In our ongoing coverage of Bing’s search ranking factors, which the company listed out when it published its new webmaster guidelines, I sat down with Bing to talk to them about some of those factors.
This is from our interview with Microsoft’s Christi Olson and Fabrice Canal, on Live with Search Engine Land about What SEOs need to know about Bing Webmaster Guidelines. We already dug into the fact that Bing uses user engagement metrics in its search ranking factors. Now we cover author and site reputation, completeness of content, transparency of authorship and negativity as signals Bing uses in rankings.
This conversation begins at the 36 mark into the video and ends at about the 47 minute mark:
Author reputation ranking factor
I asked Bing about how the search company uses author reputation as a ranking factor. Canal, principal program manager at Bing, Microsoft, said “I will take the example of coffee. If you search for [coffee grinder] you may want, most customers certainly in the United States want the basic coffee grinder that is, I don’t know, $25 in a shop and that’s it this is good they are satisfied by this. But the professional or the people who really love coffee are not interested in the cheap coffee grinder. They want to leave the expert things that will grain the coffee in a special way and so on. And for this based customer they really want to get the expert answer from specific individuals in the U.S. that are writing high-quality blogs, high-quality information, that are high-quality reviews.”
“And then this is what they really matter is having knowledge and understanding that the people who hold this content is trustable, it’s high quality. So coming back to you, Barry obviously you are one of the top, if not the top on search engines and when we search engine here we may be more interested by your articles by some others people that do some random SEO comments about SEO or ranking. They said you become the authority, we believe that we know and we will know even more moving forward that you are a celebrity knowledgeable on search engine and so we will promote your content because you write high-quality documents.”
Olson, Head of Evangelism at Microsoft said, “but we probably wouldn’t rank you for COVID.”
I asked a hypothetical question, would Bing know that Barry Schwartz published an article on The Verge, a site I have never written anything on, but my author name is there? Canal said, “we may not know at the start because you may have another Barry Schwartz.” But over time Bing may learn that if I continue to write at that site over time, he explained.
Site reputation ranking factor
How does Bing determine the reputation of a specific web site? Canal shared another example, he said “let’s take the example of a virus today and okay if you type COVID-19 or things like that what matters? Is it Wikipedia because we see some interesting content on each and everything. Or are you more interested in WebMD or some government sites that provide the latest on this thing? Or are you interested in a document that you may post on COVID-19 and you did in Search Engine Land? And at the end, it is really about mapping and understanding that this website is an authority for that domain, for this specific domain. And it’s all about understanding that authority means there is very trustable content there that we can use for to link customer and satisfy the intent of a customer. And so a lot of techniques in play to really understand and classify internet content, internet domains, internet hosts and so on and associate okay this is repeatable on specific topic.”
It sounds like Bing, over time, can learn and then classify a website to be about a specific topic.
Completeness of content ranking factor
Olson shared an example of what this means, she said “you don’t have to have the history of everything on a single page. Where I made the case for this is we have there’s so many websites, and this falls in a couple different areas, so you say that you won’t believe the amazing change between Mary Kate and Ashley and Full House versus today. And it’s an article that every page is just links everywhere or ads everywhere, and instead of showing the before-and-after photo you have to go through 75 pictures to get there. It’s like it is not complete content you, have to literally go through 75 different pages. So that would be considered not complete in my mind.”
“But just making sure that you have an article that’s a full article. If you’re talking about a topic that you don’t just say one word or a sentence or an h1 tag but you actually are then completing that thought, you complete the answer. So that again going back to the quality it’s useful and relevant based on the query and to the user set. So they don’t have to click through 40 pages to get the answer,” she said.
Transparency of authorship ranking factor
Do you want every piece of content to have an author, I asked them? Olson said, “no, not every piece has to have an author. Part of the transparency was the understanding, is this written by a person? Is it a corporate entity? Because there’s content that gets scraped and republished, so for me on the transparency side was understanding who like is there an actual author or person,” she said
Olson gave an example, citing her own writing. “I write on the Microsoft Advertising blog and that gets associated with me but sometimes I write for Microsoft Advertising where it’s not necessarily me as, Christi talking about a topic.” She explained that it is about “being able to say like who did someone write this or is this on behalf of a brand or a subject.”
Negativity as a ranking factor
Part of the ranking factors include negativity, such as Bing might demote name calling, offensive statements, like negativity on the web.
“Back to when Bing participated in something called the Trust Project they asked questions such as “is it a true statement or is it just derogatory? Am I saying horrible things about somebody that are unsubstantiated claims, is there any truth or backing behind it?” Olson said. That goes back to knowing who the author is, are they a trustworthy source or quality source, are you citing websites that are known to have false information or false data, she said. “I can say that I held a party and it was the biggest party in the world, but if you see my living room could I really hold the biggest party in the world in my living room?”
How can you know if you can trust the source or not? She explained it goes back a bit to the level of discourse. For example, does an article have citations and references to data sources? “So it goes back to that so if you’re making a statement whether it’s positive or negative, do you have data to back it up, is it a trustworthy data source, do you provide those links?” she said.
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