Bing Webmaster Tools: How and why to set it up
Bing Webmaster Tools is essential, regardless of whether you’re trying to optimise your website for search or not.
Though many of the functions are present in Google’s Search Console platform too, there is definitely some added value in having both set up.
Recovering from manual actions
Bing Webmaster Tools supplies a different list of backlinks to Google Webmaster Tools, making it an incredibly useful tool for diagnosing and recovering link related penalties.
Though Duane Forrester – Senior Product Manager for Bing Webmaster Tools – has previously said that it’s much harder to get penalised in Bing than it is to be landed with a manual action from Google, Bing Webmaster Tools is as essential as Google’s platform for penalty removal.
— Rae Hoffman (@sugarrae) March 13, 2014
Google Webmaster Tools only displays a small percentage of your entire backlink profile – and often won’t initially show the links that Google’s Webspam Team will cite when you fail your first reconsideration request – so it’s important to gather as much information as possible.
Bearing in mind that right now you’re looking at a combined £162 per month for Ahrefs, Majestic and Open Site Explorer (plus a lot of other useful features in those suites besides backlink data obviously) the fact that Bing Webmaster Tools is free should make it a no brainer.
In addition to tracking websites you own using Bing’s Webmaster Tools, since November 2013 you can measure traffic to your social profiles too. This includes keyword search data – now almost completely missing from Google Analytics – as well as a host of other information to compliment the extensive list of other useful information you didn’t know Bing gave you.
How useful is tracking information around social profiles though? Well, with earned media representing up to 80 percent of your potential reach, you need all the data you can get on channels you own in order to make them most of them and provide positive ROI. Does Bing deliver on its promise?
Brands are regularly advised to sign up for social networks in order to occupy as many of the first page results when users Google their names; not just to ensure they’re capturing as much traffic as possible (which you can now measure in Bing at least), but to prevent potential customers spotting negative press and reviews.
Enter a brand name into Google and autosuggest implies that people who want to find the brand’s Twitter profile will search for it specifically e.g., “edit agency twitter”. That is of course if people are using a search engine like Google or Bing to find social profiles; people are more likely to use Twitter and Facebook’s own internal search functions (one reason why it’s very useful to get verified).
Twitter pages and Facebook profiles typically appear in twice as many organic search results as Google+ and YouTube. Interestingly, this is true of both Bing and Google – the knowledge graph makes it easy to follow a brand on Google’s social network, but even in Google you can’t rely on a Plus profile to take up valuable search real estate. For example, a brand search for our agency links to our Google+ profile right next to the organic search results, but an organic listing doesn’t appear until the penultimate result on the 4th page (when not signed in).
In fact, Bing is significantly more likely to display a Google+ listing on the first page of organic search results for a brand search than Google is.
Twitter and Facebook pages appear ten times more often than LinkedIn, even for B2B brands. However, when it comes to B2B brands with visible staff, multiple LinkedIn profiles regularly appear in Google search results before Google+ does. How useful this is on an analytical level is debatable, but it’s certainly no bad thing that your people are put in front of your customers. After all, people close deals, not pages.
Bearing in mind what percentage of a brand’s SERPs are covered in pages that you can connect to Bing Webmaster Tools, it could be interesting to see what kind of keywords those social profiles could be considered relevant for. There is a lack of meaningful analytics for Twitter, and Facebook insights shows referring sites and little else, so an indication of what people think your social profiles are relevant for on a keyword level could be useful.
Facebook shows referring sites, but no keywords.
The problem is that it’s potentially very difficult to spot keyword opportunities using Bing WMT for two reasons:
- There is comparatively little organic search traffic reaching your social accounts
- The traffic that is arriving will be overwhelmingly brand-centric
Furthermore, the data visible courtesy of Bing is not actionable for those social profiles – it’s really hard to optimise a Twitter page for clicks in the way you would a website, for example.
However it’s now possible to see backlinks to social profiles using Bing WMT, as well as links to your website. This is useful for identifying outreach targets as you’re able to see (and export) a list of people who are already linking to you, and might be willing to link again.
As there are few good reasons to build links to a social profile, it’s a fair estimate that you are presented with a list of natural, editorial links from webmasters who believe their audience is likely to be interested in what you’ve got to say. In some cases we’ve seen the list of links can also be more extensive in Bing Webmaster Tools than in Open Site Explorer, providing even more potential outreach targets.
How to add a website to Bing Webmaster Tools
To set up a new account for Bing Webmaster Tools, visit bing.com/toolbox/webmaster and login with a Microsoft Account. It’s free to create a Windows Live email address if you don’t have one.
Click ‘Add a Site’ and enter your URL. If you have an XML sitemap you can paste the URL in here too.
Below this is the option to enter some personal information, as well as set up email alerts for crawl errors, index issues, sitemaps and malware. The ways that Googlebot and Bingbot crawl and index websites have a lot of parallels so it’s a good idea to set these alerts up. The faster you find out you’ve got issues the better your chance of limiting the damage to your search visibility if something has gone wrong.
The next step is to get your account verified. As with Google’s Webmaster Tools platform there are multiple ways of doing this, and you only need to do one.
- XML file verification
As long as you have FTP access to your site, XML file verification is usually the easiest way to verify your profile. You will be required to download an XML file titled BingSiteAuth.xml that will automatically contain a keyword entry to your account – all you have to do is click verify.
- Meta tag verification
Add the meta data Bing provides to your homepage and click next, it’s as simple as that. If you have a CMS managed website this is pretty easy to do.
- DNS verification
If you don’t have FTP access and you can’t make changes to your website’s meta data, DNS verification is the other option. You will be required to add a CNAME record to verify.bing.com.
During the setup process Bing provides a walkthrough of how to do this with some of the most popular hosting companies.
It’s also incredibly easy to connect your social profiles to Bing Webmaster Tools, but more information is available on Bing’s webmaster help and how to if you need it.
Setting up Bing Webmaster Tools probably doesn’t constitute a quick win when optimising a website, but it does quickly and easily give you some free data that could help you recover a penalty and find outreach opportunities.