Bing’s newly updated Webmaster Guidelines documents how the search engines generally decides how to rank web pages in its search results. Bing breaks down how it ranks web pages based on relevance, quality & credibility, user engagement, freshness, location and page load time.
The guidelines explains that the search results are algorithmic and not done by hand. “Bing search results are generated by using an algorithm to match the search query a user enters into the search engine with content in our index,” Bing wrote. Bing is continually improving its algorithms, Bing wrote it “designs – and continually improves – its algorithms to provide the most comprehensive, relevant and useful collection of search results available.”
Caveat on these ranking factors. Before Bing lists out its ranking factors, Bing explained that ranking is complex and it uses many criteria to deliver search results. Bing wrote “please note that Bing’s complex ranking systems use many criteria to deliver search results, and the relative importance of each of the parameters described below may vary from search to search and may evolve over time.” Bing did however say that the ranking factors listed below “are listed in general order of importance.”
Relevance. Bing wrote “relevance refers to how closely the content on the landing page matches the intent behind the search query. This includes matching terms directly on the page as well as terms used in links referring to the page. Bing also considers semantic equivalents, including synonyms or abbreviations, which may not be exact matches of the query terms but are understood to have the same meaning.”
This paragraph does not reveal too much but it is good for them to state, for obvious reasons.
Quality & Credibility. Bing says in this section that Bing can use the author’s credibility or a site’s reputation. Bing specifically says it can determine “the quality and credibility of a website includes an evaluation of the page itself.” This includes “such factors as the author’s or site’s reputation.” The example given “an article with citations and references to data sources is considered higher quality than one that does not explain cite data sources.” In addition, this may have the opposite impact where “Bing may demote content that includes name-calling, offensive statements, or uses derogatory language to make a point), the completeness of the content, and transparency of authorship.”
Here Bing is saying that it can demote sites that do name-calling, write offensive statements or use derogatory language. It also looks to see if the content is complete and the authorship is transparent.
User engagement. While for years, Google says it does not look at user engagement factors, such as click throughs, time spent on site, and so on. Now Bing, Google’s competitor, says it does. Bing wrote “Bing also considers how users interact with search results.”
How does Bing do this? Bing says “to determine user engagement, Bing asks questions like: Did users click through to search results for a given query, and if so, which results? Did users spend time on these search results they clicked through to or did they quickly return to Bing? Did the user adjust or reformulate their query?” In fact, Bing Webmaster tools provides these analytics and insights into how users interact with your webpages. Bing can use those insights for ranking purposes.
Freshness. Bing says it “prefers” content that is more fresh and has up-to-date information. But it depends on the content and the category. Bing wrote “Generally Bing prefers content that is more “fresh” – meaning that the page consistently provides up-to-date information. In many cases, content produced today will still be relevant years from now. In some cases, however, content produced today will go out of date quickly.”
Location. A searchers location can influence what content is ranked. Bing wrote “ranking results Bing considers where the user is located (country and city), where the page is hosted, the language of the document, or the location of other visitors to the page.”
Page load time. Finally, Bing also said that “slow page load times can lead a visitor to leave your website, potentially before the content has even loaded, to seek information elsewhere.” It is because of this that “Bing may view this as a poor user experience and an unsatisfactory search result.” Bing, like Google, prefers “paster page loads”, but Bing added “webmasters should balance absolute page load speed with a positive, useful user experience.”