The Differences Between Search Engines

Search Engine Optimization content tends to focus primarily on Google. Considering that Google is typically worth 70 to 80 percent of your total organic traffic and that it creates the footprint for the other search engines, it makes sense that marketers would focus on it. In many cases, optimizations for Google are the same for any search engine optimization strategy.

However, just because Google is massive and a thought leader in the search world doesn’t mean marketers should ignore the others. Your brand in particular might see significant wins by targeting other engines, because these other search companies are constantly attempting to take a piece of Google’s market share. Content marketers who are prepared to optimize outside of Google are increasingly likely to succeed. Here’s what you need to know about Yahoo, Bing, and (of course) Google to decide how to allocate your SEO efforts and strategies.

Yahoo and Bing Are Powered by the Same Search Algorithm

Image via Flickr by Kalexanderson

Yahoo was one of the pioneers of the internet and instantly became popular in the late nineties for its email services, chat features, and web options. Over the years, a lack of innovation meant it spent more time playing catch-up to Google instead of creating new products that could attract users. Most of Yahoo’s headlines over the past few years have focused on Marissa Mayer’s leadership strategy and her thoughts on everything ranging from remote work to vacation time.

In 2016, Yahoo was finally sold, not to a single buyer hoping to improve the company, but in pieces across a variety of industries. Many departments shut down, and others were acquired as part of a deal and then quietly closed. In particular, Verizon bought the bulk of Yahoo for $4.83 billion to gain access to its 1 billion monthly active users, including 600 million monthly mobile users. Verizon announced goals to keep using Yahoo as a content platform and to monetize Yahoo News, Yahoo Sports, and other popular brands within the larger company.

Overall, this doesn’t change the search function much, other than letting marketers know that Yahoo is unlikely to experience a great renaissance that will overtake Google any time soon. This theory is confirmed with the news that Microsoft recently completed its deal to merge its search functions with Yahoo. According to E-Web Marketing, the organic search results for Google and Bing are exactly the same. Bing’s superior search engine has replaced Yahoo’s algorithm — even though the engine is still wrapped in Yahoo branding. Yahoo and Bing now make up 30 percent of total search traffic in the United States.

This merger means any efforts that brands make to optimize exclusively for Yahoo search will be futile. You’re better off optimizing for Bing, knowing that any improvements will boost your Yahoo traffic as well. This is good news for brands that are worried about targeting more than one search engine, much less two or three.

Bing Still Wants to Take Market Share From Google

Bing is Microsoft’s answer to the search engine world. While it’s the second largest search engine behind Google, it’s so far behind that it seems almost impossible that it would ever catch up. One of the main reasons that Bing chose to acquire Yahoo in the first place was to combine forces and fight against Google. Over the past decade or so, Microsoft’s efforts have seen mixed results.

In 2014, Mozilla struck a deal with Yahoo to make it the default search engine of Firefox for the next five years. This resulted in hundreds of users asking for how-to guides to change their search engine back to Google. However, despite the unpopularity of the change, Yahoo (and later Bing) saw an increase in search traffic from users who didn’t make the effort to revert. Overall, this was viewed as a plus from Yahoo and Microsoft’s side.

However, in November 2017, Mozilla announced that it would be switching Firefox’s default search engine setting back to Google, well before the five-year deal was up. According to TechCrunch, Mozilla said it ended the contract to focus on what is best for its users and create a positive search experience — one that apparently couldn’t be achieved through Yahoo or Bing.

Bing continues to try to lure customers and boasts a Bing Rewards Program, where internet users earn points for searching with Bing. These points can be redeemed with donations to charity or for gift cards to locations like Best Buy or Starbucks. While the program entices some users and builds brand loyalty, many people are so ingrained with the phrase “just Google it” that they’re unlikely to make the leap, even if they would get free stuff.

Bing’s Demographics Vary Significantly From Google’s

There’s a popular joke around the internet that Yahoo and Bing users lack the tech savvy to change their default engine, which is typically followed with a joke about those users being old. While you can’t stereotype 30 percent of your audience, there might be some truth to these comments.

According to GML Consulting, Bing users actually are older and less tech-savvy than their Google counterparts. The average age of the Bing user is older than 35 and typically falls in the 55 to 64 range. Furthermore, 87 percent of Bing users come from Internet Explorer (as opposed to 47 percent of Google users) because it’s the default browser on most computers.

This data is actually good news for a variety of companies. Not every brand in America wants to target tech-savvy millennials. Companies that market to the 55 and older crowd could see a large amount of their traffic come from Bing, meaning their SEO efforts on Microsoft’s search engine are more valuable.

Aside from demographics, the buying habits of Bing users could also change how marketers approach this search engine. GML Consulting reports that a third of Bing users have an income of $100,000 or more and that Bing users spend an average of 22 percent more online than users of other search engines.

All of this indicates that just because a demographic is older doesn’t mean it should be counted out. Bing users have more expendable income and are ready to spend more. Instead of chasing millennial demographics on Google, your brand might be better suited to target your customers and get them to convert on Bing.

Bing traffic also differs by industry. The automotive industry, in particular, gets a significant amount of traffic from Bing. While the overall average number of searches might come from Google, your particular industry might get more than half of your customers through Microsoft. Every company needs to review its goals and demographics before deciding which search engine to target.

Optimizing for Bing Looks a Lot Like Optimizing for Google

There is good news for SEO professionals who have never considered optimizing for Bing, only to find themselves working for a company or industry that relies on that search engine: Optimizing for Bing is very similar to optimizing for Google. SEO best practices transfer across search engines, and Microsoft tends to mimic Google’s updates to generate better results.

While many optimization best practices are similar (like not spamming your audiences with dozens of bad links or creating poor content that’s duplicated on your site), there are some differences. Here are a few steps your company can take to make the most of Bing:

  •  Submitting your site to Bing’s Webmaster Tools for crawling. This covers your results in both Bing and Yahoo.
  •  Claiming your site on Bing Places for Business (Microsoft’s answer to Google My Business) and keeping your information updated to drive traffic to your stores.
  •  Taking advantage of tags and categories within your CMS that any search engine crawler can follow.
  •  Targeting specific keywords that might perform better in Bing than Google, and keeping an eye on performance in other engines.

Google’s latest updates have focused on reading content and understanding the intent of customers, rather than following exact searches. Bing has followed suit, improving its algorithm for more contextual reading instead of just noticing links and keywords. If your brand wants to use black hat or cheap SEO tactics on Bing, it’s unlikely to have any success. Bing might not be as advanced as Google, but that doesn’t mean it’s not catching up.

Internet Users Benefit From Competition

While marketers might wish they had to focus on only one search engine, and while many internet users still use only Google, the overall market depends on competition from Bing. As much as people make fun of Microsoft’s search engine and as many gift cards as it has to give away to get people to use it, the competition forces Google to constantly improve. If Google stops innovating, another company will step up to replace it — just look at what happened to Yahoo.

There’s no doubt that Google is a powerhouse that your brand needs to take seriously. However, that doesn’t mean that Bing is completely down and out. By developing strategies based on your demographics and marketing goals, you can use the differences between search engines to your advantage instead of feeling stuck with limited options.

About the author

Amanda Dodge