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 it 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’, most customers 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 professionals or the people who really love coffee are not interested in the cheap coffee grinder. They want the expert things that will grain the coffee in a special way and so on. And for this 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 have high-quality reviews.”
“What really matters is having knowledge and understanding that the people who wrote this content are trustable — it’s high quality. So coming back to you, Barry, obviously you are one of the top [reporters], if not the top on search engines, and when we search for [search engine-related content], we may be more interested by your articles than by some others people that do some random SEO comments about SEO or ranking. 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 engines, and so we will promote your content because you write high-quality documents.”
“But, we probably wouldn’t rank you for COVID,” said Olson, Head of Evangelism at Microsoft.
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, he explained.
Site reputation ranking factor
How does Bing determine the reputation of a specific website? Canal shared another example, he said, “Let’s take the example of a virus today: if you type COVID-19, 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 that you did in Search Engine Land? And at the end, it is really about mapping and understanding that this website is an authority for this specific domain. And, it’s all about understanding that authority means there is very trustable content there that we can use to link customers and satisfy the intent of a customer. And so [there are] 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 reputable on [this] 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. There are so many websites, and this falls in a couple of different areas, [for example, a page with the title] ‘You won’t believe the amazing change between Mary Kate and Ashley on Full House versus today,’ and it’s an article that every page is just links or ads everywhere, and instead of showing the before-and-after photo you have to go through 75 pictures to get there. It is not complete content — you have to literally go through 75 different pages. So that would be considered not complete in my mind.”
“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 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
I asked them whether every article needed an author. 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 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 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. For example, Bing might demote name-calling and offensive statements.
“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, 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 that it goes back a bit to the level of discourse. For example, does an article have citations and references to data sources? “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.