How mature is Bing and is it worth optimising for it?

While in the US they seem to be raving about the rise in search market share that Bing has achieved, even before the extent of the Yahoo results takeover becomes clear, here in Europe its making little impact on Google’s dominance. In fact the figures I see in the major market share analyst sites doesn’t seem to bear out the hype headlines anyway, which seem to be focusing more on % growth rates rates than actual share, but that’s beside the point I want to make right now.

I monitor a number of sites for search results and the impression I’m getting from these results is that Bing is far from stable. I’m seeing results yo-yoing wildly and the page being ranked changing frequently.

Yesterday I saw a strange result concerning two pages dealing with particular product names. The result for product  A dropped from near the top ranking to the sixth page, because page A was no longer ranking, instead page B was the one being ranked. Page B has no mention whatever of product A apart from the main menu entry. In another instance the ranking from product C moved from Page C to the home page, which again has no mention of product C.

Does Bing have a supplemental index?

So is this because the Bing boffins are still tweaking their algorithm, or is it maybe because they still haven’t finished a full round of indexing. Or could it perhaps be another reason?

This is the sort of behaviour we might expect from Google’s supplemental index when a page that has borderline PageRank drops from the main index to the supplemental index – though with Google you would expect the secondary ranking page to have at least some mention of the product being searched for!

Could it be that Microsoft have ambitions to index the same sort of volumes of data that Google aim at and are running into the same problems of having to exclude some pages from their main index in order to speed up search times? Now this is pure speculation on my part but if it’s true then what signals are they using to decide which pages are main index material and which are relegated to whatever their equivalent of the supplemental index is (assuming they don’t just tip them out of consideration altogether)? Does Bing have something like PageRank or is there some other indictaor that they use?

The reason this might be important is that I’ve seen a number of articles (admittedly American) suggesting that we should all start optimising our sites for Bing. Now aside from the fact that we should optimise primarily for users, not search engines, how would we go about this? If they do have a means of separating out the pages they take notice of we’d need to have a good idea of what it was before we could be sure that the sort of scenario I’ve mentioned above can be avoided. We know very little about the Bing algorithm and we don’t know yet how Yahoo will use their results when they start displaying them. In the UK it probably isn’t that important right now but if something were to cause a swing away from Google then it could get to be. And in the US it could affect 20% of the market.

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