Yes Virginia, Bing DOES use the Meta Keywords Tag

Not sure how this escaped my attention until now, but late last year, Bing apparently publicly acknowledged that they still support the META Keywords tag.Bing and meta keywords tag

Here we all were thinking that the tag had quietly died in it’s sleep after a prolonged illness. After all, the last remaining engines it was hooked up to had gradually switched off support, Danny Sullivan had publicly declared the tag dead and spammy meta tag content had become the subject of myth and legend, mentioned only in humorous anecdotes shared over drinks at search industry conferences.

But despite what we all thought, Bing has indeed been indexing the content of the META Keywords tag, but as a signal for detecting low quality sites, rather than influencing page rank. What has caused all the renewed interest and kerfuffle? Duane Forrester, Senior Product Manager for Bing, kicked off the confusion when he said this about the tag on Webmaster World last year:

Meta keywords is a signal. One of roughly a thousand we analyze… Abusing meta keywords can hurt you.

Then followed a cloud of webmaster confusion and forum banter about whether SEO’s should resurrect the tag on their client sites or not.

As far as I know, Bing is the only remaining major search engine putting their hand up to claim they index the META Keywords tag. According to Forrester’s recent discussions with Danny Sullivan, they use it as one of their page quality signals, so it doesn’t contribute to page ranking as such.

So here’s the deal: the content of the tag may help Bing understand the context of your page, but it won’t impact where your page ranks on Bing. In fact, if it is stuffed with too many keywords or repetitions, the tag may send a *low quality* signal to Bing about your site, so it is best created very carefully or not used at all.

For educational purposes, we are still asking Search Engine College students to create a META Keywords tag as part of their assessment items. However, this is to ensure that students know how to craft the tag correctly, in case they decide to use it or are required to craft one in the future for employers or client sites.

If you are still using the META Keywords tag and it looks like an endless keyword repository, I’d suggest changing the content to focus on keyword variations that are still related to your page content, but that you’re unlikely to use in the visible content on the page. Things like synonyms, plurals, jargon, regional variations, related terms and word stemming.

If you don’t currently use a Meta Keywords tag, don’t automatically assume you need to create one just for Bing. If you get it wrong, it will likely do your site more harm than good.

 

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Facebook *Likes* Bing and the Feeling’s Mutual

facebook like in bing serp

Following on from their recent partnership with Facebook, Bing have introduced some new social search enhancements to their search results this week.

Now if you conduct a search on Bing and your search results include a specific link that has also been “liked” by your Facebook friend Jane Doe, a “Jane Doe Liked This” message will be highlighted within the Bing search results page.

You can see the *liked* feature highlighted in the attached SERP screengrab (click to zoom).

From Bing’s official blog post:

“Over the last several weeks, we introduced the new *Liked* results feature that uses the basis of your query to surmise your intent and surface relevant stories or websites that your friends on Facebook have liked with a nice answer, called out somewhere on the page. Based on the positive customer feedback, we are taking this feature a step further expanding the results to include even more sites.”

The feature is part of Bing’s new approach to integrate social signals into their algorithm to enhance the searcher’s overall experience.

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A Short History of the Search Industry

Short history of the search industryIf you’re a regular reader of this blog, you’ve probably gathered by now that the search industry moves at a blistering pace.

Search industry heavyweights like Google, Yahoo! and Bing are constantly jostling for position to be the most popular search destination, have the largest search database, have the most relevant results and grab the most market share.  As is typical for such a heated industry, it’s in a constant state of flux.

Since I joined the industry in 1996, I’ve watched search companies make deals, break partnerships, launch products, copy technology, sue each other or simply buy each other outright. Even if you live and breathe search, it’s hard to keep up to speed with what’s going on, so it’s not suprising that newcomers to the industry can be completely overwhelmed!

While writing new content for our Search Engine Optimization courses at Search Engine College, I thought it might be fun to put together a bullet point history of the major events over the past 10+ years to help students make sense of this crazy industry. So here it is:


A Short History of the Search Industry

  • Feb 1994 – Stanford University Electrical Engineering graduates Jerry Yang and David Filo founded a website called “David and Jerry’s Guide to the World Wide Web” which was later renamed Yahoo!
  • 1995 – AltaVista, the first search engine to use a multi-threaded crawler (Scooter), was launched by researchers at Digital Equipment Corporation’s Western Research Laboratory.
  • March 1995 – Yahoo! became officially incorporated.
  • August 1995 – The Microsoft Network (later rebranded as MSN) debuted as an online service and Internet service provider to coincide with the release of the Windows 95 operating system.
  • 1996 – Stanford University Computer Science graduates Larry Page and Sergey Brin began collaborating on a search engine called BackRub.
  • 1997 – Page and Brin rebranded BackRub as Google. See the original Google Home Page.
  • 1995 – The web portal Go.com was first launched by entrepreneur Jeff Gold.
  • 1995 – Inktomi Corporation was founded by UC Berkeley professor Eric Brewer and graduate student Paul Gauthier based on the success of the search engine they developed at the university.
  • 1998 – Infoseek was merged into the Go.com network.
  • 1998 – Go.com was acquired by the Walt Disney Company and redeveloped into The Go Network portal using Infoseek search technology.
  • 1998 – The MSN.com domain name was reinvented as an Internet portal, putting MSN Search in direct competition with search sites such as Yahoo! and the Go Network.
  • Feb 1998 – GoTo.com became the first company to successfully provide a pay-for-placement search service (a pre-cursor to today’s PPC programs).
  • Sep 1998 – Google Inc. became incorporated as a private company and began operating out of a home garage in California.
  • Feb 1999 – MSN Search launched a revised search engine which displayed listings from Looksmart blended with results from Inktomi.
  • Jun 2000 – Google became the official search results provider for Yahoo!
  • Jun 2000 – Google reached 1 billion pages indexed, becoming the world’s largest search engine.
  • Oct 2000 – Google launched the AdWords self-service ad program in direct competition to GoTo.com.
  • Jan 2001 – Disney announced that it would be closing Go.com, its search engine and its volunteer-edited directory, prompting the creation of offshoot directories like JoeAnt, Goguides.org and Skaffe.com.
  • Mar 2001 – Go.com rebranded as GoTo.com and switched over to providing search results from paid listings service GoTo.com, with non-paid results from parent company Inktomi.
  • Oct 2001 – GoTo.com rebranded as Overture Services Inc.
  • Dec 2001 – Google reached 3 billion pages indexed.
  • Sep 2002 – Google News is launched.
  • 2002-2003 – Google became king of the search engines and the most popular search destination with worldwide Internet users, wrenching market share away from Yahoo.
  • Feb 2003 – Yahoo purchased the Inktomi search index.
  • Feb 2003 – Google acquired the Blogger brand from Pyra Labs.
  • Feb 2003 – Google was named Brand of the Year for 2002.
  • Mar 2003 – Google launched AdSense.
  • Apr 2003 – Pay-Per-Click provider Overture bought search engine Alta-Vista.
  • Apr 2003 – Overture purchased search engine AllTheWeb from FAST Search.
  • Jun 2003 – FAST Search purchased AltaVista Enterprise Search from Overture.
  • June 2003 – Microsoft announced their intention to build their own search engine.
  • Jul 2003 – Yahoo purchased Overture (including AltaVista and AllTheWeb).
  • Oct 2003 – LookSmart lost their MSN distribution partnership.
  • Nov 2003 – Google rolled out a major algorithmic update across data-centers, nicknamed *Florida* because of the hurricane-like impact it had on the SEO of many web sites.
  • Jan 2004 – Pay-Per-Click providers FindWhat and eSpotting merged.
  • Jan 2004 – Yahoo launched Yahoo Research Labs.
  • Feb 2004 – Google expanded their web index to over 6 billion documents.
  • Feb 2004 – Yahoo dropped Google results and launched their own search crawler.
  • Mar 2004 – AskJeeves purchased Excite.
  • Apr 2004 – Google announced an Initial Public Offering (IPO).
  • Apr 2004 – Google launched Gmail.
  • Apr 2004 – Google purchased Picasa.
  • Jun 2004 – Overture (Yahoo) launched Local Sponsored Search
  • Aug 2004 – Google and Yahoo resolved their patent disputes.
  • Aug 2004 – Google rolled out their Initial Public Offering (IPO), listing on the stock exchange and becoming a public company.
  • Sep 2004 – MSN launched MSN Music.
  • Oct 2004 – Yahoo launched mobile search.
  • Oct 2004 – Google launched Desktop Search
  • Oct 2004 – Yahoo unveiled personal search.
  • Nov 2004 – Microsoft upgraded MSN Search to provide its own self-built search engine results, codenamed Longhorn.
  • Nov 2004 – Overture (Yahoo) extended sponsored search relationship with MSN until 2006.
  • Dec 2004 – MSN launched the MSN Spaces blogging service.
  • Jan 2005 – Yahoo launched Yahoo Desktop Search.
  • Jan 2005 – Google launched AdWords API.
  • Jan 2005 – Google launched Google Video.
  • Feb 2005 – Yahoo launched Yahoo Music.
  • Feb 2005 – Google added Movie Search.
  • Feb 2005 – Google moved Google Local to their home page.
  • Mar 2005 – Yahoo launched Yahoo Search Developer Network.
  • Mar 2005 – Yahoo re-branded Overture as Yahoo Search Marketing.
  • Mar 2005 – MSN launched the MSN adCenter online advertising platform.
  • Mar 2005 – Google purchased Urchin Stats.
  • Apr 2005 – Yahoo launched Personal Search.
  • Apr 2005 – Google launched My Search History.
  • Apr 2005 – Google launched Site Targeting in AdWords.
  • Apr 2005 – Google launched Google Advertising Professionals program.
  • May 2005 – MSN launched MSN China.
  • May 2005 – Google launched Toolbar 3.0.
  • May 2005 – Google launched AdSense for Feeds.
  • June 2005 – Google launched Google Maps.
  • Jun 2005 – Google launched Google Sitemaps.
  • Jun 2005 – Google launched Mobile Web Search.
  • Jun 2005 – Google added Personalized Search.
  • Jun 2005 – Yahoo settles click fraud class action suit with Checkmate Strategic Group.
  • Jun 2005 – Google released Google Earth.
  • Jul 2005 – Yahoo revamped their home page.
  • Jul 2005 – Google announced China office.
  • Aug 2005 – Google launched Google Talk.
  • Aug 2005 – Yahoo launched Audio Search.
  • Sep 2005 – Google launched Blog Search.
  • Sep 2005 – Google announces partnership with NASA.
  • Oct 2005 – Google launched Google Reader.
  • Oct 2005 – Google merged Google Local and Google Maps.
  • Nov 2005 – Google launched Google Base.
  • Nov 2005 – Yahoo launched a mapping service.
  • Nov 2005 – Google launched Google Analytics.
  • Nov 2005 – Google launched Froogle Local.
  • Nov 2005 – Google launched AdSense OnSite Advertiser Sign Up.
  • Dec 2005 – Google re-vamped and re-launched Book Search.
  • Dec 2005 – Yahoo launched Yahoo Answers.
  • Dec 2005 – Google and AOL announced global advertising partnership.
  • Dec 2005 – Google created Music Onebox Search.
  • Jan 2006 – Google launched the Google Video Store.
  • Jan 2006 – Google News comes out of BETA.
  • Jan 2006 – Google releases new version of Google Toolbar
  • Jan 2006 – Google released Google Pack.
  • Feb 2006 – Yahoo re-launched Yahoo Music.
  • Mar 2006 – Google launched AdWords Local Business Ads.
  • Mar 2006 – The first public beta of Windows Live Search was unveiled by Microsoft.
  • May 2006 – Yahoo re-designed Yahoo Search Marketing.
  • May 2006 – Google launched the Google Co-op.
  • May 2006 – Google launched Google Desktop 4.
  • May 2006 – Google launched Google Notebook.
  • May 2006 – Google launched video ads on Google AdWords.
  • May 2006 – Yahoo re-vamped their home page.
  • May 2006 – Yahoo announced strategic partnership with eBay.
  • Jun 2006 – Google launched Google Spreadsheets.
  • Jun 2006 – Google introduced Ad Scheduling for Google AdWords.
  • Jun 2006 – Google combined Google Analytics with Google AdWords reporting.
  • Jun 2006 – Google launched Google Checkout.
  • Jul 2006 – Google launched Google Maps for Mobiles.
  • Aug 2006 – Yahoo re-branded Yahoo Music to Yahoo Music Jukebox.
  • Aug 2006 – Yahoo signed mobile search advertising deal with go2
  • Sep 2006 – Google News introduced Archive Search.
  • Sep 2006 – Windows Live Search officially replaced MSN Search.
  • Oct 2006 – Google launched Google Docs and Spreadsheets.
  • Oct 2006 – Google launched AdWords Website Optimizer BETA.
  • Nov 2006 – Google acquired YouTube.
  • Nov 2006 – Google, Yahoo! and Microsoft announced joint support for the Sitemaps Protocol.
  • Dec 2006 – Google added new features to Google Toolbar for Firefox.
  • Dec 2006 – Yahoo launched the Yahoo Search Marketing PPC service to directly compete with AdWords.
  • Dec 2006 – Google launched Google Patent Search.
  • Jan 2007 – Google launched mobile search in China.
  • Jan 2007 – Yahoo launched Internet Search for Mobile.
  • Feb 2007 – Google made Gmail available to the general public.
  • Mar 2007 – Windows Live Search was rebranded to Live Search.
  • Mar 2007 – Google launched AdWords Pay Per Action BETA.
  • Mar 2007 – Yahoo launched Yahoo Go for Mobile.
  • Apr 2007 – Opera named Yahoo exclusive partner for mobile search.
  • Apr 2007 – Yahoo and Comcast announced advertising partnership.
  • Apr 2007 – Google announced acquisition of DoubleClick.
  • May 2007 – Google launched a new version of Google Analytics.
  • May 2007 – Google launched Universal Search model.
  • Jun 2007 – Google acquired FeedBurner.
  • Jun 2007 – Microsoft launched MSN Mobile.
  • Jun 2007 – Yahoo launched Search Marketing APIs.
  • Jul 2007 – Yahoo acquired Right Media.
  • Aug 2007 – Yahoo re-launched Yahoo Mail.
  • Sep 2007 – Google launched AdSense for Mobile.
  • Sep 2007 – Microsoft launched MSN Video.
  • Oct 2007 – Google launched video units for AdSense.
  • Oct 2007 – Yahoo re-launched Yahoo Search.
  • Nov 2007 – Google launched OpenSocial.
  • Nov 2007 – Yahoo and Adobe announced advertising program for PDF publishers.
  • Dec 2007 – FTC cleared Google’s acquisition of DoubleClick.
  • Dec 2007 – Yahoo and CNBC announced a global distribution agreement.
  • Feb 2008 – Google launched Google Sites.
  • Feb 2008 – Microsoft made a bid to purchase Yahoo for 45 billion.
  • Feb 2008 – Yahoo officially rejected Microsoft’s acquisition offer.
  • Feb 2008 – Yahoo launched Yahoo Buzz.
  • Mar 2008 – Google completed acquisition of DoubleClick.
  • Jun 2008 – Microsoft and Yahoo ended acquisition negotiations.
  • Jun 2008 – Yahoo started using Google ads in US & Canada.
  • Jul 2008 – Yahoo rejected new Microsoft acquisition proposal.
  • Sep 2008 – Google launched Chrome, a new open source browser.
  • May 2009 – Google launched Google Wave.
  • May 2009 – Microsoft re-branded Live Search as Bing.
  • May 2009 – Microsoft launched MSN City Guides featuring Bing Maps.
  • Jul 2009 – Microsoft and Yahoo announced major search and advertising partnership.
  • Jul 2009 – Google announced the launch of their own operating system – the Google Chrome OS.
  • Oct 2009 – Google launched Social Search.
  • Oct 2009 – Google announced partnership with Twitter to include their updates in search results.
  • Dec 2009 – Google redesigned their home page for the first time in many years.
  • Dec 2009 – Google Real Time Search went live.
  • Jan 2010 – Google entered the retail market by launching their own mobile device – the Nexus One.
  • Feb 2010 – Google launched their social network Buzz.
  • Feb 2010 – Microsoft and Yahoo announced the impending implementation of their Search Alliance.
  • Feb 2010 – Yahoo partnered with Twitter to integrate content and enhance social search experience.
  • Apr 2010 – Google Real-Time Search was enhanced with Twitter content.
  • Apr 2010 – Google Local Business Center was renamed Google Places.
  • May 2010 – Google rolled out a completely new look for SERPs and an algorithm update later nicknamed *MayDay*.
  • Jun 2010 – Launch of Google’s new search index Caffeine provided 50 percent fresher results than previous index.
  • Jun 2010 – Yahoo announced a partnership with Facebook to integrate their content into Yahoo Search results and allow users to link their accounts.
  • Aug 2010 – Google announced discontinuation of Google Wave.
  • Sep 2010 – Google Instant is launched, with predictive search results appearing as you type.
  • Oct 2010 – Google launched Place Search functionality that helps you find local information by organizing websites around real world places.
  • Oct 2010 – Yahoo rolled out new interactive features in their search results including rich content and multimedia search.
  • Oct 2010 – Bing became the 4th largest search engine on the web by query volume.
  • Oct 2010 – Yahoo Search Marketing PPC accounts were transitioned to Microsoft adCenter accounts, combining the services into a single brand.
  • Oct 2010 – Bing announced partnership with Facebook, integrating more social signals into search results.
  • Nov 2010 – Google added local product availability to Google Place Search.
  • Nov 2010 – Bing launched Movie Search.
  • Nov 2010 – Yahoo launched new social and local search features, including Twitter integration and local Search apps within Yahoo search results pages.
  • Nov 2010 – Google rolled out a new interface for Google AdSense.
  • Nov 2010 – Yahoo launched the Yahoo Contributor Network.
  • Dec 2010 – Yahoo announced they would be shutting down Del.icio.us, Altavista, MyBlogLog, Yahoo! Bookmarks, Yahoo! Picks and Yahoo! Buzz.

Wow. I don’t know about you, but my head is spinning. I know it’s not the most exciting way to present the data, but I’m working on a bells and whistles version for the new year.

I’ll keep this search industry timeline updated with major activities taking place, so make sure you bookmark it now.

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Take a Search Stand on Bing Fridays

Bing FridayToday is Bing Friday. The one day a week when everyone should use Bing instead of Google to prove that Google doesn’t rule the Internet. Confused? Let me backtrack a little…

At the SMX Melbourne Conference last month, a certain speaker made the valid point that Google has become such a money-making monolith that they seem to have lost sight of their original philosophy of Don’t Be Evil.

I’m protecting the identity of the speaker, in case he attracts unwarranted attention from Google, but his words really rang in my ears.

Let’s take a look at an extract from Google’s “Don’t Be Evil” philosophy:

“Don’t be evil… is about providing our users unbiased access to information, focusing on their needs and giving them the best products and services that we can... The Google Code of Conduct is one of the ways we put ‘Don’t be evil’ into practice. It’s built around the recognition that everything we do in connection with our work at Google will be, and should be, measured against the highest possible standards of ethical business conduct.”

Apparently, “Don’t be Evil” was originally suggested by Google employees Paul Buchheit and Amit Patel at a meeting. Buchheit, the creator of Gmail, said he “wanted something that, once you put it in there, would be hard to take out,” adding that the slogan was “also a bit of a jab at a lot of the other companies, especially our competitors, who at the time, in our opinion, were kind of exploiting the users to some extent.”

It got me thinking – are Google still living up to this slogan? Or have they become so powerful that they are doing the very thing they were accusing their competitors of doing and exploiting users in their bid to keep market dominance? Has Google been placing the needs of their shareholders above the needs of their users? Have they lost sight of their own motto?

Some of Google’s recent product releases and acquisitions do seem to be dollar-driven as opposed to user-driven. Some of their business decisions lately have also seemed questionable. Their move into China, for example, required them to self-censor data for Chinese users, a seeming hypocrisy which attracted skepticism worldwide. Then there was their collection of personal WiFi data during Streetview routes in Europe, triggering concerns over personal privacy. It’s hard to see how decisions like these are beneficial to users.

The SMX speaker suggested that Google has such massive market share that they AND their users have become blase about search quality. The tendency is for everyone to reach for Google whenever we need to search for something online and only use other engines for comparison shopping. His point was that the more blase we become about Google’s dominance, the more blase Googe will become about users.

The only way to take a stand against Google’s market dominance is to use other search engines regularly. That’s why he suggested that one day a week, instead of automatically reaching for Google, we should make the effort to use a different search engine, with Bing Friday being a good starting point. If enough people do it, Google might just sit up and take notice, but even if they don’t, at least we will shake ourselves out of our Google stupor and stop taking everything they do as gospel.

Now if you read my blog regularly, you’ll know that I am a big fan of Google. But I have been worried about the direction they’ve taken lately, particularly some of their recent acquisitions. I also believe that more competition is good for the industry and keeps all players on their toes for the benefit of everyone.

There are aspects of Bing Search I prefer over Google and I’m keen for Bing’s partnership with Yahoo to work out so it will help them leverage some market share away from Google. But I admit to being a lazy searcher and using Google as my automatic default engine. If I’m to make a difference, I need to take a stand and I feel this is a great start.

Will you join me and participate in Bing Fridays? To show your support, please comment on this post and/or tweet about it using the hashtag #BingFriday. Let’s see if we can get some traction!

POST SCRIPT : The speaker who came up with the concept of Bing Friday has given me permission to publish his name now. It was none other than Greg Boser of BlueGlass Interactive, Inc. He tells me that Bing Friday seems to be gaining momentum and to keep an eye out for a new project a friend is working on in relation to it. Sounds intriguing!

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Bing Proves Power of Facebook Advertising

In a single day, Bing has increased the number of fans of their Facebook page by 500 percent. How? By using clever social media advertising embedded within the popular Facebook application Farmville.

The advert appeared yesterday inside the game Farmville, encouraging players to become a fan of Bing in exchange for free farm cash (the virtual currency used within Farmville). As an incentive for players to act, Bing positioned themselves as the ideal search engine to help them win the game with tips and solutions for how best to use their crops and animals. Probably the cleverest part of the promotion was the fact that users could fan the Bing page without interrupting their game.

As a follow up, Microsoft’s social media team then set about creating dedicated updates for Farmville users on the Bing Facebook page.

The Bing Facebook page started the day yesterday with around 100,000 fans and that figure is now well above 500,000.

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