As many a blog entry will reiterate, as of late, there’s been a good amount of buzz around the launch of Microsoft’s new Bing search engine.

Moreover, there’s been a decent amount of speculation on what the growing popularity of Bing -- along with their recent agreement with Yahoo -- will mean in regards to Search Engine Optimization (SEO) practices.  As with any buzz in the online world, many marketing blogs, including Forrester, began to postulate what effect Bing will have on SEO, even before it officially launched.

Combine that with new reports stating that Bing is already stealing market share from Google, these questions have started to become more and more common.

  1. What if Bing, after the initial buzz around their launch plateaus, begins to steadily challenge Google’s long standing dominance both in market share and SEO focus?
  2. What can I do now to start making sure my site is well optimized for Bing so that I’m not playing catch up a year from now when all of my competitors are ranking well within both Google and Bing?

In response to the first question, what seems to be the common theme in most responses to this by industry experts is that Google for a long time now hasn’t had a realistic challenger to it’s search dominance, allowing them to focus on side projects such as the recently announced Chrome OS, upcoming Google Wave, and Cloud applications such as Google Documents.  

What you’ll most likely see as Bing becomes a stronger competitor in the realm of Search, is that Google will begin -- as it has already with the May launch of their “Show Options” feature -- to release features to better compete with some of Bing’s advertised advantages over Google.  

While many of these changes will be designed to enhance and better organize results, many believe the recent competition levied by Bing will benefit search users looking for relevant results, as well as sites looking to have themselves found for relevant queries.

In response to the second question, the answer is to continue to focus on the same SEO best practices you’ve been focusing on.  In a recent PDF released by Microsoft titled  Bing: New Features Relevant to Webmasters, Microsoft stated the following in regards to what SEO efforts webmasters should be entertaining in response to Bing:

…the type of SEO work and tasks webmasters need to perform to be successful in Bing haven’t changed -- all of the skills and knowledge that webmasters have invested in previously applies fully today with Bing. Moreover, investments in solid, reputable SEO work made for Bing will bring similar improvements in your website’s page rank in Google and Yahoo! as well.

What this means then, is that the same solid, measured best practices that your site is leveraging now will be the same best practices that allow your site to rank well for relevant results on Bing.

Examples of these practices include:

  • Unique, keyword-oriented Titles and Meta Descriptions for ever page of your site
  • Keyword-oriented, clean and well-structured URLs
  • Singular themes per page with keyword-oriented content in reference to your page’s theme
  • Submission of a well structured and relevant XML sitemap to Bing’s Webmaster Center
  • Submission of your site to Bing using Bing’s Ping service

Keep in mind though, there’s more to SEO than just the few items listed above. Factors such as the quality of your inbound links, along with other standard SEO best practices play significant roles.  If you’ve already optimized your site for Microsoft Live (Bing’s predecessor), some of the practices you've already followed may be relevant for Bing.

While the same SEO best practices will assist your site's ranking within Bing, some of these items -- according to initial studies -- seem to play a greater role with Bing than they do with Google.  Meta Descriptions is one example. Currently, Bing places more importance on the quality of your Meta Descriptions than Google does.

Additionally, due to the way Bing displays categorization and tabs with many search results, a site’s ability to be found for long-tail queries -- even when a user searches for broad results -- may increase your site's visibility, even when a user searched for a related but not exact query.

According to Microsoft:

The Bing team discovered that the click through rates for items in the categorized results groups were higher than those results found in positions 6 through 10 of the initial, organic list. Because of this, and the fact that the new, multi-threaded SERP design surfaces many more pages that will be associated with the searcher’s primary keywords than would have surfaced in a single-threaded SERP list, webmasters and publishers will be more likely to have searchers discover their content with the Bing designed SERP than they would using the traditional search model SERP.

What this means for some sites is that focusing on these same SEO practices, with a tighter focus on the quality of your Meta Descriptions and quality, unique content can help even sites reliant on longer-tail searches be more visible, due to different user behavior on Bing.  This is true as well with a more local-focus being presented by Bing. It is reported that Bing is weighting local results in a more aggressive manner than Google.

Despite that, focusing on the same, proven SEO practices should ensure that your site ranks well for relevant results on both Google and Bing. 

Of course, with Bing being relatively new, things could change as the competition with Google heats up. The advent of new features and options -- some of which will focus on microformats, RDF and other advanced SEO practices -- is sure to keep this space dynamic as well.

What about you?  What are your first impressions of Bing?  What types of results have you seen for your site? How has Bing effected your SEO practices?