The SEO world took notice last week when Bing performed something of an undercover update on its search algorithm. Apparently this overhaul is the search engine’s version of Google’s Panda update, although it may have made even more sweeping changes than its competitor’s content-farm crackdown.
According to Search Engine Land, Bing has taken a more comprehensive approach and is flat out removing sites from its index that are deemed insufficient. Google’s go at this critically hurt page ranks for many, but didn’t remove any.
So what’s being punished? It appears that holiday deal sites by and large are the victims. Dedicated Cyber Monday sites are difficult to come by, as were Black Friday sites (with the exception of Bfads.net). Google these terms and you’ll find pages like GottaDeals, BlackFriday.info, and CyberMonday.com—which are nowhere to be seen on Bing’s front page. And in some of their cases, they won’t be found anywhere. Searching “cybermonday.com” on Bing didn’t reveal the site (click to enlarge image below).
It’s a strange move, especially given how consumers have really hitched their train to holiday online shopping. But it appears Bing might be trying to cut down on the competition and rake in a little e-holiday traffic of its own. The search engine has launched its own Magical Hoiday Calendar, which boasts everything from “ideas and inspiration for updating old traditions” to daily prizes, like concerts, cars, and “fashion experiences.” The site is partnering with some big brand names as well, including Fiat, Spotify, and Hulu Plus.
The graphic is an advent calendar of sorts, and each day the appropriately numbered icon reveals some sort of “gift;” today’s is a video flashback on Bing’s progress this year. It’s a significant interactive multimedia project for Bing, which has to compete with the various Web products Google has for consumer eyes.
It would be too easy (and nonsensical) to assume this is the reason Bing squashed holiday shopping sites, but the fact remains that they were axed. And many of them aren’t spam or SEO-rigged sites: CyberMonday.com was bought by Shop.org back when the term was originally coined, and it is a go-to for daily discounts. It makes zero sense for the search engine to de-index these hugely searched terms right before the big shopping weekend, even if it were thinking it would end up driving some attention to its new holiday site. The timing is all a little strange.
However, this commentary from David Andre of CyberMonday.com hints at foul play:
“The site was dropped over the weekend right before Cyber Monday, and replaced with a LARGE promotion for Bing Shopping. Prior to Cyber Monday (and for the last 5 years), CyberMonday.com was the #1 result on Google, Yahoo, Ask, and MSN/Bing for searches such as ‘cyber Monday.’ We have screen images of Bing search from Monday November 28.”
While Google has pulled similar stunts before, the site at least attempts to be transparent with blog posts announcing and vaguely explaining the updates. But Bing often remains mum on algorithm changes. Users are noticing, however, and the search engine needs to start answering some questions.
A Bing spokesperson got in touch with us this afternoon and had the following to say about the search engine speculation:
“One of our main goals at Bing is to deliver quality results for our users. One way that we do that is to look closely for sites that don’t deliver the value searchers are looking for, and take action to protect searchers. As such, websites that seem to rely mostly on affiliate content or that offer only thin content may be demoted or removed from our index. This has been a long standing policy and is something we continually refine and look at closely throughout the year.
Black Friday and Cyber Monday are notorious times for spammers, and Bing took proactive action to protect our users by removing questionable domains. In an effort to protect our users some questionable domains may have been demoted or removed that some may consider legitimate sites. Bing did not replace algorithmic results with its own sites. Since its inception Bing has offered verticalized content like shopping and travel if it helps address a user’s intent. These Instant Answers are available for a variety of topics and scenarios, such as shopping, checking stock prices, or stats for athletes. The Bing Magical Calendar is part of a larger Microsoft marketing campaign that unveils new content and offers every day through the month of December and is unrelated… David Andre’s assertion that Bing replaced algorithmic results with its own content is simply not true.”