Bing vs Google; Webmaster Tools Comparison
Both of the Web’s top
search engines provide
marketers and Internet
workers with immensely
powerful platforms to
understand how their
websites are perceived
and how they perform
in the respective indices
of Google and Bing.
These solutions — Bing Webmaster Tools and Google Webmaster Tools — reveal important data on crawl activity, provide key traffic statistics, and even offer the ability to submit sitemaps, making search engine submission all but a practice of the past. If you are not using these solutions currently — and/or regularly — then you are most likely missing out on some important insights that can truly accelerate the success of your Web presence.
To date, Google’s Webmaster Tools has been far and away the better solution. Bing, not to be outdone, recently rolled out several major changes to the types of data and the depth of guidance found in its own product — examples of which can be found in the Phoenix update: http://wsm.co/MzWVgr. In addition to a far better user experience in this version, Web marketers now have access to a wide range of tools such as the new Link Explorer and SEO Analyzer/SEO Reports, as well as updates to current tools like the Keyword Research Tool and URL Removal Tool and more.
But in a head-to-head matchup, how do these tools compare in terms of their functionality and the value they bring to Web marketers? Let’s take a closer look at Bing’s improved Webmaster Tools and the comparative offering from Google. While there is a lot of overlap between the two solutions, using both is now absolutely mandatory if the aim is to stay competitive in search.
Exploring Inbound Links
The number and quality of links pointing to your website is indisputably the single greatest influencing factor in achieving high placement on the search engines’ results pages. Bing’s new Link Explorer (now in beta) enables Web marketers to explore the links associated with any domain, much like the shuttered Yahoo! Site Explorer.
Users of the Bing Webmaster Tools platform can now choose to show links pointing to either a domain or an individual URL, and the new feature even supports refinements such as searching by anchor text and by keywords found on a page pointing to a Web property.
For Google’s part, its solution has had this feature available for quite some time, but without the ability to search through the information.
Where Bing has recently been separating itself in the Webmaster Tools matchup is within a new set of SEO reports and analysis features. Using approximately 15 SEO best practices to scan against, Bing prepares a report that indicates compliance with these best practices, providing an aggregate count of all the issues found.
For example, if you are missing a meta description or alt tags on images, Bing will let you know. Google does not currently provide a similar feature within its offering, but does offer suggested HTML improvements that may be negatively influencing how content is crawled on your Web property.
Sitemap Submission Primer: Neither Bing nor Google’s Webmaster Tools offering will be able to provide much in the way of value if you don’t first submit a sitemap — a list of the pages on your website (typically an XML file, although RSS/Atom feeds also work). There are many different ty pes of sitemaps, however, and each has its own restrictions and guidelines. Read WM’s Sitemap Submission Primer.
Bing is not just rolling out new features for its Webmaster Tools offering, but is also updating several existing features that are likely to make its solution comparative to if not better than Google Webmaster Tools.
URL Removal: Bing updated its URL removal tool that allows Web workers to block a page from appearing in a Bing search result. The main change is that the block applied will now expire in 90 days.
Within that time frame, Bing will recrawl the website several times, see the server code, and if a 404 appears, for example, will let it fall from the index. The best part is that eight days prior to the block expiring, Bing emails the Webmaster to alert them and give them an option to renew the block for another 90 days.
URL Normalization: This updated feature allows users to specify which query parameters Bing’s crawler can ignore. For example, if you own http://example.com/ and configure Webmaster Tools to specify the parameter “abc” to be ignored, the URL http://example.com/?abc=123 will be seen as http://example.com/.
The result is that URLs containing the query string parameter “abc” will have the parameter removed prior to indexing. The benefit of using this feature is perhaps greatest for e-commerce merchants who use parameters more regularly.
Removing parameters from URLs in the index prevents duplicate content and avoids having a page’s index value split between multiple URL variations. Google does provide users of its solution the ability to remove parameters and has for some time now.
Keyword Research: In March 2012, Bing released its organic Keyword Research Tool and made several refinements for the Phoenix update. Users were previously limited to a single keyword or phrase per request, but it has since been expanded to allow multiple entries that are run at the same time — speeding up keyword research projects dramatically and providing a clearer picture of related terms and phrases.
Google, on the other hand, does not provide a keyword research tool within its Webmaster Tools offering. There are, of course, a list of features that Google Webmaster Tools has that Bing does not, including the Rich Snippets Testing Tool, Malware warnings, the ability to demote sitelinks, as well as social reports to identify the impact on search and measure activity and audience.
The Webmaster Tools offerings from Google and Bing provide valuable data that can be used to shore up your search results positions — but only if you use them regularly. Take the time weekly (or at least monthly) to access these platforms and use their insights as an action plan towards greater Web success.
About the Author: Peter Prestipino is the Editor-In-Chief of Website Magazine. A long-time Internet marketer with over twelve years of experience, Prestipino is the author of Web 360: The Fundamentals of Web Success.