I don’t really spend a lot of time thinking about Bing. Nobody does, really. I don’t think even Microsoft employees spend a lot of time thinking about Bing.
It’s sort of like the red-headed step-child of search engines, except for the fact that red-headed step-children are sort of unique and more likely to evolve into talented stand-up comedians.
At about 15% of search share, though, Bing is relevant enough that you want to be visible. How do you make sure this happens?
Honestly, if you had asked me a week ago about how to show up in Bing search, I would have given you the stock, “Just optimize your site for Google and Bing will take care of itself.”
This always seemed like reasonable advice. Google’s the major search player – by a long shot – and in many ways Bing seems to follow their lead, algorithmically. Whenever a client has asked me to optimize their site directly for Bing, I’ve been a little to likely to do my best Mitt Romney.
Turns out, in many cases there is at least one practical way it pays to optimize directly for Bing. And that’s in submitting your XML sitemap to Bing Webmaster Tools.
XML Sitemaps and Bing Search
XML Sitemaps are one of those time-tested SEO “musts,” along the lines of optimized page titles and complete meta descriptions. Which is to say, they were definitely relevant for search optimization some time ago, and probably, for the most part, still mostly are.
In theory, Sitemaps sound tremendously advantageous for search engine rankings. Take the following from Wikipedia:
The Sitemaps protocol allows a webmaster to inform search engines about URLs on a website that are available for crawling. A Sitemap is an XML file that lists the URLs for a site. It allows webmasters to include additional information about each URL: when it was last updated, how often it changes, and how important it is in relation to other URLs in the site. This allows search engines to crawl the site more intelligently.
Great. So you just create an XML sitemap and the search engines will intelligently crawl all the pages on your site, right?
Unfortunately, with the state of search in 2013, there’s a lot more that needs to be done. Any SEO ‘expert’ you encounter that stops at Sitemaps and basic onsite optimizations is preaching the valuable SEO of Christmas past.
Again, I assumed sitemaps were, in many ways, a preventative “just-in-case” measure, providing very small amounts of actual value. In the grand scheme of things, that may still be the case – but I just had to submit an XML through Bing webmaster tools to get my website to populate even branded searches.
The Necessity of Sitemap Submission
Remember that thing I said a minute ago about treating champions of the fabled Sitemap like a hack full of bologna? Well, that’s basically the exact recommendation I’m about to make. Go hack a bunch of bologna in an effigy of me, or whatever.
The other day, on a whim, I decided to look into how my comic book blog was performing in Bing search. I realized I virtually never see Bing in the ‘All Traffic’ section of my analytics, and wondered if I had similar placement and just lacked similar volume from silly, little Bing.
Turns out, my site ranks for approximately nothing in Bing.
I was pretty confounded. Like, Robert Plant in The Crunge confounded.
I found it even stranger that my website wasn’t even ranking for branded search. After all, Google treats a branded search for my blog with the respect it deserves – I’m given full sitelinks and the #1 spot. My brand is my brand!
Rather than just yell at my computer and resign myself to a life of hostility towards Bing, I decided to take advantage of their webmaster tools and finally submit the old XML sitemap. Ya know, that antiquated old thing we talked about earlier?
You’ll never guess what happened. Nothing miraculous, but my site is at least approaching findable for branded searches in Bing after the XML sitemap was submitted and crawled (took a couple days in my case).
So my short bit of advice through all this is as follows:
If you have a small business website, or blog, add Bing WebMaster Tools and submit your XML sitemap. At worst, this will do nothing, and at best it will ensure your site is on Bing’s radar and in their search index.
In retrospect, it seems a little crazy how dismissive I was of Bing. Again, as traffic resources go, they are valuable enough that you at least want basic visibility.
I’d clarify here that XML sitemap submission is not a precursor to rankings in Bing’s search index. My personal site, for example, ranks just fine in Bing without any extra measures taken. My best explanation for this is that my name as a branded term is significantly less competitive than the comic book terms for the blog mentioned earlier.
How Do I Submit an XML Sitemap to Bing
Real quick guide to making sure you know how to toss up your XML in Bing:
- Add Bing Webmaster Tools to your site – The easiest way to do this with a WordPress blog is through Yoast’s SEO Plugin. Just follow the previous link, get your validation code, and throw it into the appropriate plugin field. OR, if you have some basic understanding of editing your site’s HTML, you can add the same snippet of code to the <head> section of your website.
- Find your sitemap URL – This is usually just your URL with ‘sitemap.xml’ added to the end. If that doesn’t give you any results, add ‘robots.txt’ to the end of your site URL. The XML sitemap location will be included here if it exists. If it doesn’t exist, you’ll need to first create an XML sitemap. You can do this through WordPress very easily with this plugin