Get the inside scoop from Duane Forrester, Senior Product Manager
For about 15 years, or thereabouts, Duane Forrester has been firmly ensconced in the digital marketing community. Currently, he’s enjoying getting his feet back under his old desk at Bing, after being let go in a reshuffle and then—in what seems like a blink of a digital eye—rehired again. As a Senior Product Manager with Bing, his role, primarily, is webmaster outreach.
Side note: Dear Lord (and Google and Bing), please could we start to refer to the ever-so-talented people who develop digital business and user experience environments with a title that reflects what they actually do? “Webmaster” was an awesome title in the previous century, at the dawning of the web and all of that… but, well… you know… I’m just saying…
Following some conversations about Bing in our office recently, I decided to reach out for a chat. So, Duane and I jumped on a call for a good old catch up. And here are some highlights. There’s a link to the full transcript and the audio below.
Microsoft has been in search for a while now, even though the company was late to the game. So that’s where I started. Before Bing, we had MSN and Live Search. So what’s the big difference between iterations of Microsoft search?[pullquote cite=”Duane Forrester” type=”left”]“I think probably the biggest iteration, and this is fairly obvious, it comes down to algorithm. Other big differentiators from previous iterations include task completion, depth, quality of content, the visual aspect to search, those things are probably the biggest steps forward from where we originated from and what you see today.”[/pullquote]Said Forrester, “I think probably the biggest iteration, and this is fairly obvious, it comes down to algorithm. And other big differentiators from previous iterations include task completion, depth, quality of content, the visual aspect to search, those things are probably the biggest steps forward from where we originated from and what you see today.” He went on to add: “Things have progressed, I think, in a logical fashion following searchers and what they’re demanding from an engine. Mobile is much more impressive and much more important today. It is an area where you have to have a focus. We have to have the focus because the searcher is starting there; the search engine has to follow that.”
No one in the industry could miss the importance of mobile, given the openly, public “nudge” (shall we say) from Google to get ready for its hugely anticipated mobile focused algorithm update. And that begs the next question: If we optimize for Google, are we also optimized for Bing?
“Yeah. Generally speaking that’s it. When I say generally I’m not hedging a bet here, we’re talking 99.9%. There is never a situation where we look at it and think to ourselves, ‘we want something to be our way exclusively, so that the business owner/ website owner has to make a choice whether it’s Google or us, or whether it’s Google or Yahoo, or anything like that.’ We don’t really want that, and nor does Google want that. We look at these things and think, all right, realistically, pragmatically what can we do on our end to just take things the way they are?”
In any conversation of this kind, the subject of quality is bound to come up. So, we touched on algorithms again, and how, over the years Google has rolled out its various Panda and Penguins and Hummingbirds. So does Bing have its own kind of algorithm zoo as well? Are they getting rid of all of the crap in exactly the same way?
“We’re focused on the same kind of crap, obviously. We’re not interested in thin content, we’re not interested in too much advertising above the fold, all of those things. How we do it’s a little bit different. We tend not to do large rollouts like you see with Google. We tend to bake things into the algorithm and do a very long-term period of testing before we understand what’s going to be affected. We will continually refine until we get to a point where when we roll it out, only those who should be affected are affected. I make that statement realizing that it sounds like a sure thing. I will admit straight up that oftentimes, sometimes people do get caught up in that who shouldn’t be caught up in that. The fact of that matter is, if it looks like spam and it smells like spam, the algorithm then may chart it as spam.”
So what’s the biggest red flag that website owner should look out for as far as he sees it?
“The thing that I constantly see and so I’m constantly telling people about it and mentioning it in blogs and everything else is, know the history of your domain.” I see this all the time with new businesses starting up and people who are like, ‘Oh my god, I’ve found the perfect domain name and it cost me eighty dollars and I can’t believe it, and here we go, my life is going to change and the world is going to bow to my new product, and blah, blah, blah.’ That’s great. Then six months later they are struggling to rank and they’re not sure why, and struggling to even get into the Bing index and they’re not sure why. Then they reach out and I go take a look and I find out that six years ago it was marked as spam and it’s never been changed because, quite frankly, the entire history of the domain was spam.”
Okay, so that’s “one to avoid.” How about a positive “should do” to balance it?
“One thing I always love to remind people of is, when you’re submitting Sitemaps, submit an RSS feed in there. People generally overlook this opportunity, and it’s an opportunity to make sure that you’re most current content is what we’re seeing as soon as you publish it. It’s a super simple step that folks can take, and it’s well worth it.”
This was a much longer conversation, and as I mentioned earlier, I’ll give a link to the full transcript and the audio interview at the end of this column. But, generally wrapping it up and, in terms of making comparisons, I asked about any certain “benefits” with Bing. I’ve heard people say that they do better in certain verticals with Bing than they do with Google. I wanted to know if there was anything to that.
“Yeah, there’s a white paper that’s out there that talks about conversion rates from traffic from Bing. It showed that people that come from Bing convert higher, so they spend more, and they convert more frequently. If you look at that, I know that generally speaking when people are searching on Bing that we see a bit more of long tail action on Bing. That generally points to a searcher who is little bit savvier, knows little bit more about what they’re looking for, they’re asking for something with greater clarity, and therefore the answer can be much more obvious for them.”
There are more little nuggets and general takeaways in my full conversation with Duane. You can find the complete transcript here. And you can listen to the audio, here [x_audio_embed][/x_audio_embed]
Mike is CMO & Managing Director at Acronym where he is responsible for directing thought leadership programs and cross platform marketing initiatives, as well as developing new, innovative content marketing campaigns. Prior to joining Acronym Mike was Group Publishing Director at Incisive Media, publisher of Search Engine Watch and ClickZ, and producer of the SES international conference series.
Previously, he worked as a search marketing consultant with a number of international agencies handling global clients such as SAP and Motorola. Recognized as a leading search marketing expert, Mike came online in 1995 and is the author of numerous books and white papers and is currently in the process of writing his new book “From Search To Social: Marketing To The Connected Consumer” to be published by Wiley. He is current Chairman of SEMPO, the industry’s professional association for search marketers. @mikegrehan