The extent of Google’s dominance in the search engine landscape becomes apparent when considering our inclination to “Google it” when seeking information online. Announcing to a room that you are just “Yahooing the weather tomorrow” or “DuckDuckGoing what time the game starts” would surely be met with much confusion.
Armed with not just the superior search engine, but an entire ecosystem for its users, spanning their emails, maps, calendars, and more, Google has spent the past 20 years dominating the market with no rival in sight.
However, with Microsoft taking steps to integrate OpenAI’s ChatGPT with their own search engine, Bing, whispers of a new age of search engines have quickly gathered pace.
And whilst there is much uncertainty and debate over the future of search and how it may evolve with the capabilities of AI, it is also worth taking account of what we do already know about these search engines. If Bing truly is set to become a more influential player in the search landscape, it is vitally important that we fully understand both how it differs from Google, and the implications of these differences on our SEO practices.
In many ways, Google and Bing serve the same purpose: they are search engines that allow us to retrieve information online, acting as a gateway to the vast amount of content available on the internet.
However, if you were to search the same query into Bing and Google, you would likely be served with two sets of completely different results. But why is this?
The answer is, primarily, due to the different algorithms that the two search engines employ. Within these algorithms, there is a wide range of different ranking factors that are assigned a given weighting by the search engine. As a result, the search results vary based on the unique combination of factors considered by Bing and Google. The further the divergence in the weighting attributed to the ranking factors, the further the divergence in search results will occur.
Before we break down some of the key differences between the ranking factors of Bing and Google, it’s important to note that there are plenty of areas the two search engines align on. For both, having high-quality, relevant and original content is essential for any website. Good page speed, crawlability, and site architecture are also important for both engines.
Backlinks serve as crucial indicators of credibility and authority for both search engines. However, the role that they play and the extent to which they are prioritised differ between the two.
For Google, backlinks play a fundamental role in determining a web page’s trustworthiness and relevancy. The search giant places a strong emphasis on high-quality, authoritative links from reputable sources. Google’s algorithm carefully assesses the quality, relevance, and context of backlinks. A few authoritative links from trusted sources can carry significant weight and outweigh numerous low-quality or spammy links.
On the other hand, while backlinks remain highly important for Bing, they don’t hold the same level of significance as they do for Google. One area within backlinks that Bing does value greatly is highly-relevant anchor text, recognising its role in establishing a strong connection between the linked page and the surrounding content. (Highly-relevant anchor text used for internal linking is also a ranking factor for both search engines).
The ranking factor with perhaps the most clearly established differences between the two search engines is social signals. This refers to the engagement generated on social media platforms and can include metrics, such as likes, shares, comments, and impressions.
Google has repeatedly stated that social signals do not play any role in their algorithm. Bing, on the other hand, has been very open about the important role that social signals play as a ranking factor in their algorithm. As a result, a page that generates likes, shares, and impressions on social platforms is better placed to rank highly on Bing. Therefore, businesses that integrate social media marketing into their wider digital marketing strategies can expect to see a greater performance on Bing.
It should be noted that whilst social signals are not a ranking factor for Google, generating social traffic – visitors that arrive at your website via social media – remains highly important for your website’s overall performance. Implementing effective social media strategies to drive social traffic is therefore still very much encouraged.
Multimedia content – content that incorporates multiple media elements, such as images, audio, and video – is another area that plays a more influential role in Bing’s ranking factors than in Google’s.
On the whole, Bing excels with multimedia content. Whilst Google has a superior ability to interpret text-based content, Bing can crawl and understand images, audio, and video more easily. This can be seen on Bing’s results page, which often showcases multimedia content like video previews and image carousels more prominently.
With this commitment to highlighting visually rich and interactive search experiences, pages with highly optimised multimedia content are well positioned to rank on Bing. Whilst these features are also very important factors for Google as well, they do not hold the same significance as authoritative and high-quality textual content.
Since 2021, Google has implemented a “mobile-first” indexing policy, which prioritises the mobile version of websites for indexing and ranking. This shift highlights the significant emphasis placed by Google on having mobile-friendly content that aligns with the desktop version.
In contrast, Bing does not currently utilise a mobile-first system and has explicitly stated that they have no intentions of implementing one in the future. Rather, Bing has stated, “we maintain a single index that is optimised for both mobile and desktop to ensure our users continue to receive the most relevant, fresh, and consistent results no matter where they are.”
The presence of keywords in metadata, such as page titles, headings, and meta descriptions is one of the most basic concepts within SEO practices. And whilst this is an important factor for both search engines, the significance of the role it plays varies between them.
With Google’s more advanced interpretation of text-based content, they are able to be less reliant on the presence of keywords in metadata to fully understand the page’s content and relevancy. In fact, meta descriptions, whilst playing an important role in boosting a page’s click-through rate, are not actually considered a ranking factor by Google.
Bing’s inferior ability to understand text-based content leaves it relying more heavily on the basic SEO practices of including keywords in the metadata. And, unlike Google, meta descriptions are an important factor for Bing’s understanding of a page’s content.
Given the dominance that Google still holds over the search engine market, we’d still thoroughly recommend optimising your website for Google as a priority. This is where the majority of users can be found, so of course we want to ensure that your website is best placed to reach them. SEO practices that provide you the best chance of ranking on Google should therefore be prioritised.
However, it is not necessarily the case that you must optimise exclusively for one search engine or the other. Whilst we’ve outlined the key areas where Bing and Google’s ranking factors differ, there are still many where they overlap. And even when considering the areas that do differ, the best strategies for these different factors don’t tend to contradict each other. What’s important is a diverse strategy that covers the best practices for improving organic performance on Bing and Google.
With this in mind, we have pulled together a comprehensive list of the best SEO practices for ranking on both search engines:
While Google continues to dominate the search engine landscape, exploring the rising influence of Bing and its integration with OpenAI’s ChatGPT opens new possibilities for search engine capabilities. As search evolves, it is vital to stay informed and adapt strategies accordingly.
Understanding the differences between the ranking factors of each search engine provides the best platform to navigate through this dynamic landscape, ensuring your online presence remains optimised, and relevant to both Google and Bing users.
By embracing these insights and applying them to your website, you can position yourself for success in the ever-evolving world of search engines, reaching more users and delivering valuable content that resonates with audiences across platforms.