April 30th, 2019

WordPress Security: My Pint Sized Marketing Talk Recap

Pint-Sized Marketing Dublin 2019 - WordPress Security

I had the pleasure to speak at this month’s Pint Sized Marketing in Dublin. If you’re an SEO in Ireland, or just need an excuse for a quick trip to Dublin, Pint Sized Marketing is a very worthy free event to attend run by the same organisers as the must-see Irish marketing conference Learn Inbound and features very interesting talks from some of the brilliant speakers – just check the previous podcasts to get an idea.

Anyway, here’s a recap of my talk for those who did not attend or would like to refresh it in their memory. The slide deck is embedded below.

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April 15th, 2019

Why We Should Stop Ignoring Bing – My BrightonSEO Talk

The idea of my last BrightonSEO talk was born out of a dinner discussion between a few SEO friends after the previous BrightonSEO. We all agreed that Bing doesn’t get the attention it deserves, quite a few of us have switched to using it full time as the default search engine for their personal needs, and those of us doing anything with Bing for clients believe it to be a worthwhile activity. We all agreed that having a real competitor is beneficial both for Google and for the search industry as a whole. In the meantime, if everybody just keeps using Google it’s impossible to expect a worthy competitor to just appear out of nowhere – so I thought I’d play my part and highlight what Bing already has and how it can be useful. I am not affiliated with Bing nor am I incentivised by them in any way. Below is the summary of my talk. Feel free to read while viewing the slide deck (embedded below).

Market Shares

Over the last 10 years or so, Google has effectively become a monopoly in the search market. Its worldwide desktop market share has been steadily around 90% (however, it is important to note the word “desktop” in these stats – keep that in mind as we will get back to it later).

That picture starts to look more diverse though when we step away from the worldwide figures and look in-depth at country-level statistics. Say in the US, Bing’s market share is 33%. In the UK, it has been fluctuating between 6 and 12% over the last few years, influenced by Bing’s deals with browsers, device makers and OSs. Bing is definitely trying to gain a greater market share.

Bing is also apparently the preferred choice of higher income tier of users – according to March 2018 stats, 38% of its US users have in income of $100,000 or more.

History of Bing

Bing is by no means a new player in the search market. Microsoft have first started their own search engine in 1998, it was initially named MSN Search. It has been rebranded Windows Live Search in 2006, eventually dropped the “Windows” part in 2007, and finally rebranded as Bing in 2009.

It is important to remember that the search landscape has been a lot more competitive and diverse 20 years ago, so much so that BruceClay search marketing agency has been producing search engine relationship charts and kept updating them as it was otherwise quite difficult to understand the relationships between the various search market players. As of 2000 for example, one had to distinguish between the sources of primary and secondary organic results, directory submissions, search engine submissions etc. At that time, MSN wasn’t producing its own search results but was getting them from Looksmart and Inktomi. By 2004, search ads come into play as an additional element of the SERPs. At that point, MSN is getting its paid results from Overture.

The search landscape simplifies a lot by 2008. Microsoft’s search engine, called Live Search by this point, now supplies its own search results. Yahoo is a separate entity. Google has quite a lot on its plate but does not dominate the market yet.

This all changes  by 2011 when there are only two key players left – Google and Bing. Yahoo gets both its organic and paid search results from Bing.

As of today, Yahoo has a relationship with both Google and Bing. Bing at this point is the only other search market player apart from Google which has control over both its organic and paid results.

Hence historically, when we talk about Bing’s market share, we should be keeping in mind Yahoo’s market share as well as at certain points, this is effectively also Bing’s market share.

And what about DuckDuckGo, the niche search engine many geeks and privacy advocates swear by? According to their own statement, they get search results from “variety of partners, including Oath (formerly Yahoo) and Bing”.

Voice Search

Remember when above I asked you to keep in mind the word “desktop” talking about the market share? Well, here is something increasingly important to consider – voice search. Where do people get their search results from when they search via their voice assistants, smart speakers etc?

While Google powers the search on Google Assistant and (since 2017) Siri, Bing is behind the search on Cortana and Amazon Alexa. It also still provides image search results for Siri, despite losing the general search deal to Google in 2017. As of 2018, Siri has been the top used mobile voice assistant, followed by Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa, Samsung Bixby and Cortana. I do not suppose many mobile voice assistant users or smart speaker users ever change their device’s default search engine, so we can safely assume these numbers correlate pretty accurately with search engines’ share of voice search.

Among other devices with search powered by Bing are Kindle, Amazon FireTV, Microsoft Edge browser and XBox.

User Experience

If it is clear from the above that Bing may have just enough audience making it worthwhile our consideration as search marketers, what about the user experience it can offer us as search users? If you haven’t used it for many years and think of Bing as something outdated and not particularly convenient, think again. Turns out, it is now a modern search engine with all the features and functionality you can expect to find when using a search engine in 2019.

Bing has a number of tools for helping its users refine their search, from search suggestions to “refine your search” panes at the top of the SERPs (a feature unique to Bing), to very familiar to Google users “People Also Ask” blocks. Local event related search results provide a wealth of information covering everything you might possibly be interested in seeing related to your query, beating Google in my opinion. I may be subjective here, but “Blind Taste” tests (where users were shown search results without identifying the search engine and asked to choose the better version) confirm that 50% of UK users preferred Bing’s results, while 15% found both search engines equal.

While Google has Knowledge Graph cards in its SERPs, Bing has Snapshot pane to provide extra information about entities being searched. Their sources of information are pretty much the same (e.g. Wikipedia), but the layout and amount of facts presented may differ. Bing also uses a proprietary algorithm to determine its results. Here is a comparison of Google Knowledge Graph vs Bing Snapshot Pane in 76 searches for you to see the difference for yourself.

Another feature unique to Bing is tabbed display of articles of informational nature in its SERPs – these are not featured snippets but whenever an article has multiple sections, Bing will display tabs with these sections preview. In the meantime, Bing encourages the users to click through to the site to read the complete article, which is a positive enhancement for site owners and publishers.

Bing also offers enhanced functionality for transactional searches such as flights – however unlike Google, it is not trying to be the middleman as it’s not a player in the travel market and just shows you the info you need and offers you options as to where to accomplish the actual transaction.

Bing is also conscious of its performance. I have used this tool released by Google to benchmark Google against Bing – and Bing is actually faster.

Hence, if you were to switch to Bing as your default search engine, you wouldn’t be missing out on anything. Bing also doesn’t insist on you logging into your account and keeping you logged in to track your activities everywhere online and offline.

Bing Webmaster Tools for SEOs, Site Owners and Publishers

While Google has Search Console, Bing has Webmaster Tools which, despite its dated look, offers a wealth of data for verified sites. While Google seems to be removing features out of Search Console lately, Bing has everything the old Search Console used to have and even more.

There is a Dashboard overview of your site’s most important data like clicks from search, search appearances (=”impressions” in GSC), pages crawled and indexed and crawl errors, stats about your sitemaps, your search keywords and links. There is a way to adjust the crawl rate. There is an Index Explorer with handy filters to help you navigate through your site’s issues. Index Explorer also lets you see a tree-like structure of your site and dig in-depth from there to identify problems pertaining to certain parts of your site.

Connected Pages are an incredibly useful feature of Bing Webmaster Tools which lets you track the entire impact of all your online properties and not just the site. Modern sites have social media accounts and pages, mobile apps etc. and these also play their part in a brand’s share of search. While some of the suggested connected properties are definitely outdated (how many people still use MySpace? Google Plus also has to be deprecated), Bing is the only way you can track the impact of your mobile apps for all platforms – Windows, iOS and Android (whereas Google has only recently launched support for Android apps data in its Search Console). For these connected properties in Bing Webmaster Tools, you can collect the same data as you get for your site.

Bing lets you set geotargeting for your site not only on the domain or subdomain level, but even on the single page level, should you ever require that.

There is a tool to disavow links which is less known as Google’s disavow tool as Bing has never been very vocal pushing it.

On the other hand, Bing is very helpful when it comes to submitting new content – the daily quota is 10,000 URLs and there is a tool in Webmaster Tools for this purpose. Should you prefer to submit via API rather than manually, Bing lets you generate a Webmaster API key which gives you access not only to URL submission functionality but literally every single bit of functionality available in Bing Webmaster tools. Bing Webmaster API is extensively documented (don’t be put off by the disclaimer at the top of that page, I have confirmed with Frédéric Dubut from Bing and the documentation is actually up to date).

Also worth noting: if your site is already on Google My Business, Bing has Bing Places for Business and there is absolutely no excuse not to create a listing for your site as it’s as simple as importing the data from Google My Business.

Hence, if Google is your first priority for online marketing, Bing should absolutely be the second one. In fact, you cannot afford ignoring it as it has all the chances of becoming a more serious competitor to Google, and having multiple sources of traffic is a lot safer business model than relying on just one.

 

March 27th, 2018

Reinforcing Your Brand via “People Also Search For”

Google has recently added a new feature to its SERPs where, if a user searches for something and visits one of the first page results then clicks back to the SERPs (a.k.a. “short click”), a box will be shown under the visited result with search suggestions, similar to those we have been seeing at the bottom of the SERPs for a few years already. Is this good for the users? – perhaps, as if they got back to the SERPs because they did not see what they expected on the site they just visited, this should in theory help them clarify their query. Is this good for Google? – you bet, they get to keep the users on their site for at least one more additional search (and increase their chances of clicking an ad as opposed to an organic result, too).

What’s in it for the sites ranking in the SERPs though?

Regardless of how well you rank, some “people also search for” suggestions (showing only for the first page results) can be a complete disaster:

Other sites displayed as suggestions in people also search for box

All right, Money Supermarket is a comparison site, so if the user has clicked back from it to the SERPs, perhaps they do indeed want to go to a provider site directly instead – but that’s complete value loss for Money Supermarket.

However, if you play your cards right, you can do much better and turn this new feature into a way to reinforce your brand to the searchers.

Example: Sky Vegas ranks number 1 for a great number of casino related queries in the UK, such as “online casino games”. If you click from that SERP to their site then come back to the SERP, this is what appears under it:

Turning People Also Search For into your site links

Out of 6 suggestions displayed, 3 are brand related – so Sky Vegas is pretty much turning this ominous visitor-stealing box into its own sitelinks – not unlike these:

site links

Of course, should a searcher click on one of these branded suggestions, they are taken to the SERPs fully dominated by Sky Vegas and have no other option but go back to the site:

fully branded serps

Sky Vegas is effectively turning these suggestions into its own site search, showing the searchers different options related to their initial search available on their site. And in fact, this is even better than aforementioned site links because this is also reinforcing the brand to Google – showing it that people search for the brand in connection with generic terms, further proving the brand’s importance!

So how to achieve this? – This is up to Google to decide what suggestions to display for any site in the SERPs, you cannot simply set them up somewhere in the Search Console or in the form of some markup on your site, but there are things you can do to improve your chances for a better outcome. Make sure people who search for generic terms your brand ranks for, also search for your brand plus whatever (semi)generic queries make sense for you because you have it on your site and could benefit from traffic to those pages. Make sure you (of course!) rank for those branded+generic queries – better yet, that you dominate those SERPs. Perhaps also make sure you have in-depth content covering different related topics on your site (cannibalisation? – mwahahahah)

Disclaimer: I am not affiliated with Sky Vegas, nor are they my client – this is just something I am observing in the SERPs.

Apart from the obvious visitor-retaining value, controlling your site’s “people also search for” suggestions is important to ensure you’re not becoming a victim of a brand hijack by a competitor or even a negative reputation issue. It’s relatively easy to track what suggestions Google offers for your site in different SERPs where your site is present on the first page – they are hardcoded into the HTML of the first page SERPs as a hidden div which becomes visible if a user clicks through to the site then comes back to the SERPs. Or if you can’t be bothered digging through the source code, there is a bookmarklet made by Jon Hogg which reveals them all at once.

In other words, this is one of those cases where brand management, customer retention and (preemptive) reputation management should go hand in hand. If you want to hear more about preemptive reputation management, I am speaking about it at BrightonSEO next month so if you’re there, be sure to attend my talk.