There are striking similarities between Bing and Google.

Sites for top brands rank the highest and No. 1 sites are dominant because they have quality content, as well as strong social media signals and backlinks.

Those are the timeless conclusions from a 2013 Searchmetrics study. (Searchmetrics is a top provider of digital marketing software and services.)

Seemingly, the study confirms what I’ve long maintained — if you rank well on Google, you’ll show up well on Bing and Yahoo.

While Google might be No. 1 in market share, my sense is Bing is more accurate than Google and is less politicized. So in ranking high on Google, small brands must work harder in order to profit from cyber strategies. 

For other than top brands, the study reveals only 24.7 percent of Web pages that show on the first page of Bing results also appear on Google’s first page.

The study analyzed 10,000 popular keywords and 300,000 Web sites ranked in the top 30 search results on Bing. (See correlation data here.) 

The study’s key findings: 

1. Bing and Google give brands special treatment; helping them rank higher in search engine ranking pages (SERPs). Top brands dominate on both search engines. However, Google’s algorithm seems to be a little more effective at identifying brands and separating them from non-brands.

“Brands rank in the top positions even if they don’t meet certain criteria that non-brand sites have to — or don’t meet them to a sufficient extent,” says Marcus Tober, CTO and Founder of Searchmetrics.

“For example, brand websites rank in the top positions on Bing and Google despite using keywords in the title or description much less frequently, offering less content on average and having a lower number of internal links. These are things that non-brand sites seemingly have to do more if they want their pages to rank well.

“And both Bing and Google consider it natural for brands to have comparatively more backlinks with the name of the company in the link text alone — what we refer to as ‘brand links’ — and still not be rated negatively as would happen for non-brand sites.” Why isn’t the influence of brands clearly defined on Bing as on Google?

The brand factor seems mainly to affect the very first position in Google’s results, whereas for Bing, the first four to six positions show some kind of influence that seems to be caused by the brand factor,” says Mr. Tober. “It seems like Bing is less sure about which sites belong to top brands and so deserve special treatment.”

For other than top brands, the study reveals only 24.7 percent of Web pages that show on the first page of Bing results also appear on Google’s first page.

2. Backlink numbers are closely linked to higher rankings on Bing. While both Bing and Google try to reward pages that have a profile of backlinks that looks natural — not as though it was artificially created by linkbuilding experts — Bing seems less rigorous about this than Google.

“A natural link profile means a site should not simply have a large number of perfectly optimized links that include keywords it wants to rank for in the anchor text. It should have a proportion of ‘no follow’ links which do not convey ranking benefits on search engines and links that contain neutral ‘stopwords’ such as ‘in’, ‘and’, ‘to’ in the anchor text — as well as links that are generic words like ‘there’, ‘here’ and ‘page’,” explains Mr. Tober.

But Mr. Tober says the link profiles of high ranking pages on Bing are still significantly dominated by pages with both a higher proportion of links featuring keywords and smaller proportions of no-follow links, as well as fewer links with stop words.

The study shows about 53 percent of the backlinks of Web sites ranked among the top 30 results on Bing contain keywords in the anchor text, which is about 10 percent more than Google). Two percent of backlinks of pages ranked in the top 30 on Bing contain a stop word. While on Google it’s 10 percent.

“The number of backlinks seems to be the most relevant metric for Bing, whereas the majority of the other backlink features — such as no-follow links or the presence of stopwords in the anchor text — seem not yet to be as relevant for rankings as they do for Google,” says Mr. Tober.

3. Social signals are closely linked to higher rankings. Web sites that rank in the top positions on Bing usually have a large number of social signals according — shares, likes, comments, plus ones and tweets. Plus, the worse the ranking, the lower the number of social signals. But Mr. Tober says correlation is not the same as causation.

“There’s a lot of debate in the search industry about whether social signals directly influence rankings or are just closely correlated with rankings – because highly ranked pages will get more traffic and so attract more shares, likes, plus ones etc.,” he points out. “On the one hand, the data cannot help us say definitively which is true — but on the other hand, social signals are an important user quality signal which you would very likely expect to be taken into account by search engines.”

4. Quality content is important for search rankings. The quality of content on web pages is an important ranking factor. As with Google, in Bing searches pages with more text are positively correlated with rankings indicating that higher ranking pages have more text.

But on average, pages ranking in the top 30 Bing results feature about 100 more words than URLs ranking in the corresponding positions on Google.

“If we assume that the existence of more text is an indicator of quality, then quality content is linked to higher rankings on Bing as well as Google, according to our study,” says Mr. Tober. “On Bing we actually found that this relationship exists up to a limit of around 700 words on average — after this the correlation tended to decrease. So you can’t just go on adding text in the hope it will continue to drive a more positive rankings boost.”

In Google searches, the higher the number of images on a Web site, the better the ranking in general. For Bing, the correlation of the number of images is much lower. Search engine algorithms also take into account keyword semantics and clusters of keywords related to a topic when presenting search results.

5. Consider vital on-page technical factors. Certain on-page factors tend to have a low correlation because they are present on nearly every page that appears in the top 30 search results on Bing and Google.

“These factors tended to be the very basic on-page factors such as the existence of H1 headings, a keyword in the meta description and site speed,” says Mr. Tober. They are almost ever-present and should not be disregarded by SEO teams.”

He says the low correlation for these factors does not mean they are not important.

“Fulfilling certain on-page criteria is now not about achieving a favorable ranking; rather, it is the opposite: It is simply negative for the rankings when web pages do not meet these criteria,” he asserts. “On-page factors are therefore considered more of a prerequisite for ranking higher in search results pages.”

From the Coach’s Corner, related Internet tips:

SEO: Strategic Primer for a No.1 Rated Blog — For a popular blog, you must understand the process — important basics in search engine optimization (SEO).  If you’ve been blogging for awhile, you know success doesn’t keep come automatically. SEO is arduous work. You must have a strategic blogging goal. 

Optimize for Bing to Achieve 30% Reach on Internet — Yahoo and Bing are expected to combine for 30 percent market share. If you haven’t already, start optimizing your Web site for Bing. Here’s how. 

Checklist: 14 Strategies to Rock on Google — Periodic changes in Google’s search criteria and algorithms have indeed hurt many Web sites. But it’s possible to bullet-proof your site’s prominence on Google by taking 14 precautions, which is worth your time and energy.

“The Internet is becoming the town square for the global village of tomorrow.”

-Bill Gates


Author Terry Corbell has written innumerable online business-enhancement articles, and is a business-performance consultant and profit professional. Click here to see his management services. For a complimentary chat about your business situation or to schedule him as a speaker, consultant or author, please contact Terry.