much, but it can soon become a threat if Microsoft proves that it can serve ads that have better quality and relevancy, and more importantly higher conversions.
This is what Google should fear. As far as SEO for Bing is concerned, in relation with PPC advertising, remember that any PPC campaign is pointless if a site is not built to sell: we are talking design, content, and usability, of course. As a final note, take into consideration the fact the Yahoo is still the most visited site in the world. A Bing search bar on such a site is in effect more popular than Google itself, or at least potentially. It appears as if MS is not as dumb as they pretend to be most of the time.