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FEATURE: Duane Forrester: Behind the Scenes of
Bing Webmaster Tools Phoenix Update

by Virginia Nussey, June 20, 2012

Audience: SEO

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

Takeaways:

  • The Phoenix Update to Bing Webmaster Tools introduces new tools and features geared toward SEO intelligence.
  • Bing's Duane Forrester says that partnering with SEOs helps them improve search results.
  • SEOs of all areas, from in-house to agency, small sites and enterprise, provided UX feedback during development.

The name recalls the mythic creature rising from ashes; Bing Webmaster Tools Phoenix Update is surely meant to rouse the SEO community from any lingering complacency regarding the number two search engine.

Several new tools allow webmasters to see in-depth data directly from a search engine, including specific SEO recommendations and a backlink tool to replace the shuttered Yahoo! Site Explorer.

Bing Webmaster Tools manager Duane Forrester led the up-close-and-personal session introducing the tools at this month's SMX Advanced. He's been evangelizing Bing's tools to the SEO community, and answered some questions from us about what's going on behind the curtain of Bing's new Webmaster Tools.

Duane Forrester on New Bing Webmaster Tools

Bruce Clay, Inc.:
The Bing Webmaster Tools team clearly had SEO needs in mind when they were creating the new tools and features. What’s behind what seems like an embracing of the SEO community within Bing company culture? Did you test the new tools with or get feedback from any SEOs or SEO agencies?

Duane Forrester:
We have always had a focus on building partnership at Microsoft. This same thinking can be seen extended though Bing via the more obvious partnerships we have. Investing in Webmaster Tools is a way to partner at scale with website owners. 

If we offer insights that help them improve their site, those improved sites provide us with better results for searchers. Be that through a better user experience on the site, or through fixing issues which might impede discoverability. It makes sense to partner with webmasters and enable them as best we can. 

While it may seem like a recent evolution for us, we’ve been focused this way for a while now. The groundwork for these latest tools was laid over 2 years ago. It just takes time to get things ready to launch.

phoenixillustration.jpg

Before we put any ideas down for this redesign, we enlisted the help of a trusted design agency to run some User Experience testing for us. Prior to this we’d seen feedback through our surveys, in focus groups we’d held and via face-to-face interactions at the many shows we attended. 

Between being told THAT we needed to improve the design, that UX testing told us WHAT to improve.

Round one focused on the then-current tools. Feedback from that fed into the mockups used in round two of UX testing. Refinements followed the second round of UX testing. 

During these UX sessions, we did, in fact, bring in people from all walks of the “SEO life”. We brought in enterprise levels inhouse SEOs. We brought in webmasters from small sites, webmasters from medium sized sites. We brought in consultants and reps from agencies. And as fortune would have it, the three major drivers of this project internally have a history in SEO themselves.

Bruce Clay, Inc.:
Do tools like the Link Explorer query the live crawl database or is there a snapshot database created that the queries for the Link Explorer data are made against?

Duane Forrester:
SEO Analyzer and Fetch as Bingbot are on-demand tools, fetching based on your request in real time. Link Explorer pulls data from the same index that powers our web search here at Bing.

Bruce Clay, Inc.:
Are numbers such as "appeared in search" exact or are they estimates? Which numbers are exact and which are estimates? If estimates, what makes them estimates (i.e., some sort of algorithm or is it a subset of data and extrapolated)?

Duane Forrester:
Exact. We’re showing you what your pages have appeared for as exact numbers. Key is to remember that this is inclusive of appearances in Bing and Yahoo search results as we power both, so view the data as a whole picture from the Bing ecosystem.

Bruce Clay, Inc.:
I’ve attached a screenshot of the Webmaster Tools dashboard for BruceClay.com. In the list of top keywords from organic search appears the keyword [“your website name gives you the best search results and keyword bidding”]. It says this phrase appeared in search nearly 9,000 times. This seems odd. What do you think is the story behind this?

BingWMTdash.jpg

Duane Forrester:
It’s not a phrase that saw any play in Bing results, which means the impressions would have come from the Yahoo side. I see bruceclay.com on the 3rd page in the Y! results, so I think the real question is did it convert at all for you guys? :)

Editor's note: Some quick searches on Bing and Yahoo! show that BruceClay.com is not a result in Yahoo! for this query however it is on Bing page 3 for the query. We were unable to obtain follow-up comments regarding this issue.

Bruce Clay, Inc.:
Have you ever considered a service that alerts users when important (as defined by the user) search keywords values changed significantly? Or changes to pages indexed?

Duane Forrester:
Our current alerts are focused on helping websites understand when something truly problematic is happening. Canonicals gone wild, malware issues, etc. Is this something websites owner want today? We’re always looking for fresh feedback and new tools people feel they could use to improve the quality of their websites.

Bruce Clay, Inc.:
If you were an SEO, which tool do you think you’d spend the most time in?

Duane Forrester:
OK, let’s pretend I’m an SEO … I’d be using Bing Webmaster Tools simply because of the sheer depth of useful data the new tools put forward about my site. So much information now exists in these tools around what to work on this choice is a no brainer. 

I’d be using Google’s Webmaster Tools as well, because any insight into how an engine interacts with my site is valuable. Beyond that, I’d be looking for specific tools to help with specific work. Medium to large sites are well served to look into paid tools to help them manage at scale.

If you’re asking me, as an SEO, which toolset would I choose between Bing and Google, let me share a list with you to illustrate what extra things Bing brings to my workday, then I’ll ask why would I spend more of my day in a space that provides me less information?

  1. Organic Keyword Research
  2. Rich Rank Stats
  3. Index Stats
  4. Index Tracker
  5. Canonical Alerts
  6. SEO Reports
  7. SEO Analyzer
  8. Link Explorer

More Time with Duane Forrester

SEO Eric Enge also spent time with Forrester and the new tools. Check out his demo of the new areas of Bing Webmaster Tools at the Stone Temple Consulting blog.

By providing webmasters with more data, Bing may be able to attract marketers looking for greater insights into their efforts. Businesses may then push consumers to Bing through advertising and marketing campaigns that play to Bing's strengths. Bing's SEO-friendly updates to Webmaster Tools is an inside-out strategy for growing search market share. And one that SEO's appear to be reaping the benefits of.



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