How to Align Your Mobile SEO Efforts for Google and Bing
The internet has gone mobile.
There is an increasing number of people who only access the internet from a mobile device, and mobile use in general is on the rise. Internet-connected smartphones are practical, save time, solve problems on the go, and entertain while we commute or wait in line. It is only natural search engines are moving some of their focus to mobile, and create guidelines that ensure better user experiences on mobile.
The internet has gone mobile. There is an increasing number of people who only access the internet from a mobile device, and mobile use in general is on the rise. Internet-connected smartphones are practical, save time, solve problems on the go, and entertain while we commute or wait in line. It is only natural search engines are moving some of their focus to mobile, and create guidelines that ensure better user experiences on mobile.
Google has already launched their mobile-friendly algorithm, and Bing is planning to roll out theirs in a few months. Google’s mobile update has slowly started taking effect, and mobile rankings have already seen some major changes, especially for those who missed the queue on turning mobile-friendly. Now, Bing is following Google's lead, and for those with extensive marketing plans, accommodating both Google and Bing is a must.
How should you target your mobile SEO efforts to meet the requirements of both these search engines, especially if you want to get ahead of the Bing update? Up next I’ve listed what we know about how Bing looks at mobile, and how it compares to Google’s treatment of mobile rankings.
Note that these are the things we know so far about Bing’s mobile-friendly algorithm, and new information will probably turn up once their mobile update gets launched.
Similarities Between Google and Bing's Mobile SEO Guidelines
Bing has been known to follow Google's lead from time-to-time, and the mobile-friendliness surge is one of those times. The following points are where the two search engines meet, so your mobile SEO strategy should align to please both in one fell swoop.
1. Responsive web design is recommended
Google and Bing both recommend responsive design sites because they use the same URL for desktop and mobile pages, and are therefore easier to crawl and index properly. Responsive design completely avoids duplication issues, which can occur with separate URLs sites.
Another reason why Google and Bing prefer the one-URL method is because it ensures that all ranking signals, or “link equity” is sure to go to that one URL without any dilution. Thus, both the desktop page and its mobile equivalent benefit from the same boost, even though rankings differ between desktop search and mobile search.
It should be mentioned however that link equity distribution can flow unhindered with other configurations too, but you have to make sure mobile redirects are applied accordingly and establish the right connections between same-content pages with different URLs.
What’s more, most users don’t link to mobile URLs because creating online content is usually done from a desktop. Considering that the quality of your backlink profile is a ranking signal for both search engines, it makes sense that webmasters and SEOs would want to streamline how they manage inbound links.
2. The mobile-friendly label
Google was also the first to apply the mobile-friendly label in November 2014, with Bing following lead in April 2015. Both search engines had been paying attention to mobile already, and were looking to improve how users experience search on mobile devices. The addition of the label was a sign that mobile search was becoming even more important.
In both situations, the mobile-friendly label acts both like a ranking signal and a mechanism for improving user experience. But although Google and Bing want to promote mobile-friendly labeled pages to their mobile users, they are not compromising on content quality. If mobile-unfriendly pages are more relevant or qualitative, search engines would rather promote the content that can best answer a user’s query, rather than a smooth and pleasant mobile experience.
If you’re interested in learning how to get the mobile-friendly label, check out my Mobile SEO Guide which takes you through all the steps.
3. Mobile-friendly test tool
To make sure that your pages are considered mobile-friendly by Google you have to run each page through their Mobile-Friendly Test Tool. In addition to that, Bing will launch a similar mobile friendly test tool later this summer, and it’s expected to work much like Google’s, by testing one URL at a time and alerting webmasters about what needs fixed when mobile-friendliness is not complete.
Until Bing releases the tool, you can rely on Google’s, or try 3rd party tools that are not affiliated with search engines. If you have any pages that have received the mobile-friendly label on Bing, you could run them through Google’s test tool and find out whether Google applies the label for the same elements, or if it requires something more.
4. User agent detection
User-agent detection is important for dynamic serving pages, where the crawler needs to understand which pages are intended for desktop users and which are for mobile, and for servers to know which version to serve depending on what device is trying to access the content.
5. Local search is vital on mobile
Local businesses have even more to gain from mobile search exposure, because many of the queries on mobile are location-specific, with users looking to find an immediate and nearby solution to a problem - like making dinner reservations, finding a doctor, etc.
Local SEO is a big deal for Google and Bing, and in order to get the rankings and visibility you deserve, sign up with their services: Google My Business and Bing Places, respectively. Add location-specific keywords to your pages or content, and you’ll increase your odds at reaching highly targeted, convertible users.
6. Quality content
This may seem redundant, but it’s worth mentioning once more that Google and Bing aim to display unique, quality content more prominently in SERPs. They use various signals to determine the value, freshness or significance of content for user queries. How they weigh quality content is similar, and you’ve probably already read plenty of articles and guides that talk about what you need in order to create high quality content, so we’ll not get into that here.
Just keep in mind that providing your users with the best content possible and the best solutions to their problems is just as important on mobile as it is on desktop.
7. Other similarities between Google and Bing
What little else we know about how Bing determines whether a page is mobile-friendly is also similar to the factors Google recommends. Some of them are:
Vertical scrolling - mobile pages must be rendered in such a way that users only have to scroll vertically, and not horizontally to view the entire content.
Mobile-friendly fonts/Readability - text must be easy to read on a mobile phone screen, so text size has to adapt when a mobile device accesses a page. Users shouldn’t have to zoom in or out to be able to read text.
Friendly navigation - users should find it easy to navigate on a mobile site, such as scrolling, hitting social share or categories buttons; links should also be placed far enough apart so that users can tap the one they need.
Where Google and Bing Differ in Mobile SEO
Here is where the two search engines start to take relatively different paths in ranking pages for mobile search. Knowing the differences will inform your SEO and marketing strategy and improve how you approach mobile SEO to please both sides.
1. Bing indexation takes longer
Google indexes web pages more often than Bing, which means you have to be extra careful when alerting the Bing there are pages/websites you need it to crawl. From a mobile point of view, this means it may take Bing a bit more time to apply the mobile-friendly label to your pages. Knowing that Bing’s mobile update is still a few months away gives you plenty of time to ensure that your website or important pages are mobile-friendly, so when the algorithm rolls out, all the changes you apply will have been indexed.
With Google however, we know it can take between 2 and 72 hours to apply the label, depending on how often you normally update your content and attract crawlers.
2. Bing loves backlinks more than Google
Both search engines weigh backlinks as ranking factors, but according to a Searchmetrics study, about 52% of the websites ranking in Bing’s top 30 have backlink profiles with keywords in the anchor text. That, the study says, is 10% more than Google, with Bing also valuing the number of backlinks more than their type – whether they're anchor text-optimized, no-follow or do-follow.
Quality and relevancy of links is important to both search engines, whether they are based on nofollow links, links with stop words, or exact match keywords.
3. Bing is keen on exact match keywords
Exact match keywords scale more on Bing, especially if they’re present in the title or title tag of the page. While Google uses LSI to understand text and determine its relevancy based on similar or synonymous terms, Bing’s algos prefer the direct approach. This also means that if you’re using the singular form of a term, you will rank for that specifically, and not for its plural version.
Note that either search engine is opposed to keyword stuffing, so avoid it at all costs, while trying to please both in terms of keyword ranking.
4. Bing is more social than Google
We know that there might be a correlation between the number of social signals and SERP rankings, but that could only be related to the fact that pages which get more social media attention may also increase their odds at receiving other signals that search engines consider in rankings. Nevertheless, the same Searchmetrics study found that in Bing, the correlation between high ranking pages and social signals is greater than in Google.
Either way, social is not something to be dismissed, whether you’re on desktop or mobile. Make it easy for users to share your content.
5. Bing can crawl Flash
Unlike Google, which recommends webmasters use HTML5 for video, animations and the like, Bing is much better at crawling Flash applications, and has even been known to give credit to sites who use it.
6. Apps get a place in mobile search for Google and Bing
Whether or not you’ve created an app, it’s important you know that both search engines are making it a priority that apps be found in mobile searches. Not only that, thanks to deep linking capabilities, they also want to allow users to access specific content inside an app when relevant to their searches.
Google promotes this through App Indexing, which allows users who already have the app installed to access content they were searching for directly from the search results page, and for Android users, even within apps they have not installed yet. The user will have to install the app to access the content, but will then be redirected straight to the page they needed in the first place. Google does not index apps and app content for iOS and Windows yet, but they’re planning to in the near future.
Having your app indexed might make even more of a difference if we’re to expect a separate mobile index from Google. This would mean separate SEO efforts will be required, and your mobile focus will be further divided between mobile sites and apps.
Bing has a similar approach, and they recommend webmasters and SEOs to implement App linking, so their bots can crawl and index content within apps as well. The way this works is that you add markup data to establish connections between content on a web page, and its equivalent within an app. Thus, when users search for content, they have access not only to web pages containing it, but to similar content within any available apps.
The difference is that Bing has not yet started to rank content within apps, even though they have said they support iOS and Windows too. For Bing, this will probably start once their apps and app actions index are ready to go live.
So far, this is all we know about how Bing will be treating mobile search compared to Google. Other factors I haven’t mentioned in this article have to do with general SEO that applies the same to mobile search, and which are common knowledge. Until Bing actually rolls out its mobile algorithm, we have to make do with the information they have provided thus far.Are there any other ranking factors Bing takes into consideration that I’ve missed? Please let me know in the comments so we can all benefit from the shared information!