Sometimes, despite a webmaster’s best efforts, Bing may choose to serve a title that is different to the title of a web site or document. Let’s walk through the process to see how Bing selects a title and what you can do to help us select yours. You have probably designed your site to maximize your CTR, you have reviewed best practices and SEO techniques, and you have a plan to maintain relevant and up-to-date content. Your HTML Title is exactly how you want it to be and what you want to show your customer.
However, when you search using query terms you have optimized for, Bing shows a different title! What happened?
First, let’s go through a little terminology. A caption is made up of three core parts: the title, URL and the snippet.
Bing’s goal is to help the user complete their search tasks as efficiently as possible. To do this, Bing:
- Optimizes titles for relevance to the user. Titles are very powerful when it comes to showing how a site or document is relevant to a user’s query.
- Optimizes snippets. Snippets also help the user differentiate between search results at a more granular level.
- Optimizes display URLs. Users look at URLs to validate the source of information and gauge its authenticity. Bing tries to make it easy to see who is providing the information.
Let’s look at an example on how Bing may change a title.
Let’s assume a user is looking for a fictional home ware site called Contoso’s and uses the query ‘Contoso’.
The Contoso webmaster has set the Title tag as:
Home Ware: Bedroom, Kitchenware, Garden Ware, Hardware – Contoso’s
The title Bing selected may look like this:
Contoso’s – Home Ware: Bedroom, Kitchenware, Garden Ware …
Why Did Bing Choose This Title?
Bing has a complex set of rules that combine many different pieces of information to build titles, snippets and URLs in order to provide the optimal search experience to the user. For example, Bing needs to fit titles in the available space so long titles might get truncated. Bing may also learn that users favor a particular format or piece of information so Bing will try to incorporate those pieces of information in the title. For example, in the case above, the site name “Contoso’s” has been moved to the front of the title to preserve it from truncation.
This is only one example, but there are many other scenarios where Bing may select alternatives. In some cases, Bing may use other pieces of information from the web page such as OpenGraph annotations, or prominent text extracted from the page. Bing may even use external data sources such as anchor text, or the listing found in the Open Directory Project (ODP & also known as dmoz.org, a directory of online sites)). In the extreme cases, when our crawler is blocked by the webmaster, or when the page doesn’t have enough content, Bing may use the URL as a title.
Here are some other titles that could also be served in this example:
“Contoso’s – Official Site”
“Contoso’s Home Ware”
On mobile devices, Bing may choose to serve an even shorter title such as
The best ways to try and ensure that the title you want is selected by Bing are:
- Make the HTML Title relevant to the queries that would be used to search your site without being overly long or repetitive. Avoid generic titles like “Home” or “About Us”.
- If you embed OpenGraph, etc., make sure it is consistent with the title you want, and that all the fields are correct, for example that your site name is correct.
- If your site is listed on dmoz.org or other directories make sure the entry is correct.
- Don’t block our crawler. Please refer to crawler control instructions on how to control the crawler, but keep in mind, you should not block Bingbot if you want your content to be indexed. By slowing the crawl rate (via the Webmaster Tools) or by blocking Bingbot in the robots.txt file, or even blocking our IP addresses, you can prevent us from crawling and indexing your content.
Finally, we encourage you to be consistent with how you represent your site on the Internet. That means wherever you reference your URL you should ensure that any meta data associated with it is correct and matches the way you want it to be represented.
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