When we talk about search engines, you wouldn’t be too far off if you simply read it as “Google.” And let’s be honest — we do spend a lot of time talking about Google, given its dominance in the search world. Google remains by far the world’s top search engine, and in most cases, other search engines adopt the changes they make (like what their algorithms prioritize and penalize), giving Google’s decisions even more weight.
But recently, a surprising David has emerged as a challenge to Google’s Goliath. Last fall, Microsoft Bing turned out an operating profit with quarterly revenue of more than $1 billion — and PPC revenue was up 23%. It’s a sharp contrast not just with the fates of other non-Google search engines, but also with other parts of Microsoft’s business. (The heavily advertised Microsoft Cloud? It’s not exactly making it rain.)
What should you know about Bing? Here’s a quick primer.
Bing at a Glance
Bing actually has a pretty long history (remember, “long” is relative in the tech world). It started to evolve from MSN Search in 1998, and was officially launched in 2009 as one of Microsoft’s first steps toward becoming more focused on services and less reliant on software. Bing’s initial prognosis was pretty grim: it cost the company a fortune, didn’t make Google bat an eyelash, and seemed destined to be another Zune. (Remember the Zune, Microsoft’s clunky and ill-conceived challenger to the iPod? That’s okay, few do.)
But Microsoft didn’t give up on Bing, and against the odds, it appears the software giant made the right bet. One initial choice the company made was to enter into a Search Alliance (yes, it’s capitalized) with Yahoo, so that Bing powers Yahoo Search. When Bing started out, Yahoo was the only search engine that was putting a significant dent in Google’s numbers: In May 2009, Yahoo represented 20% of the search market. Today, Yahoo is down to 12.7% (and has actually improved recently, thanks to being the default search engine for the Firefox browser). Essentially, Yahoo traded places with Bing, which now has that solid 20%.
How did Bing become viable? In addition to powering Yahoo — which makes it effectively reach nearly 33 percent of the search market — Bing initially grew in large part due to being built into both devices and software. It’s natural that Microsoft’s operating system (Windows), web browser (Internet Explorer), and searchbot (Cortana) use Bing by default. But in 2013, Apple dropped Google as its default search engine for Siri, and in 2014 stopped using Google for Spotlight (the search function on Apple computers). Today, Spotlight and Siri both default to searching with Bing. While of course it’s pretty easy to change the default settings, lots of people don’t. Even among those who do, unless the settings are changed right away, the users will at least be exposed to Bing. And those who’ve tried it — well, it turns out that a lot of them like it.
Where Bing Beats Google
Like Google, Bing has a pretty image on its main search page that changes daily. But beyond that attractive veneer, Bing has a wide range of interesting and useful functions that can be helpful both for the casual searcher and for people who are specifically interested in SEO. Here’s a quick roundup of some of our favorite Bing features:
Bing Image Search is powerful and offers a great UX — copyright information, image size, and safe search restrictions are all easier to find than in Google. Their coolest trick? Bing Image Match, which lets the user upload an image and use that image itself to search for matching images. Say you found a photo you love, but at a grainy resolution — upload it, and Bing can help you find a better version.
Bing Video Search is likewise easy to use, and we prefer the interface to Google’s. Related videos show up in a footer, and hovering over a video allows you to autoplay it in a small preview window. You can find what you’re looking for quickly and with a minimum of clicking.
An awesome shortcut to checking out the best of your site’s link profile: In Bing, type in linkfromdomain: followed by your domain (for example, we’d put higherpowerseo.com). You’ll instantly see the top outbound links from your site.
Another goodie that us SEO types love (and which Google nixed in 2015), is physical location targeting. This advanced search feature lets the user specify a location to search, instead of entering a city name as one of their keywords or hoping that the search engine has correctly located their IP address. This feature takes queries “near me” to the next level.
Advanced Search Operators
You know how if you’re searching for something on your computer, you can specify the file type to narrow down your search results? You can do that in Bing, too — typing contains:PDF (or another file type) and then your search term gets you only results that are the kind of file you’re looking for. You don’t have to sort through all those static images of cute kittens, you can go straight to contains:GIF cute kittens. There are many more advanced search operators you can use, too — here’s an overview of some more helpful ones.
Learn Without Leaving the SERP
With some searches — notably, searches for famous folks past and present — Bing will automatically compile information and display it to you right on the search results page. The “snapshot” shows you enhanced info snippets, and the “timeline” will give you some of that person’s biggest hits (or misses, as the case may be). It’s not a substitute for actual research, but it’s handy for fast facts.
Want the edge in your office’s Oscar pool? Bing Predicts combs the web to give you the odds on everything from the presidential race to the next big NASCAR race. When it comes to politics, Bing goes even deeper. The interactive Bing Political Index provides a clear and easy-to-use tool to compare candidates’ positions on relevant issues. Sure, you’ll get similar candidate-by-candidate info if you Google a politician’s name followed by the word “stance,” but Bing’s got the edge here.
Get Paid to Search
Paid search isn’t just PPC in the Bing world. If you register and then are signed in when you search, you actually earn Bing Rewards points that can be redeemed for gift cards. You earn the points simply by searching. Sure, it takes a whole lot of searches to actually earn enough to redeem your points, but you’re going to be searching the web anyway — why not get something in return?
Speaking of pay-per-click — if you’re interested in testing out a PPC campaign on Bing, or want to fine-tune your existing organic or paid search efforts, Higher Power SEO can help. Call us at 760-881-4736 to get started.