Keep an eye on Bing Webmaster Tools

Last year’s Yahoo!/Bing merger increased the importance of optimizing for Bing, since the engine now accounts for additional market share. But optimizing for Bing has been a bit hard to do, partially because of limited functionality within the Bing Webmaster Tools interface. Bing Webmaster Tools got a facelift in the middle of last year that left it with minimal functionality. However, a few recent changes show there’s been some nice development with the tool.

Bing has been particularly bad at handling duplicate content. Bing didn’t have the same parameter handling capabilities that you can find in Google Webmaster Tools, but that has improved quite recently. Released rather quietly by the Bing team, parameter handling is now available in their webmaster tools interface. The engine has yet to implement support for the rel=canonical tag or the cross-domain canonical, but word on the street indicates that canonical tags will be supported in Q1 or Q2 of 2011.

Right before Christmas, Bing released a new feature allowing you to see incoming links to your site. The one note: Bing is only including links from content it includes in its index, so while this information is not all encompassing it certainly provides a nice overview.

Another nice feature introduced is a re-crawl and submit feature. If you need a page to be re-crawled immediately, you can manually ask for it in Bing Webmaster Tools. There is also the ability to submit a new URL so that Bing discovers it more quickly, however this is limited to 50 URLs per month – no doubt to limit spam attempts.

These aren’t likely to be the only changes we’ll see. A post late last year on the Bing Webmaster Central blog indicates that the team is looking at several improvements to the tool, including developing support for a crawl delay feature. This is pretty interesting; while the engines can support crawl delays specified in the robots.txt and you can slow down your crawl rate in Google Webmaster Tools, Bing is looking into perhaps allowing you to turn off crawling at certain times of the day. Some webmasters have been requesting this tool for a while now, but it has never been implemented; it could help larger websites meet user and engine demand where site capacity is an issue.

While Bing Webmaster Tools is still in development and a bit behind Google in terms of functionality, it will be interesting to keep an eye on the tool this year to see how it develops.

About the author
Charlotte Bourne is a Search Marketing Strategist with Mediative. You can follow Charlotte on Twitter @everydaylife.