Recently I have been studying traffic patterns from search engines to this particular website to see where my sources of traffic are coming from. Over 65% of my traffic is directed here by search engines, with Google dominating at around 90% of the total search traffic, i.e. 58% of traffic to my site is directed here by Google.
I’ve always considered Yahoo! search to return the most dire results you could possibly imagine until I began to try out Bing and see if I can get more traffic from them. For every 1,000 searchers that Google sends me, Bing sends me less than 2. Yahoo! at least directs a significant portion of traffic here, and when I search for my own articles and exact keywords using Yahoo! search I am always on the first page of SERPs.
Not so with Bing. Search for OtakuNoZoku, yep! I‘m right there at the top of the page. But only the first two links, then it just devolves in to spam websites performing a “traffic analysis” of my own website and various other websites that have directly stolen content from here including the graphics and source code and internal links so that content scrapers are rating as high, or even higher than, my own content.
How about if I search for PHP or Unity3D or C# or any of the other articles I write on? Where am I? Well, nowhere to be found for the first five to ten pages usually. Even using the exact keywords on my pages concerning Unity3D, not exactly a subject that is flooded, and I don’t usually show up in the first five pages of results.
Well, okay, perhaps it’s just my website that Bing doesn’t like. Let’s try some queries for PHP problems and see if I get some good strong results. Let’s try “php shuffle() deck of cards.”
On Google, I get useful results, obviously I am interested in the PHP shuffle() function, and I want to apply it to shuffling a deck of cards. Google gives me page after page of shuffling algorithms in PHP, and links to the actual manual pages of PHP shuffle(), with nary a link to anything but that particular subject.
Bing? Oh Bing how brain dead you are. By the third link down I am being directed to various pay for play poker websites, and in the first five pages of SERPs I receive only five links to solving the problem in PHP, less than twenty links of how to solve the problem in other programming languages, and many more links to a waste of time. Seriously, what the fuck does a Japanese language DVD with Yuji Murakami showing card tricks have to do with PHP or programming?
Perhaps Bing is confused by the “deck of cards” part so we’ll remove that and just shoot for “php shuffle()” meaning I really want to know about the shuffle() function in PHP and nothing else. By the fifth link on Bing I’m getting more poker websites or magic websites. By the second page the results are beginning to devolve and by the fourth page, nothing. It’s all turned to shit. Waste of my time.
Google? I have to step through 17 pages of SERPs before I see the first non-programming link. Google returned what I needed, not what some vague algorithm thought I meant.
I tried over two dozen searches for various topics that should return highly relevant results, and on Google, they do! Even Yahoo! was able to keep up. But Bing? Bing was worse than useless. And for those that are wondering what that means, the expression “worse than useless” is applied to a tool that costs more effort to use than the output that it creates. I’ve worked with a few people like that too. If the results returned are irrelevant, it’s a waste of my time using the search engine to sift through the haystack looking for the needle.
Keep in mind that this isn’t a rant about how Bing is mistreating my website and I want them to treat it “all speshul like.” I don’t care about Bing because the audience that I cater to doesn’t use Bing to perform their searches. But now I understand why 58% of my traffic comes through Google and why my audience doesn’t use Bing. It’s because Bing, “the other big search engine,” doesn’t actually return search results that are useful to programmers. It tries to be clever by guessing what you meant rather than giving you what you actually asked for. I’m thinking no programmer or software developer is using Bing because they cannot actually find what they want through it. I wonder if Bing returns results that are relevant to anyone.
It seems that the Bing algorithm isn’t heavily weighted towards the useful content of the page, adding way too much emphasis to extraneous data scattered around the page. Simple page analysis of the pages returned shows that. Keyword stuffed sidebars and links seem to be returning some very odd results, along with the “guessing algorithm” that Bing is using to try and determine what you really meant. I know what I meant, I’m a damn programmer, being precise and exact
I’m sure Microsoft has some really smart people working on the algorithms that Bing uses, unfortunately I cannot seem to make any sense of how they are being applied to generate useful search results.
Where was I? Oh yes, as a programmer, being precise and exact is what I do all day, every day.
There needs to be viable competition in the search engine space, but Bing is not providing that competition. I’m not the only one that thinks Bing blows as a search engine and that very specific search phrases don’t return results even close to what you need. I could swear that Altavista in the 1990’s had better SERPs than Bing.
If my audience aren’t actually using Bing, and the only way Microsoft can get people to use it is to switch their default search engine when they update Internet Explorer or download various patches, why bother?. When web pages on this website, using very explicit search terms keyed to those web pages, don’t even show up in the first twenty SERPs, this indicates a fundamental flaw in the search algorithm. The miniscule amount of traffic I am going to see from Bing makes optimisation of any kind worthless.
So the question I have now is, do I bother optimising for Bing? Or just say “screw it” and treat the search engine as an also ran?