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Christi Olson – Search Engine Land News On Search Engines, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) & Search Engine Marketing (SEM) Fri, 12 Apr 2019 17:56:28 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.2.2 10 principles of digital accessibility for modern marketers /10-principles-of-digital-accessibility-for-modern-marketers-315352 Fri, 12 Apr 2019 17:56:28 +0000 /?p=315352 Developers and designers can help differently abled users navigate websites by using CSS to control visual page elements. Here are other ways accessible websites are built.

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When we talk about digital accessibility as marketers, we’re talking about the intentional creation of an experience that can be accessed by as many people as possible.

Designing for digital accessibility means many things. It means designing for individuals with sensory or cognitive impairments. It means designing for people with physical limitations. It means designing for individuals who rely on adaptive and assistive technologies like screen readers or magnifiers to view digital content.

The key is building accessibility into your digital experience from the very start rather than bolting it on like an afterthought. Below, I’ve outlined some key accessibility principles to consider when creating your digital marketing materials.

Principles for developers

1.  Apply standard HTML semantics

Accessible design begins with standard HTML semantics. Standard HTML enables screen readers to announce elements on page so that the user will know how to interact with the contents. When HTML tags without semantical information are used–such as <div> and <span> for visual styling – the browser will display the elements as the developer intended, which unfortunately, may not be very helpful for the user.

Keep in mind that the user’s experience with a screen reader can vary greatly. For instance, using <div class=”h1”>Introduction to Semantics</div> or custom coding to override default browser styles will produce something that resembles a header. However, a screen reader will not understand or announce that the element as a header.

Key takeaways

  • Use standard HTML whenever possible so that screen readers will maintain the structure and content when reading aloud.
  • Use structural elements to group elements and to create separate regions on a page, such as header, navigation, main and footer. Screen readers recognize these structural elements and announce them to the user and allow for additional navigation between elements.

2. Enable keyboard navigation

All websites should be keyboard accessible because not all consumers can use a mouse or view a screen. In fact, according to WebAIM Low Vision, 60.4% of survey respondents always or often use a keyboard for web page navigation. Additionally, individuals with permanent or temporary loss of their hands or fine muscle control may also use a keyboard or modified keyboards for navigation.

For keyboard navigation to work, a user must be able to navigate through a page by moving from focus item to focus item. A user typically follows the visual flow, going from left to right and top to bottom, from headers to main navigation, to page navigation and lastly to the footer. When using a keyboard for navigation, enter activates a focused link, and the space bar activates a focused form element. Tab facilitates navigation between elements. Escape allows the user to close an element.

Knowing this, it’s important to consider the actions a user might take. The rule of thumb is that if you can interact with a focusable element using a mouse, make sure that you can interact using a keyboard. These elements might include links, buttons, form fields or a calendar date picker.

Key takeaways

  • Ensure users can navigate with the keyboard to all interaction components of the website. List all your site’s focusable elements and create easy-to-use focus indicators.
  • Structure underlying source code to correctly order the content and navigation. Use CSS to control visual aspects of the elements.
  • Allow users to bypass navigation windows if there are too many links in drop downs.

3. Use attributes

When it comes to linking text and descriptions for URLs, screen readers can skip from link to link within an article. If vague link text like “Click Here” or “Read More” is used, it provides very little context or meaning for someone to interpret on a screen reader.

Be specific and descriptive with your link text and include meaningful phrases that describe the content that the link is connecting to. Instead of “Contact us” use more specific language like “Contact our sales team.” For images and videos, assign ALT attributes and use descriptive file names.

Key takeaways

  • Banish extraneous and non-descriptive words in your links like “Click Here,” “Here,” and “Read More.” “10 Principles of Accessibility” reads better than “Click here to read the 10 principles of accessibility.”
  • Optimize file names and URL names and use both open and closed captioning for video content. Consider adding accurate video transcripts.

4. Use the ARIA label attribute

In some cases, the buttons or other interactive elements on your website may not include all the information needed for assistive technology. The ARIA label attribute enables assistive technology to override the HTML labels to allow the website owner to provide additional context to the element on a page.

In the following link example, a screen reader will announce “Bing Ads. Link.”

<a href=”…”> Bing Ads </a>

However, if the button itself is a call-to-action button, the site owner can use the ARIA label to allow the screen reader to speak the call-to-action text visible on the button. In this example, the screen reader will announce, “Sign Up for a Bing Ads Account. Link.”

<a href=”…” aria-label=”Sign Up for a Bing Ads Account”>Bing Ads</A>

Key takeaway

  • Use the ARIA label attribute within elements like forms and call-to-action buttons to define the visible text that a screen reader should read aloud.

5. Properly label and format forms

Make sure forms are intuitive and logically organized, with clearly identified instructions and labels. To ensure that users load the right keyboard format for all forms, use labels that are always visible and avoid putting placeholder text within form prompts.

From a formatting perspective, take advantage of borders for text fields and drop-down menus, and put forms in a single-column format. Also, use HTML input types, so users do not have to switch across types of virtual keyboards. For example, fields for phone numbers should pull up the numeric keyboard vs. a regular keyboard format.

Key takeaways

  • Be careful when using JavaScript in forms, which can make the form difficult to complete using a keyboard.

6. Use tables for data

There are two basic uses for tables online: data tables with row and column headers that display tabular data and tables for page layout. The intended use of HTML tables is for tabular data. Layout tables don’t typically have logical headers or information that can be mapped to cells within the table, so screen readers must guess the purpose of the table. For this reason, it’s important to use CSS for layout and reserve tables for data. Using CSS results in cleaner and more simplified HTML code.

Key takeaways

  • Use the appropriate mark-up for data tables and always include table headers. Always choose CSS over tables for page layout.

Principles for writers and graphic designers

7. Write content in a structured way

The structure and flow of your content are especially important for individuals who have a visual impairment and rely on screen readers. It’s also important for folks with cognitive and learning disabilities, as well as anyone scanning through content on a mobile screen. When writing for accessibility, summon your inner high-school English teacher and organize content clearly with descriptive headings for each section.

Key takeaways

  • Make text easy to read and logically structured. Be sure to use semantic markup for headings paragraphs, lists, and quotes.

8. Align to the left

Text alignment impacts readability, according to UX Movement. Centered text makes the viewer work harder because without the left straight edge, there is no consistent path for the eyes to follow when continuing to the next line of text. Use left-aligned text for a straight edge that makes it easier for the eyes to scan content and find breaks in the writing structure.

Key takeaways

  • Only use centered text headlines and short lines of text such as quotes and call outs. Avoid mixing text alignment.

9. Choose fonts judiciously

I love beautiful, artistic fonts. But the fact is that some fonts are easier to read than others. Which is why it’s important to use basic fonts. Sans-serif fonts are easier to read for people with visual or cognitive disabilities – even temporary, visual disabilities like reading a screen in bright sunlight.

Size also matters. Avoid font sizes smaller than 12 and choose absolute units (pixels or points) vs relative units (%) to define font size. Limit the number of fonts to make content easier to read. Don’t rely on the appearance of fonts (color, shape or placement) to convey the meaning of the text. Finally, avoid blinking or moving text – no user wants to chase a message around a screen.

Key takeaways

  • Choose simple fonts with plain, sans-serif endings, which make it easier for eyes to recognize letters.
  • Limit the use of font variations and sizes.

10. Put color to work

The application of color also impacts accessibility. According to a 2018 survey of users with Low Vision by WebAIM, 75% of respondents report multiple types of visual impairment, including 61% with light or glare sensitivity and 46% with contrast sensitivity.

Think about your color scheme and the contrast of colors to ensure that text is easily discernable from the background color. The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) recommend using a 4.5:1 contrast ratio for normal text. To put this into perspective, black text on a white background is 21:1 whereas gray text on a white background is 4.5:1.

Using color alone to convey information may not be accessible to those with visual impairments. For example, websites often use green to signal something positive and red to signal something negative, which can be difficult to discern for someone with a visual impairment. Instead, consider combining shapes or icons with color.

Key takeaways

  • Ensure your colors have ample contrast and combine color with graphics or symbols to help convey meaning.

Designing for accessibility does not need to be complex or costly. It just takes planning and the intentional application of accessibility principles to ensure a more inclusive experience for everyone.

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Bing Ads 2018 recap and insights for search marketers in the year ahead /bing-ads-2018-recap-and-insights-for-search-marketers-in-the-year-ahead-310911 Thu, 24 Jan 2019 19:03:39 +0000 /?p=310911 Columnist Christi Olson explains updates to Bing Ads scripts, multi-language targeting and Google Imports to stay up to date on both platforms.

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Can you believe it’s 2019 and we’re already halfway through January? Time flies when you are busy  managing PPC campaigns and keeping up with the latest updates.

Did you know that Bing is coming into its 10th year of operation?

I was on the marketing team (managing paid search) that launched Bing back in 2009 and can remember the audacious goal we had to get to 15 percent market share by 2014. Now, let’s fast forward a decade. Bing Ads ended 2018 with 33.8 percent market share in the U.S. desktop search market, and a combined desktop and mobile market share of over 20 percent. In fact, in October 2018, Microsoft sites handled 24.3 percent of all search queries in the United States. And to top it off, we’re only expecting Bing’s market share to grow across mobile and desktop with the Jan. 17 announcement of  Bing’s partnership as the exclusive search provider with Verizon Media which includes Yahoo, AOL and sites such as Huffington Post, TechCrunch, Engadget, Tumblr and more.

Ok, that’s great, but what improvements have you made to make advertising with Bing Ads easier and more successful?

I’m so glad you asked.

Everything we do at Bing Ads has to fulfill one, very important, objective – helping achieve your business results. That means our ad platform needs to help you build better campaigns in less time, it needs to harness the power of artificial intelligence to generate more effective audience marketing, and ultimately help you with powerful, successful ad creation.

We were busy this past year, and have released some key feature developments at Bing Ads that deliver the right results with less effort, more data, and better search marketing solutions. Some of the features and updates we made this year such as Extended Text Ads helped the Bing Ads platform maintain parity with Google Ads, making it easier for you to import campaigns and process updates. Other features such as In-Market Audiences and LinkedIn Targeting were brand new feature releases that you couldn’t find on any other platform. So exactly how many features or updates did we make? Check it out:

Bing ads chart

So without further ado, let’s dig into some of my personal favorite top 2018 features and releases that happened at Bing Ads.

New featured tools with Bing Ads

Quickly reach customers who are ready to buy with In-Market Audiences.

Using artificial intelligence (AI), Bing Ads is now able to predict and identify audience segments who have shown purchase intent signals within more than 170 In-Market Audience categories. This new functionality is already helping beta-users see a 28 percent higher click-through rate and up to 48 percent higher conversion rates.

Add more value to audience targeting using LinkedIn profile information – exclusive to Bing Ads.

Target users based on their LinkedIn professional profiles, helping you find the right audiences and achieve a return on your ad spend goals. Unique only to Bing Ads, save time by creating campaigns that serve text ads, Dynamic Search Ads and shopping campaigns to customers based on their company, profession and industry. LinkedIn profile targeting adds another layer of information and value to your marketing goals, making it easier than ever to locate and engage your ideal audience.

Automate your tasks with Bing Ads Scripts.

For all of my fellow automation geeks, can I get an AMEN that Bing Ads Scripts is finally here? Bing Ads Scripts will help users reduce time spent performing repetitive and common multi-step tasks that are necessary when managing campaigns, but also a bit of a time suck. Scripts is a new beta feature that lets users access and manage campaigns using simple JavaScript in the Bing Ads browser-based script editor. In other words, this new update to the Bing platform will help users save time and energy without relying on costly technical developers.

Import any Google Merchant Center product offers to the Bing Merchant Center

If you have product ads in your Google Merchant Center, this Bing Ads tool will help you easily import them into your Bing Merchant Center. This updated feature will benefit all our users spend less time maintaining two separate feed files for Google Ads and Bing Ads. By syncing both merchant centers, you can keep all product offers fresh and up to date on both platforms.

Our updates are adding up

At Bing Ads, we are in a state of constant evolution and improvement, always trying to get a little better and do a little bit more to improve the user experience. Along that vein, we’ve redoubled our efforts to bring you new updates and features for Google Import, the system used to import your campaigns from Google Ads to Bing Ads. The latest and greatest updates  include:

    • The ability to bring more items over from Google Ads such as ten thousand campaigns, one million Ad Groups, five million keyword, four million ads, you get the idea.
    • You can now import brand-new items into Bing Ads, such as age and gender targeting and negative keyword lists.
    • We are now offering Advanced Import Options, allowing users to select specific items they want to be added, updated, or deleted, all in a simplified manner.
    • In Google Import, click on Show Advanced Options to see all the additional items you can include or remove as part of your sync such as ad extensions, targeting settings, status updates, and more.

It’s never been easier to combine advertising efforts and create a multi-pronged campaign that delivers serious results.

Multiple Language Targeting updates

In the past, Bing Ads has only supported language targeting at the ad group-level, causing differences in structure between Google Ad campaigns and Bing Ads. But now, with Multiple Language Targeting, users can expand their global reach by choosing from multiple Bing Ad support languages to target customer at the campaign level. It’s a revelation!

2018 was a big year for Bing and 2019 is setting the stage for even more new features and product advancements, all developed with one purpose in mind – to help our growing advertiser base efficiently manage their campaigns using intelligent audience marketing and powerful ad creations.

Your feedback reshaped Bing Ads in 2018

It’s through the UserVoice feature suggestion forum, that Bing is able to listen to our clients and solve the problems that are most important to you. We listen and use customer feedback to shape and improve every user’s experience. Based on customer feedback in 2018, we built:

    • Better tools for understanding your competitors on Bing Ads
    • New automated bidding options
    • Better support for campaigns that target multiple languages
    • New insights into placement of your Shopping Ads
    • Easier discovery of hidden volume opportunities for Shopping Campaigns0
    • Time-saving ways to manage your budgets and billing

We base many of our focused research and development initiatives on the feedback provided through the Bing Ads Feature Suggestion Forum. Use this space to suggest a new feature, enhancements to an existing feature, or even vote on ideas that others have submitted.

Keep the feedback coming throughout 2019 and in the years to come. Come personally find me at SMX West in San Jose and share your thoughts and suggestions. I’d love to hear them and share them with our marketing and engineering teams. Your thoughts, suggestions and ideas are truly invaluable to all of us at Bing Ads.

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How to make your content more accessible to the visually impaired /how-to-make-your-content-more-accessible-to-the-visually-impaired-310660 Fri, 18 Jan 2019 13:01:04 +0000 /?p=310660 Updating alt tags and creating friendly URLs and file names are just a few ways to maximize the accessibility of your organic search presence.

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Globally, it’s estimated that approximately 1.3 billion people live with some form of distance or near vision impairment. In the past, vision impairment may have hampered their online screen experience, but thanks to the tech advancements of today, virtually anyone can jump online and search up the latest news, new restaurant reviews, or their next vacation destination.

Making sure businesses and marketers develop online content that is accessible to anyone and everyone is the big idea behind inclusive marketing. This form of marketing takes into account factors such as gender, race, language, income, sexuality, age, religion, ethnicity and ability, recognizing that marketers can no longer forge ahead assuming that one brand is designed for customers from all walks of life. Rather, marketers need to intelligently engage with individuals, taking into account their personalities, eccentricities and necessary accommodations.

Part of inclusive marketing is making your online media more accessible for your clients and customers with visual impairments. By maximizing the accessibility of your organic search presence, you’re making your products and services available to an otherwise untapped market of potential consumers. And c’mon, it’s just the right thing to do.

Online search engines don’t wave a magic wand and make your images and videos accessible, but there are a few things you can easily incorporate into your content development and online advertising routine to make sure everyone understands what’s on their screen.  You can also utilize features in applications such as accessibility checker, to make all of your marketing materials as accessible as possible.

Optimize your images using strong alt text descriptions

Alternative text (alt text) provides a textual alternative to non-text content online, such as images, graphics, infographics and the like. Complete alt text descriptions increase the accessibility of the internet to those with vision impairments. As a screen reader encounters images on a web page, it reads the alt text provided aloud, allowing the content and/or function of the image to be understood by the user.

Beyond accessibility, alt text also gives your SEO ranking a good boost by providing search engines such as Bing and Google with more information about what’s on specific web pages. The more info their web crawlers can scan and understand, the better chances you have to relevantly rank in SERPs (search engine result pages).

After all, web crawlers (and screen readers) can’t analyze an image and determine its value, they can only understand text. So, that text had better accurately describe the image or media. Otherwise, it’s like it doesn’t exist at all.

Here are a few tips to writing a good alt text description:

  • Be accurate and present the content and function of the image.
  • Be concise. Generally no more than a few words are needed.
  • Avoid redundancies, do not provide information already present in the surrounding text.
  • Do not use the phrases “image of …” or “graphic of…” in your alt text description.
  • When the image is only text, the text within the image can serve as the alt text.
  • If the image is functional, for example, the image is a link to something else, include that in the alt text.

Optimize and create friendly URLs, image titles and file names

Your file name will help search engines and screen readers understand what the image is and if it’s relevant. Before you upload the image to your CMS, make sure the file name is simple and describes the subject matter of the media, and use it as an opportunity to include target keywords if appropriate.

Here are two examples of file names, which one is more understandable?

orange-rainboots-children-toddlers.jpg

IMG22402A.JPG

I rest my case.

It’s the same idea with URLs and image titles. Take the time to not only include them but write good ones that make sense and properly describe the image. It can only help!

Use schema markup data for images/media

Schema Markup data is used by Bing, Google, etc. to provide better search results. A type of HTML coding or structured data markup, it provides additional context to the search engines and will improve the knowledge pane, which can be read aloud as the featured snippet.

Schema can be used to mark up just about anything and is used by Bing and other leading search engines. By employing structured data markups, search engines can better read the contents on a webpage, changing how they may display the search results.

Carry accessibility principles over to videos, PowerPoints and PDFs

As the use of video marketing continues to rise, consider these accessibility tips to make them more available to the visually impaired:

  • Create and provide accurate video transcripts on the page.
  • Increase engagement by using both open and closed captions for video content. Note, the text tile attached for closed captions is readable by search engines.

For PowerPoints and PDF documents:

  • As with images, create search-friendly file names and optimize your titles with keywords.
  • Add alt-tags for images and charts within the document or PowerPoint.
  • Complete the description field – this will serve as the meta descriptions within search results.
  • Include your company name in the author field.
  • In Adobe Acrobat, there are additional metadata fields, sure to complete them.
  • Write protect your documents to make it hard for others to edit and add their links to your content.
  • Link to the document internally and include backlinks with your target keywords.

Modern marketing is accessible marketing

Inclusive marketing is all about creating information and content that is more representative of everyone, including the visually impaired. Following the measures described above will help you make your content more universally accessible and improve not only the quality of the content but the experience for the user.

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3 differences between Bing Ads Scripts and Google Scripts you need to know /3-differences-between-bing-ads-scripts-and-google-scripts-you-need-to-know-307830 Thu, 08 Nov 2018 14:40:09 +0000 /?p=307830 There are key differences in functionality but an automatic 'search and replace' edit feature is a time-saver with the new Scripts API.

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First off, can I get a shout from the rooftop that Scripts are now officially available to everyone on Bing Ads? Scripts are a powerful tool that use JavaScript coding that can make changes to or report on pretty much anything with your paid search account. They can do everything that you do manually – but automated and 24/7/365. Scripts have saved me time. They have saved my sanity (from menial mind-numbing tasks that had to get done.) But most of all when I was at an agency they saved my bacon and my wallet– when an account went offline during the holidays the Broken URL Detector script paused all impacted URLs and sent me a notification. Phew!

Now I need to make a confession. Father, forgive for I have sinned, it’s been 2 1/2 years since I’ve actively been editing scripts. Okay, maybe not that type of confession. But I will confess that I am a dabbler when it comes to JavaScript. One of the key things that I quickly discovered from conversations with other search marketers was that so many people I admired and looked up were intimidating by Scripts because they like me where marketers not coders. I’m definitely not an expert coder, but that’s what I find great about Scripts. You don’t have to be an expert, you just have to get comfortable making minor tweaks, edits and customizations to scripts that the experts write.

If you can use “Copy & Paste” you can start using Scripts

No seriously. If you can “Copy & Paste” you can use the pre-written scripts. Several wicked smart folks (like Frederick Vallaeys, Steve Hammer, Russel Savage, Daniel Gilbert, and Martin Roettgerding) have done the hard work for you – they’ve written and tested scripts. For the most part all you have to do is copy and paste the written code into the search UX. I will admit it’s not always that simple, sometimes you do need to do minor edits and tweaks because the names associated with Entities and Objects may have changed over the years; however, it’s a much easier place to start from than trying to figure out how to write the code from the ground up.

If you are nervous and want to learn, Ginny Marvin wrote an absolutely wonderful Introduction to Scripts for PPC series.

Now onto the good stuff:

What are the differences between Google Ads Scripts and Bing Ads Scripts?

Bing Ads Scripts and Google Ads Scripts are both JavaScript based routines that can make changes to and report on almost everything within your paid search account. They can read from external sources and in most cases can write to external data sources like Google sheets, website APIs or databases. Scripts can do pretty much everything we as PPC experts can do, except they are customizable and can be automated to do it more consistently and faster without making mistakes.

Where to find and access scripts in the UI

The Bing Ads script interface looks and has similar functionality to the Google Ads Scripts interface. Both platforms allow you to edit, preview and execute scripts either immediately or via scheduling. To find Bing Ads Scripts in your account, Go to Campaigns. Select Bulk Operations. Select Scripts. The click Create and Manage Scripts.

Screen shot showing how to access Bing Scripts

1. Differences in functionality during the beta release of Scripts

The main differences today between Bing Ads scripts and Google Scripts is the functionality covered by our Scripts API. Scripts are in an open Beta accessible to anyone with a Bing Ads account. This release covers the following functionality:

  • Updating and managing campaigns
  • Creating, updating and managing ad groups, ads and keywords
  • Bid and budget management
  • Providing performance data for campaigns, ad groups, ads and keywords
  • Searching for campaigns, ad groups, ads and keywords based on various filters management
  • Multi-account access
  • URL fetch service

What does this mean? It means that you can turn on and off campaigns. You can use the Broken URL detector or the Out-Of-Stock detector to pause entities (keywords, ad groups, campaigns). You can use scripts for bid adjustments, move budgets between campaigns, and adjust bid based tiering across match types. It also allows you to monitor performance of the accounts with the Audit Scripts that write the results to the log file.

The initial release of Scripts isn’t at 100 percent parity with Google. Their Scripts API offers access to a few key functional areas such as writing to spreadsheets, accessing shared folders/drives (OneNote/Google Drive), as well as sending automated emails. Rest assured our engineering team is already working on the next iteration of the Scripts API to include additional functionality. The future roadmap includes spreadsheet support, customizable email alerts, the ability to download reporting, ad extension support, bulk sheet uploads and downloads, as well as targeting support. Stay tuned because additional functionality will be coming in the future.

2. Bing Ads scripts have an automatic “find and replace” function when copying and pasting Google Ads Scripts into the editor

Screenshot explaining how to reuse Google Scripts by copying and pasting

This is huge. No, seriously, huge. The editor interface will automatically replace any Google Ads specific symbols with the appropriate Bing Ads names so you don’t have to manually do this yourself. For example, if this functionality didn’t exist you’d have to search for every instance of AdWordsApp and manually replace it with BingAdsApp, and MccApp and to replace it with AccountsApp. Any feature in the Google Ads Script API that isn’t supported will be flagged with a squiggly line as a “unrecognized” symbol.

When our engineering team brought up this idea it brought a tear to my eye. Why you ask? Because otherwise, I’d be presenting you with a huge table that gives you the Google Ads entity and Object name classes and what you would have to manually replace them with for the script to be functional within Bing Ads. It wouldn’t have been the end of the world, but it would have been a P.I.T.A.

As a side note, here are three reference documents you might be interested in. First, is the Reference Overview for scripts classes and documentation. Second is the entity hierarchy and limits and guides. The third is the updated release notes for the Scripts API, this tells you what is new and has changed with each release.

3. The URLFetchApp work around to communicate and read applications and resources

As I mentioned our engineering team is already working on the next version of the Scripts API to include additional functionality, such as spreadsheet support to allow you to include third party data into scripts.

In the meantime, one workaround to access and retrieve information from across the web is the URLFetchApp. URLFetchApp allows the script to retrieve information (from HTTP or HTTPS requests) so it can be processed and included as part of an existing script. You could potentially use 3rd party APIS like sendgrid with the URLFetchApp feature to send email notifications. You could also use the URLFetchApp to pull in weather information to use the weather based bid optimization script to boost bids based on specific weather conditions. You could also use this to adjust bids based off margin levels that are saved to a CSV uploaded to a shared file like Google Drive or OneDrive.

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Voice search isn’t the next big disruptor, conversational AI is /voice-search-isnt-the-next-big-disrupter-conversational-ai-is-306641 Fri, 12 Oct 2018 00:00:09 +0000 /?p=306641 Virtual assistants and chatbots are opening up a whole new world for marketers, and voice search is just the beginning.

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Within the search marketing space, there has been a lot of talk about voice search. Many are projecting voice search as the next big thing  – in fact, as the next marketplace disruptor.

But the truth is, voice search probably isn’t going to be the next big thing. Yes, voice search is disrupting text-based searches, and this is causing a few raised eyebrows. However, voice is only a small part of the disruption that’s happening today.

I agree with the dissenting points of view that voice search isn’t the next big disrupter; because I believe that conversational AI is.

Conversational AI is what’s really disrupting and shifting the consumer behavior, and voice search is just a component of that bigger picture.

There, I said it.

Now, let’s talk about it. It’s hard to distinguish between voice search and voice-assisted engagements through digital assistance (aka conversational AI). So, my intention here is to outline the differences between these two entities and explain what you, as marketers, need to do to take advantage of both.

Voice search vs. conversational AI

When you think about voice search, it’s actually not that revolutionary. The AI-based technology of natural language processing that enables voice search is pretty awesome and amazing; however, voice search is just a mode in which people are engaging with search engines.

There are three ways that people can engage with the search engines. They can engage through typing or text, their voice or conversation, and through images. Voice search essentially involves doing a query using voice instead of text. That’s the only difference.

When we think about the difference between voice search and conversational AI (the voice assistance component) what’s important to recognize is that searches are continuously happening. It’s just how people are conducting the search that’s shifting and disrupting the marketplace.

Voice assistance is using your voice to engage with some sort of intelligent technology — like a digital assistant, a chatbot, or potentially even a voice skill — to ask a question and find an answer or to control other technology and the IoT.

Here’s the big differentiator: Instead of using Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc. directly, we are now asking questions of, and talking with, third parties like Alexa, Cortana, Google Assistant, Siri, and the like.

Those third parties are typically digital assistants that engage with our voice. So, nowadays, I say, “Hey, Siri”,“Hey, Cortana”, “Okay, Google” or “Hey, Alexa,” whenever I have a question or something I want information about.

The digital assistants then engage directly with their corresponding search engine to tap into the knowledge graph as well as their specific knowledge repository to provide a response and an answer. Search is the intelligence platform powering intelligent agents.

That’s conversational AI, and it’s changing the way people engage with search.

Say goodbye to the age of touch as the primary interface

What we are seeing with this, in terms of voice assistance, is a shift in how people engage, where the search results are coming from, and how that response is derived. As marketers, we are used to developing programs and marketing plans in an era where touch and screens are the primary user interfaces between consumers and devices.

“The age of touch as the primary user interface between consumers and devices is being disrupted. We’re entering the age of conversational interfaces that are powered by our voice and gestures.” – Me.

We’re entering the age of conversational interfaces powered by our voice, sometimes even our gestures if there’s an AR/VR technology component in place, and it doesn’t even have to involve a screen. Increasingly, these devices do have screens, but their job mostly involves listening and delivering a spoken response.

And as marketers, we have a real opportunity on the horizon.

Voice search – It’s all about position zero and owning your graph

When you type a query into a search engine, hundreds of options pop up. It’s different with voice. When people engage in a voice search using a digital assistant, roughly 40 percent of the spoken responses today (and some say as many as 80%) are derived from “featured snippet” within the search results.

In search speak, that’s position zero. When you are that featured snippet in an organic search, that’s what the assistant is going to default to as the spoken response. Siri, Google, Cortana and Alexa don’t respond with the other ten things that are a possibility on that search page. Just the one.

When you consider this, it’s clear why position zero is becoming really important, because, while you might be number two in the text-based searches, you’re getting little to no traffic if people are engaging with intelligent agents and listening to the spoken response.

The opportunity here is to become that position zero, so you can win the search and win the traffic. But how? It goes back to the best practices of organic search, basic SEO, and having a solid strategy.

It’s embracing schema markup and structured data within your website, so you are providing search engines with signals and insights to be included in the knowledge graph. It’s claiming your business listings so that the data is up-to-date and correct. It’s understanding the questions people are asking and incorporating that question and conversational tone into your content.

Simply put: It’s understanding the language your customers are using so that you can provide value and answers in their own words and phrases. So, let’s conclude with that.

Understand how people are engaging with conversational AI

Let me ask you a question: How do you interact with your digital assistant?

My guess would be that you talk to Alexa, Siri, Google, or Cortana much like you would another human, and that fact has marketing implications — and opportunities.

Conversational AI for voice-assisted search is different from text-based search. If you look at the top 80 percent of queries, text-based searches typically range between one to three words. When we (at Microsoft, my employer) look at our Cortana voice data, the voice searches coming in range from four to six words. That’s substantially longer than a text-based search.

It means that people are engaging with the digital assistant as if they were in a conversation. They’re asking questions and engaging in almost full sentences. They are giving us signals of intent through their word choices and the questions they ask.

Given this insight, there’s an opportunity to think about the questions your customers are now asking. Think about what their need is in the way that your customers naturally talk, not in marketer speak or marketing terms,. Then, provide value back to them in that manner.

With conversational AI, we’re going back to being able to create an emotional connection through more meaningful conversations with our customers to build relationships. Brands will be able to differentiate themselves by adding emotional intelligence to IQ through these conversations.

With conversational AI, we’re going back to a time where we can understand more about the intent because consumers are giving us more information.

We just have to use it.

This story first appeared on MarTech Today. For more on marketing technology, click here.

The post Voice search isn’t the next big disruptor, conversational AI is appeared first on Search Engine Land.

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The ultimate guide to using Bing Webmaster Tools – Part 6 /the-ultimate-guide-to-using-bing-webmaster-tools-part-6-305320 Thu, 13 Sep 2018 17:47:10 +0000 /?p=305320 Part 6 of our special series focuses on how to customize and configure reports within BWT so you can zero in on what you need quickly and efficiently.

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In the first five parts of the Bing Webmaster Tools series, I covered both the publicly facing tools as well as the tools that require login to and a Webmaster Tools account to access. With all of these tools available at your fingertips have you ever wondered how often you should be logging in to manage your website or to access data?

When I took over managing search engine optimization (SEO) for the Windows team, I know that I did. I would log in almost every day to see what was happening and almost drove myself crazy!  But now?  I don’t log in to webmaster tools every day, instead I login in several times a month.  It’s not that I care less, I actually care more but I have configured my Webmaster Tools in a way I can zero in on what I need quickly.

I could write a novel about how I use Bing Webmaster Tools since the program has so many great features but here is a snapshot on how I’ve been using Webmaster Tools on a regular basis to manage my sites.

SEO is like chess, it’s a long game strategy

SEO is a long-game strategy, it’s not quick and fast, and often it takes weeks to months to see results.

Results are not guaranteed, I could have the most perfectly optimized site with amazing content, but not appear on the top of page one of the search results for a variety of reason. SEO is like chess where all of the updates and link building efforts are part of a well-planned strategy to improve performance in the long run.  Bing Webmaster Tools is an insights and diagnostics platform, it should be checked on a recurring basis throughout the month, not daily, to see if the improvements are impacting performance.

Day to day management.  On a day to day basis, watch for messaging from Bing Webmaster Tools that notify you of unusual activity or events. Bing will send notifications if they have issues crawling and indexing your site if your site violates the webmaster tools guidelines, as well as when you have issues with spam, malware, or phishing on your site.

If you are making significant changes to your sites, like a site migration, you’ll want to login or access the performance data through the Webmasters application program interface (API), more frequently to check on the impact to traffic.

Monthly management. Check performance dashboards on a monthly basis for anything out of the ordinary and use the data within webmaster tools to supplement your SEO strategy and reports. I start with the Site Activity Report that shows a snapshot of Clicks from Search, Appearances in Search, Pages Crawled, Crawl Errors, and Pages Indexed.

Within the site activity report, I check on the clicks and appearances from search. How are they trending, are there any unusual increases or decreases?

In all of the businesses I’ve worked on I’ve come to expect a weekly cadence of peaks and valleys of clicks from search but I will look to see if there is anything unusual. Take account of seasonality (if applicable) and potential impact from holidays. If something is still unusual and you want to dig in deeper, click through to the Page Traffic Report or the Search Keywords Report.

Next, I monitor the crawling errors and the pages crawled. If there is a spike in crawling errors, I head to the crawl information report for a more in-depth look into the type of crawl errors. In the snapshot above there are 35K+ crawl errors reported, but when I logged into the crawl information report, I can see that ~98 percent of the crawl errors are from 301 redirects. I now just need to spend a little more time understand and addressing (when possible) the 2 percent that are 400-499 errors.

Then I check sitemap submissions to make sure that they are still being indexed and crawled regularly, and then finally I do a quick review of the pages indexed totals to make sure they are in line with my expectations.

If everything from a traffic and crawling perspective is looking as expected, my next step is to prep for monthly reporting and aggregating data for my internal performance dashboards. To do this you have two options. First, if you have the resources you can use the Bing Webmaster Tools API to automate the data pulls and aggregation. Otherwise, you have to manually navigate from report to report to pull the data from the Reports and Data section of Webmaster tools.

Before you export data, double check the date range in the upper right-hand corner of the page. Here is what I track and the questions I’m typically answering with my data.

 SEO Reports, questions to ask.

  • Is the number of errors reported and the number of pages with errors changing?

Get to the SEO Analysis Details page by clicking on the SEO suggestion link. From there it will highlight up to 50 pages that are not in compliance with this best practice. Check your SEO Reports to see if you are making progress against issues identified by Bing. If you want to check a specific page of your website, go to the SEO Analyzer and analyze a specific URL.

Page traffic report and search keyword report, questions to ask.

  • What are my top performing keywords and pages on my site? How are they trending?
  • How many unique pages or keywords am I receiving traffic from?

Next steps and action items.

  • Pull data from an analytics account to merge together with the webmaster tools data to get a full picture of performance (end actions in addition to the site actions).
  • Check to see which pages and keywords that have shown an unusual decrease in activity – both in terms of clicks and end actions.
    • For decreases in clicks, look at changes to rankings, inbound links and the number of keywords driving traffic to the page, or the number of pages that were driving keyword clicks. Dig in to investigate further from there.
    • For decreases in end actions, look for changes happening on site that might be impacting performance.

Inbound links report, questions to ask:

  • Are there any major changes to my backlink profile?
  • Are there any changes in the number of nofollow links pointing at my site?

Next steps and action items.

  • Check to see if you are making progress with building your backlink profile.  At the end of the quarter, I pull together trending reports that have a synopsis of each of the reports so I can step back and monitor the trend lines. For traffic and conversions are the up and to the right, flat, or down. It gives me an idea of what items within my site management toolbox I need to dig into and potentially act upon.

Actions-based management checklist

There are also events, such as a site migration, that are not time-bound but based on specific actions you’re taking on your site.  You’ll want to check into Webmaster Tools to see the progress. This is not a comprehensive list of everything you can and should be doing, but can be used as a starting place or a reminder.  When you make changes to your website (site migration, site hierarchy change) or to content:

  • Use Fetch as Bing to make sure we can access your website.
  • Tell Bing where your URLs are moving to: Use the site move feature.
  • Tell Bing what to crawl: Update your sitemap.
  • Tell Bing what not to crawl: Noindex tags and robots.txt files.
  • Check to see if the content is mobile friendly.
  • Check for crawling errors and potential missed 301 redirects.
  • Check for inbound links pointing to 404 error pages.
  • Check to see if the number of pages indexed is changing.

When you update international content, look for:

  • The use of appropriate HREFLANG tags.
  • Tell Bing which country language to target, geo-targeting settings.

When you find URLs in the index or cache that no longer exist:

  • Tell Bing what not to index: Use the block URLs feature.

When you add or update structured data to your site:

  • Use the markup validator to check that Bing is able to read the structured data.

So while this guide to managing webmaster tools isn’t a definitive guide, it hopefully will serve as a swiss army knife to provide you with some guidance, or as a jumping off point for where to start.


Would you like to learn more about Bing Webmaster Tools? Here are Part 1,  Part 2,  Part 3, Part 4 and Part 5 of this multipart series.

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The ultimate guide to using Bing Webmaster Tools – Part 5 /the-ultimate-guide-to-using-bing-webmaster-tools-part-5-304664 Thu, 30 Aug 2018 12:00:00 +0000 /?p=304664 Contributor and Bing Chief Evangelist Christi Olson outlines the free publicity tools Bing offers in part 5 of our Bing WMT series.

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In the first four parts of this series, I reviewed the free tools Bing makes available to all webmasters once you have created, logged in and verified your Bing Webmaster Tools account.

Every subsequent time you log in, you get access to meaty data and an analysis of your websites’ performance, indexing, and crawling history on Bing. However, you can also use some free publicly-available tools that don’t require you to create a Bing webmaster tools account or to verify site ownership.

With these free tools, you can submit information to Bing (but not track the submission or status) and access some diagnostic tools quickly and easily.  Let’s take a look at each.

Submit your site

This tool allows you to submit a page to Bing to be discovered by our crawler.

If you haven’t had a chance to create a Bing webmaster tools account yet, but you want to submit a new site or page to Bing,  this is where you can go to let Bing know your site exists.

With the Submit your Site tool you can specify a subdomain or root domain to be evaluated for search indexation. The submit URLs featured in Webmaster Tools allows you to submit up to 10 URLs per day with a maximum of 50 URLs per month and it only tracks root domains.

Mobile friendliness test tool

This tool allows Bing to analyze a webpage to determine if it is mobile friendly or not. Test how easily a visitor can access your site on a mobile device and see what each page looks like on a mobile device.

This tool is super simple to use. Type in the full URL to the webpage you want to test and hit enter. The test is fairly quick (typically less than a minute to run) and will include a screenshot of how the page looks to Bing on a mobile device as well as any issues uncovered with usability.

If Bing can’t access the page it will display an error message like this:

Some of the causes could be network connectivity issues, the site being down, or a robots.txt file blocking Bingbot.

BingBot verification

Our verification tool allows you to verify the traffic that looks like Bingbot in server logs (based on a user agent string) actually is the Bingbot or a user-agent from Bing.

Why is this important and why would you want to check this? Two reasons:

  1. It’s useful if you are concerned that spammers or others with malicious intent are accessing your site while claiming to be from Bing.
  2. If you are seeing an increase in 403 error codes from valid Bingbot requests, it might mean your server configuration was set up to allow Bingbot based on a hardcoded IP address or a range of IP addresses. Bing doesn’t publish the list of IP addresses it uses to crawl the web because the IP addresses and ranges change frequently over time.

The verifying Bingbot tool removes the need to use other web-based reserved domain name system (DNS) and internet protocol (IP) lookup tools.

Knowledge Widget

The Knowledge Widget allows you to detect entities on your site and link them to the entity graph which is part of the Bing knowledge repository.  This lets you provide rich details and information about the entity on your site. You can customize how Bing visualizes the entities and how people can interact with the them.

Here is an example of the Knowledge Widget on the Forrest Gump page of Wikipedia:

Translator Widget

This widget allows you to bring real-time translation to your website so customers can see your site content in the language of their choice without having to go a separate website.

So the next time you are strapped for time or have a new site project that doesn’t has a verified account,  you can access these publicly-facing tools for some help.


Want to learn more about Bing Webmaster Tools? Here are Part 1,  Part 2,  Part 3 and Part 4 of this multipart series.

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The ultimate guide to using Bing Webmaster Tools – Part 4 /the-ultimate-guide-to-using-bing-webmaster-tools-part-4-304310 Thu, 23 Aug 2018 17:03:00 +0000 /?p=304310 In Part 4 of this special series, Contributor and Bing Chief Evangelist Christi Olson reviews widgets, copyright removal notices, webmaster tools API, specialty sections and how to contact support if you need assistance.

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In this section, I’m going to cover the following and an overview of the options and tools in each:

  • Widgets.
  • Copyright removal notices.
  • Webmaster Tools API.
  • Support.
  • Specialty services.

Widgets

All the widgets featured in this section are lightweight JavaScript modules you can implement on your website. The Translator Widget assists with real-time language translation, and the Knowledge Widget works with the Bing knowledge graph.

Knowledge Widget. The Knowledge Widget allows you to detect entities on your site and link them to the entity graph which is part of the Bing Knowledge repository to provide rich details and information about the entity. You can customize how Bing visualizes the entities and how people can interact with them.

Example of the Knowledge Widget on the Forrest Gump page of Wikipedia:

Translator Widget. This widget allows you to bring real-time translation to your website so customers can see your site content in the language of their choice without having to go to a separate website.

Copyright removal notices

The copyright removal notices include a list of URLs that have been removed from the Bing search results because a copyright takedown notice has alleged infringing content on the page.

If you believe that there is no infringing material at the specified URL, you can “Submit a Counter Notice” to have the request reviewed. If you are the legal copyright owner or its authorized agent, you can submit a copyright infringement report here.

Webmaster tools API

Bing Webmaster tools are also available through a free application program interface (API). You might not realize this, but it’s a hidden gem!

You can automate and track search performance and SEO activities directly through the Webmaster API. Almost all of the data available through our tools are available via the API, so you can grab a copy and plug it into your favorite dashboard to view your data. The Webmaster API is in the tools navigation menu, located just below the Copyright Removal notices.

Bing Webmaster Tools support

Everyone needs a little help now and then. If you are having an issue with verifying the ownership of your site, crawling, indexing or submitting your sitemap, you can reach out to the Bing Webmaster tools support team for assistance.

If you decide to engage with the support team, please choose the most relevant topic related to your issue and be prepared to provide your URL, a specific and detailed explanation of the issue and screen shots if possible for the issue you are experiencing.

Specialty services

We have several additional Bing services for webmasters, business owners and product manufacturers you may find useful.

Bing Places for Business. This is where you go to make sure your Bing local business listing data is up to date so that customers can find you.

Bing News PubHub. Publishers can submit their sites to Bing for consideration to be included in Bing News.

Bing Manufacturer Center. This section lets manufacturers provide details to Bing about their products, including multimedia images and videos. If you are the manufacturer of a product like laptops, TVs or cars, the manufacturer center is the hub for you to provide a complete source of product details.

When users search for a product by name, attribute, image or another piece of information, Bing uses the information submitted to the Manufacturer Center to match the products to search queries. Bing takes the data straight from the Manufacturer Center to create richer content in the Knowledge Graph Panel.


Want to learn more about Bing Webmaster Tools? Here are Part 1,  Part 2 and Part 3 of this multipart series.

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The ultimate guide to using Bing Webmaster Tools – Part 3 /the-ultimate-guide-to-using-bing-webmaster-tools-part-3-303876 Wed, 15 Aug 2018 19:15:00 +0000 /?p=303876 Bing Chief Evangelist and contributor Christi Olson reviews the Diagnostics & Tools and Security sections in Part 3 of our series on Bing Webmaster Tools.

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Today, I’m covering two sections of Bing Webmaster Tools, and both are very useful to anyone who wants to rank well on Bing. The two sections we will cover are:

  • Diagnostics & Tools.
  • Security.

Diagnostics & Tools

If you are interested in ranking well on Bing, this section will be particularly helpful, since this is where the SEO and keyword tools are housed. The tools here will help you identify and fix website issues to increase your overall search visibility.

SEO Analyzer

The SEO Analyzer is here to help you analyze individual pages for search engine optimization (SEO) performance.

To get started, just enter any URL into the toolbar and click “analyze.” This is identified with the “2” bubble in the screen shot above.

The SEO Analyzer can bypass the robots.txt directive and can scan any active URL on your site. This will allow you to check pages you may not want the Bingbot to actively crawl and index. If the tool encounters redirects, it will follow (to the best of its ability) the redirects and alert you to them in the report.

Once the analysis has been completed, you can click into each individual SEO suggestion identified (“3” bubble), which will contain an error count and the description of the issue, and if any redirects have been detected for the current URL.

On the right-hand side of the tool, you have different options for how to view your website. The Analyzed option provides the visual view of your content, and the Page Source option is the source code. Some of the SEO Suggestions will flag elements that are not visible in a given view, such as multiple tags, and will recommend you switch views to see the issues identified.

If you want to get more details about a specific issue, click the + symbol in the selected suggestion bar, and a pop-up will appear (“4” bubble) explaining the recommended actions.

Site Move

The Site Move feature allows you to notify Bing that your site has moved to a new domain or that you’ve moved a part of your site to a new location. This feature can help speed up the process for Bing updating a page’s location in the index.

Keyword Research

The Keyword Research tool allows access to Bing’s research data to get the organic query volumes for keywords on Bing, as well as related keywords. Unlike other search engine query tools, the volume is not rounded, so you can get a realistic snapshot of traffic volumes and how the traffic is trending over time.

There are filters to specify traffic for specific countries and languages. If you hover over the “$” after a keyword, you can see Bing Ads paid search data providing an estimated cost per click and bids for advertisers who are actively targeting the specific keyword through paid search.

Mobile Friendliness Test Tool

This tool allows Bing to analyze a web page to determine if it is mobile-friendly or not and what the page looks like on a mobile device. This is one of the publicly available tools that you can access without being logged into Webmaster Tools.

Fetch as Bingbot & Validate Bingbot

The Fetch as Bingbot tool allows you to see how the code of a given page appears to Bing.

The Bingbot Verification Tool allows you to verify if traffic from your server logs (based on a user agent string such as) actually is the Bingbot or just appears to be a Bingbot.

Why would you want to check this? If you are seeing an increase in 403 error codes from valid Bingbot requests, it might mean your server configuration may have been set up to allow Bingbot based on a hard-coded IP address or a range of IP addresses. Bing doesn’t publish the list of IP addresses it uses to crawl the web because the IP addresses and ranges change frequently over time.

Markup Validator

The Markup Validator lets you know if your structured markup data was implemented in a way that Bing can read it. It supports the following markup languages:

  • Schema.org.
  • RDFa.
  • Microformats or microdata.
  • JSON-LD.
  • Open Graph.
  • It does not validate HTML.

If the markup has been correctly applied, the markup will appear in a report below the “validate” button. What’s worth noting and calling out in this feature is that Bing is supporting and has updated the validator for JSON-LD as of June 2018.

Security

The Security features will notify you if Bing detects any harmful elements on your site. If Bing detects either malware or a phishing alert, it will notify you in this section of Bing Webmaster Tools. The Security section also provides details on security certificates and their expiration dates so a webmaster can remember when to renew their certificates.

Next week

Next week I’ll cover Widgets, copyright removal notices, Webmaster APIs and Tool support sections of Bing Webmaster Tools. Stay tuned!


Want to learn more about Bing Webmaster Tools? Here are Part 1 and Part 2 of this multipart series.

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The ultimate guide to using Bing Webmaster Tools – Part 2 /the-ultimate-guide-to-using-bing-webmaster-tools-part-2-303346 Thu, 09 Aug 2018 08:10:00 +0000 /?p=303346 In Part 2 of this series on Bing Webmaster Tools, contributor and Bing Chief Evangelist Christi Olson reviews four BWT sections: My Sites, Dashboards, Configure My Site and Reports & Data.

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Bing Webmaster Tools (BWT) has a lot to offer. Are you ready to dig in to learn more? In this section, I’m going to break down the first four of 10 sections and include an overview of the tools in each.

The four sections we will cover here are:

  • My Sites.
  • Dashboards.
  • Configure My Site.
  • Reports & Data.

Once you have verified site ownership with BWT, you will be able to start making use of all of the free tools and data in each section. Let’s dig in!

Section: My Sites

My Sites allows you to view the sites you have access to and add additional sites to be managed.

It provides you with a quick thumbnail of your website, the number of messages in your Message Center inbox and the percentage change for clicks from search, search impressions, pages crawled and pages indexed. From MySites, you can quickly navigate to the dashboard for a site by clicking on it in the table.

Section: Dashboards

The Site Dashboard is an easy-to-read snapshot of:

  • Your site’s overall activity.
  • The list of sitemaps that have been submitted, indexed and crawled.
  • Your site’s top organic search queries.
  • Your site’s inbound links.

To get a more comprehensive and detailed report, you can either click on the link below the snapshot or use the corresponding navigation in the menu on the left-hand side of the toolset.

Section: Configure My Site

In my opinion, the options available within Configure My Site navigation are the most important features within Bing Webmaster Tools (BWT).

This is where you provide input directly to Bing on your basic website configuration so it can crawl, access and index your website.

Submitting Sitemaps and URLs allows you to tell Bing about the structure of your website and make sure Bing is aware of pages you want to be included in the index. In the Submit a URL section. you can add URLs of pages directly into the Bing index. There is a limit of 10 links per day and 50 per month with this feature. This tool is also publicly accessible.

In the Sitemaps section, you can submit, delete or export sitemaps, as well as view the status and last crawl date for the sitemap. You do not have to resubmit a sitemap every time you change it. Bing automatically checks for sitemap updates on a regular basis. However, if you’ve made changes to your sitemap and Bing has not recently crawled your sitemap, you can resubmit it by clicking the “Resubmit” button.

Here are some things you should be looking for:

  • Check the status column. Are there any failed items? If yes, you’ll want to investigate why it failed. It could be an issue with the structure of the sitemap, or Bingbot might be blocked from accessing the sitemap.
  • Check to see if the number of URLs submitted mirrors the number of URLs in your site. If the number is significantly higher or lower, it signals that you need to investigate.
  • Check the last crawl date. If you’ve made significant updates to your sitemap and it hasn’t been crawled recently, you can resubmit it.

Ignore URL Parameters

The Ignore URL Parameters feature tells Bing which uniform resource locator (URL) parameters can be safely ignored because they don’t alter content on the page or website. Sometimes the URL parameters that appear after the “a?” mark in the query string can result in multiple variations of the same URL that point to the same content.

The Ignore URL Parameters feature helps to normalize the multiple versions so that only one version of the page is indexed.

What you should be looking for:

  • Ignore campaign parameters or variables that do not alter the content of a page like session IDs.
  • If you have a web page that uses a dynamic URL for a component like a product ID (&ProductID=12345) or article ID (&ArticleID=12345) that changes the content on the page, you should NOT add that parameter to the list.

Crawl Control

The Crawl Control feature gives you the option to tell Bingbot to crawl your site at a faster or slower rate by the hour.

At SMX Advanced in June, Frederic Dubut spoke about the Bing Crawler and how to utilize the webmaster tools Crawl Control feature. In his presentation, he covered how you can utilize the control features to adjust your crawl budget, which is how much the crawler thinks it can crawl your site without impacting performance.

How you should be using this feature:

You can either use the custom crawl patterns that provide you with preset schedules or you can manually set your own custom crawl pattern based on your specific hourly breakdown of traffic. For example, the 9 a.m.-5 p.m. preset crawl schedule will slow-crawl rates during the business day and will crawl faster during the late-night and early-morning hours.

Blocking deep links or URLs

The individual features for Blocking Deep Links and Blocking URLs allow you to block either a specific URL from appearing in the search engine result pages (SERPs) or deep links from appearing as additional linked content.

Deep Links are the organic search equivalent to site links in paid search. They are the links which appear below top-ranked search results, linking to different pages to allow more visibility and choices of content options for the searchers to select.

While today you don’t have the ability to create a deep link, you can block specific URLs from becoming deep links. Both blocking features allow you to block either the specific deep links or the URLs from appearing in the organic search results for 90 days.

The block can be extended for an additional 90 days at any point in time, and there isn’t a limitation to the number of consecutive blocks placed on either deep links or blocked URLs.

Deep links can be blocked at either the URL or country/regional level, whereas URLs blocks can be created at the directory or specific URL level and can also be specified to block the cache so the cached pages are also blocked from appearing in the search results.

What you need to know about blocking URLs

  • The best way to block URLs from appearing is to add a NOINDEX meta tag to the header of a page.
  • Bingbot needs to be able to access and read the tags on a page including the NOINDEX tags, so it’s important to make sure your robots.txt file is not disallowing Bingbot to access the NOINDEX pages.

Disavow Links

Links to your site are viewed as a “vote” for the quality of your website. The disavow tool tells Bing you don’t trust and want to distance your website from inbound links from a specific domain or directory on a separate URL.

Both Bing and Google recommend that webmasters reach out to remove as many spammy and low-quality links to your site as possible before disavowing links. However, if you’ve exhausted all options and aren’t able to make headway on getting links removed, you can use the Disavow Links feature.

What you need to know about Bing Disavow Links

  • This feature allows you to submit a page, directory or domain URL to be disavowed so that Bing does not take the specific links into account when assessing your site.
  • This is an advanced feature, and it should be used with caution.
  • Links that have been disavowed will still appear in the Inbound Link reports.

Geo-Targeting controls

The Geo-Targeting controls allow you to provide Bing with guidance on the intended audience of your website by connecting it with a specific country. It also allows you to define a country audience that can be applied at the domain, subdomain, directory, or even the page level for your website.

This geo-targeting feature helps provide additional signals to Bing and labels dedicated content to a specific country/market. This feature is intended for large-scale websites that have dedicated content built out for specific language and country targeting.

How to use this feature:

  • Use either the domain/subdomain/directory/ or specific URL option to identify the country- or region-specific content.
  • At Bing, we use the market-language code identifiers within a subfolder, so I would select bing.com/en-us as a directory type and associate it with the United States.
  • For Canada, since it can be country- and language-specific, I would create this: bing.com/en-ca — and — bing.com/fr-a

Why I love this feature:

I love this feature and its flexibility. Way way back in the day when I was managing SEO for Windows at Microsoft, I would have to answer the question each quarter as to why our US  dot-com site outranked our sites in Canada, the UK and Australia on their respective country-specific search results. Now, this tool does it for me.

Verify Ownership

The Verify Ownership feature provides you with the three options for verifying that you own the website and should be able to access the data through webmaster tools.

Connected Pages

The Connected Pages feature allows you to associate websites with their corresponding social media accounts to track how many impressions and clicks you get for your brand presence. You can add your various social pages as a group of connected content as long as they contain a link back to your verified website.

How you can use this:

  • This appears to be a relatively unknown feature, but one that can provide you with a more holistic view on the value of your web presence and digital brand on Bing.
  • Once you’ve enabled your connected pages, you’ll be able to access Connected Pages dashboard. This dashboard contains Bing search click and impression data for each of your connected pages. It also contains the top keywords your connected page is ranking for and the top inbound links to your connected pages.

Users

The Users feature allows you to control who has access and the level of access they have to your webmaster tools account. You can add and delete users from here.

First, log in to your webmaster tools account. Select which site you want to provide access to in the My Sites Dashboard. Next, select Users in the “Configure My Site” menu. Add the email address and the access role type (read-only, read/write, admin) and click the “Add” button.

Section: Reports and Data

The reports and data section provides comprehensive reporting tools which include:

  • Your page traffic.
  • Search keywords.
  • Mobile-friendliness report.
  • An index explorer to view how Bing sees your site when crawled, which helps identify opportunities and issues.
  • SEO reports based on standard best practices and recommendations.

All of the reports can be exported into an Excel file; many of them have additional views of performance data. Select either the “view search keywords” or “view served pages” links to open up a pop-up window with a more detailed view of the performance. Within the pop-up window, click the + symbol to expand and see granular performance data by rank.

Page Traffic

This is the overview of your top pages in terms of search impressions and clicks. By selecting the “View Search Keywords” option, you can dig in deeper to see keyword ranking performance data for the keyword and page combination by rank.

Search keywords

This is the overview of your top keywords in terms of search impressions and clicks. Similar to the top pages report, you can dig deep to get the list of URLs ranking for a given keyword and dig even deeper to see the performance of each URL by the ranking performance data for the specific page and keyword combination.

The search keywords report is a good tool to understand how your site is performing for each set of keywords by click-through rate.

Savvy search marketers can use this data to get a view of the average click-through rate by position within the SERP so you can understand what the potential increase in traffic and revenue could be. This will help make a case for SEO investments to improve your site rankings and ratings.

Inbound Links

This is the report showing inbound links to your website over time, along with a breakdown of the pages within your site the links are pointing to.

You should use this report to see if you are gaining or losing links over time. Clicking on the link count for a given URL will provide a comprehensive inbound link report, along with the URL of the linking website and the anchor text used.

You can export the inbound link report to get a better understanding of your link profile. Using Excel, I take the source URLs and strip them down to the root domain level and then look at my link profile for diversity and to see if it looks like a “natural” link portfolio.

Here are the criteria I use when looking for “natural” inbound links:

  • Diversity in the anchor text.
  • Diversity in the sites linking to you.
  • Diversity in the types of sites linking to you.
  • Diversity in where the sites are linking to you.

Once I get an idea where my backlinks are coming from and the anchors being used, I use a tool like Open Site Explorer, Majestic Site Explorer or SEMrush Backlink Management Tool to get more details about my inbound links and the sites they are from. I look at the number of links using nofollow attributes and link freshness, and I see if there are spammy links I should be disavowing.

Mobile Friendliness

This is a tool can be used in BWT or accessed from a direct link. It will analyze a web page and tell you if it’s mobile-friendly or not. Here is the standalone tool:

Click Analyze to get a breakdown of the factors that Bing uses to determine mobile-friendliness and exactly which factors need improvement.

Here are some of the main factors Bing uses to determine if a page is mobile-friendly:

  • Viewport configuration.
  • Zoom configuration.
  • Content width.
  • Readability of text.
  • The spacing of links and other content.

Crawl information

This is the status of your URLs from Bingbots last crawl and the issues Bingbot encountered while crawling your website.

By clicking on the number underneath the error alert, you’ll get a comprehensive list of the URLs returning a particular status or error code. This is one of the tools that flag if and when Bing is having difficulty accessing your site. It’s also the tool I recommend folks go to when they reach out to me personally to ask me why their site isn’t indexing for a given page.

Index Explorer

Index Explorer is a unique tool showing you exactly how Bing sees your website. It reflects all of the URLs we’ve seen for your website, including redirects, broken links and URLs blocked by robots.txt.

It provides you with data for a specific section of your website, including:

  • How many URLs have been discovered.
  • How frequently they’ve appeared in search.
  • How many clicks they’ve received.
  • The inbound link counts.

This information can help you get super-granular and understand how Bing sees your website so you can discover and uncover issues and opportunities for your organic search optimization strategies.

One tip I’d highly recommend is to start with a smaller website so you get the feel for how Index Explorer works. I attempted to dig in and learn the tool with Microsoft.com’s website, and the site structure is so complex that I felt overwhelmed.

I took a step back and started with a much simpler website and was able to learn the ins and outs of Index Explorer. I’m going to follow up with a more in-depth post about Index Explorer later in this series so you get a very detailed look at this terrific tool. Once you master it, it will provide you with a lot of valuable information.

SEO Reports

The SEO Reports tool discovers which areas of your site may need work to conform to SEO best practices. The tool is free and is included in BWT:

The reports are generated and updated every other week and are based on  SEO Best Practices to help you get started in some of the most common page-level optimization recommendations. Click on the SEO Suggestion to get an aggregated view of the counts of all of the issues found across your entire site and a list of the URLs that are not in compliance with the recommendation.

If you want to check out a specific URL, use the SEO Analyzer in the Diagnostics and Tools section of Bing Webmaster Tools.

I want to point out three things found in the SEO Reports and the SEO Analyzer tool which I find invaluable when optimizing sites. And did I mention they were free to use?

  • Learn the basics of on page optimization. I cut my SEO teeth on the SEO Reports tool set back in the mid-2000’s, when Duane Forrester was creating them for our internal team to use.
  • The report format makes it easy to identify, investigate and understand what you can do to make your site more discoverable and SEO-friendly to any search engine.
  • You can copy and paste the performance data and track the progress you are (or are not) making against fixing high-priority issues on your site.

Next week

Next up is the Diagnostics and Tools section of Bing Webmaster Tools. Stay tuned!


Want to learn more? Here is Part 1 of this multipart series.

The post The ultimate guide to using Bing Webmaster Tools – Part 2 appeared first on Search Engine Land.

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