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Bing Webmaster Guidelines and the Import of Script

Bing is being criticized for having waited so long in releasing their Webmaster Guidelines, now tiny technicalities may be the rub for overtaking Google.

Alt in HTML does not equal tag

Bing is being criticized for having waited so long in releasing their Webmaster Guidelines, and even for having over generalized what Bing’s Duane Forrester termed “broad strokes of search marketing.” Many question how “broad strokes”, applied so long after Microsoft’s search engine began, could have possibly taken so long? And, there’s bound to be more critiques, here’s one to start.

Alt in HTML does not equal tag

A few days ago SEO, WordPress, digital strategy expert, a partner at VUURR Digital, Chuck Reynolds (at left below)  mailed SEJ about Bing’s Webmaster Guidelines. His initial take was what some would consider “nit picking”, but in effect completely “correct” where technical SEO and coding are concerned. What you are about to read is at best puzzling, and in the worst case down right pitiful. Read on.

Reynolds’ technical “burn” on Bing was and is “straight up incorrectness” where Bing suggests there is any such animals as <alt> tags. Even more puzzling is the fact when Reynolds spoke with Bing support the representatives were simply clueless (see Chuck’s tweets, here, here, and here).

Chuck Reynolds tweets of Bing Support ordealChuck tweets part of the discourse with Bing Support

Chuck ReynoldsFor those who do not know, “alt” is what’s known as an attribute, not an actual HTML tag, in ex: <img alt=”text“> is a sub category within an image. I know some readers are asking; “What’s the big deal?” I’ll explain.

When you see the term Webmaster Guidelines, perhaps you think of your personal blog, an eCommerce site, even the New York Times, but for the major search engines; Google, Bing, Yahoo!,  Baidu, and others, we’re talking about literally trillions of dollars worth of value. “Webmaster”, as defined singularly, could mean Arianna Huffington ultimately, but the plural of the term touches hundreds of millions AND their constituents. Okay, I just made Chuck Reynolds’ “technicality” a bit more nebulous, but let me clarify further.

Reynolds is what I would call a “purist” where SEO, WordPress, and hypertext markup especially are concerned. An expert, in short, determinedly “slicing and dicing bits” of SEO fodder, and so on. Such experts HAVE to be critical like this, or else STUFF just does not work for the clients they represent. His bio and web footprint read like some Phantom of the Opera of SEO strategies.

Bing incorrect markupIf copywriters are allowed incorrect markup???

Breaking this down, Reynolds noticed the goof by Bing minutes after the announcement “Guidelines” had been released. Tweet above reflects his connecting with Bing. I will note here, he did not do so once, but several times in an effort to correct the error of mislabeling an “attribute” an actual tag. I’ll let you investigate the discourse  what’s important here is not just the “tag” issue, but the immovability of support for Bing. You see, the error is still there as of this writing. But the story gets a bit deeper.

Stefan Weitz of Bing SearchAs it happens, one of the first things I want to do as the new editor of SEJ is bring the “experts” and decision makers to speak to you, the reader. No, I am not on some altruistic mission to WOW you with name drop wonders, expert info and advice is what SEJ or any such publication is about.

In line with this I contacted a very nice guy named Stefan Weitz (at right via Facebook), the Director of Bing Search. He graciously consented to an interview. This would not be relevant, except… On learning of this “technicality” I mailed Stefan about not only the mistakes, but about the potential for Bing to step up where competition with rival Google is concerned.

The interview questions I prepared for him engaged along those lines, but out of just good reporting, it seemed appropriate to give Bing a big chance to respond here.

No response was forthcoming, I made two attempts. To be completely fair, I am sure Stefan Weitz, like all the rest of you, is immersed in the holiday spirit, not to mention other search product developments. I will address small technicalities with him at the end of said interview next week (hopefully after he reads this).

The point here is, for the “experts” who do the strategy, write the markup, figure the SEO, and decipher the marketing trends that determine YOUR success, such simple and prominent errors should be fixed almost immediately. If they are not, what does this say for HUGE errors laying underneath, or, about the support we can expect for other Bing products?

Weitz, who can be seen announcing a new Bing application of merit in the video above, is obviously a very busy person with lots of “search” irons in the fire. But another point any executive can glean here is that innovation, effectively bypassing support (as suggested here) lead to (at best) a status quo user experience. We have all fallen prey to Google Webmaster obtuseness before, why switch to an even worse support mechanism?

If I could offer any suggestion to Bing, or Google for the matter, it would be to use their own search engine to figure out who is talking to whom. There should be a procedure in place that says; “Identify who the heck you are speaking with!” Not to publicize Chuck Reynolds overly, but a simple search would show him as not some ordinary SEO snake oil salesman. Then too, if the head of Bing does not inquire of the editor of one of the web’s most influential SEO portals – let’s just say your food blog has zero voice.

To be continued…

Late breaking, Chuck mailed me a while ago with news Duane Forrester actually had responded to his inquiries, the pertinent tweet being embedded below. On my end, two things – first, Forrester is away, so responding is highly indicative of his dedication – secondly, a “toss up” response to something that would take 15 seconds to change is, frankly, not picky enough on markup and SEO. This is just my take-away.

 Photo credit: Blackboard mashup – courtesy © kbuntu –

Category SEO
Phil Butler Partner at Pamil Visions PR

Phil Butler is theEditor at Everything PR, Argophilia Travel News,  and Senior Partner at Pamil Visions PR. He’s a widely ...

Bing Webmaster Guidelines and the Import of Script

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