Search giant Google joined in the SOPA protest Wednesday, not just with its blacked-out Doodle, but by agreeing to slow down its crawl rates during the Internet blackout. This meant sites that blacked out their pages wouldn’t suffer in search rankings.

Google said in a Google+ post that it would slow its crawl rate to accommodate sites that wanted to join the protests, and even recommended ways to make sites continue to rank well.

Cloudflare, though, found that Google slowed as much as 60%; Baidu was down 11%, but Bing was up just slightly by 2.35%.

Watch the video above to learn more.

If you took down your site in protest of SOPA and PIPA Wednesday, did you prepare it for the SEO fallout, or were you not concerned about ranking?

Check out a gallery below to see some of the sites that went offline.

Nedroid




These sites have “blacked out” Wednesday, Jan. 18 in protest of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). It makes it just a little bit easier to imagine what the web could look like if some of the measures from the proposed bill were to become law.

Click here to view this gallery.

[via The Next Web]

Thumbnail image courtesy of iStockphoto, LICreate

More About: bing, Google, SOPA

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Back in June, Bing made some important changes to their Webmaster Tools platform. They finally caught up to Google in terms of providing a comprehensive resource for developers and search marketers to utilize. Given that these changes have been out for over a month now, this is old news. However, Bing is often overlooked or at the bottom of the priority list for many site owners and SEMs.

Time and time again I’ve heard ‘focus on Google and the rest will follow’. This approach can sometimes backfire given that they are still different engines. Unique issues can pop up and if you’re too narrowly focused on tracking Google, they might not ever be identified.

One reason to ensure you are submitting your XML sitemap to Bing is that the engine has a harder time following links than Google. So if Bing isn’t finding your pages by following links from other sites, it’s possible that pages (especially deep pages) within the site might not be getting indexed.

With that said however, I’m not sure Bing really adds value beyond what Google Webmaster Tools already does. These improvements have enabled Bing to simply catch up to Google in terms of the types of resources available to webmasters. It’s a step in the right direction and the interface is very user friendly, maybe even more so than Google, if I dare say. But I would love to see some differentiation surrounding available reports from Bing.

Bing

Have you submitted your sitemap to Bing Webmaster Tools yet? Would love to hear your thoughts on how valuable you think this is.

Check out the SEO Tools guide at Search Engine Journal.

That Bing You Do





search image

Jeff Ente is the director of Who’s Blogging What, a weekly e-newsletter that tracks over 1,100 social media, web marketing and user experience blogs to keep readers informed about key developments in their field and highlight useful but hard to find posts. Mashable readers can subscribe for free here.

Algorithms aren’t going away anytime soon now that websites have a better way to directly describe their content to major search engines. Earlier this month, Google, Bing and Yahoo came together to announce support for Schema.org, a semantic markup protocol with its own vocabulary that could provide websites with valuable search exposure. Nothing will change overnight, but Schema.org is important enough to bring the three search giants together. Websites would be wise to study the basics and come up with a plan to give the engines what they want.

Schema.org attempts to close a loophole in the information transfer from website data to presentation as search results. As they note on their homepage: “Many sites are generated from structured data, which is often stored in databases. When this data is formatted into HTML, it becomes very difficult to recover the original structured data.”

Simply put, Schema.org hopes to create a uniform method of putting the structure back into the HTML where the spiders can read it. The implications go beyond just knowing if a keyword like “bass” refers to a fish, a musical instrument or a brand of shoes. The real value is that websites can provide supporting data that will be valuable to the end user, and they can do so in a way that most search engines can read and pass along.


How Schema.org Works


Schema.org was born out of conflict between competing standards. Resource Description Framework (RDF) is the semantic standard accepted by The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). The Facebook Open Graph is based on a variant of RDF which was one reason that RDF seemed poised to emerge as the dominant standard.

Until this month. Schema.org went with a competing standard called microdata which is part of HTML5.

Microdata, true to its name, embeds itself deeply into the HTML. Simplicity was a key attribute used by the search engines to explain their preference for microdata, but simplicity is a relative term. Here is a basic example of how microdata works:

<div itemscope itemtype="http://data-vocabulary.org/Person">
<span itemprop="name">Abraham Lincoln</span> was born on

<span itemprop="birthDate">Feb. 12, 1809</span>.

He became known as <span itemprop="nickname">Honest Abe</span> and later served as <span itemprop="jobTitle">President of the United States</span>.

Tragically, he was assassinated and died on <span itemprop="deathDate">April 15, 1865</span>.

</div>

A machine fluent in Microdata would rely on three main attributes to understand the content:

  • Itemscope delineates the content that is being described.
  • Itemtype classifies the type of “thing” being described, in this case a person.
  • Itemprop provides details about the person, in this case birth date, nickname, job title and date of death.

Meanwhile, a person would only see:

“Abraham Lincoln was born on Feb. 12, 1809. He became known as Honest Abe and later served as President of the United States. Tragically, he was assassinated and died on April 15, 1865.”

Fast forward to the web economy of 2011 and restaurants can use the same technology to specify item properties such as acceptsReservations, menu, openingHours, priceRange, address and telephone.

A user can compare menus from nearby inexpensive Japanese restaurants that accept reservations and are open late. Schema.org’s vocabulary already describes a large number of businesses, from dentists to tattoo parlors to auto parts stores.


Examples of Structured Data Already in Use


Structured data in search results is not new. The significance of Schema.org is that it is now going to be available on a mass scale. In other words, semantic markup in HTML pages is going prime time.

Google has so far led the way with structured data presentation in the form of “rich snippets,” which certain sites have been using to enhance their search listings with things like ratings, reviews and pricing. Google began the program in May 2009 and added support for microdata in March 2010.

A well known example of a customized structured search presentation is Google Recipe View. Do you want to make your own mango ice cream, under 100 calories, in 15 minutes? Recipe View can tell you how.


The Scary Side of Schema.org


Google, Bing and Yahoo have reassured everyone that they will continue to support the other standards besides microdata, but Schema.org still feels like an imposed solution. Some semantic specialists are asking why the engines are telling websites to adapt to specific standards when perhaps it should be the other way around.

Another concern is that since Schema.org can be abused, it will be abused. That translates into some added work and expense as content management systems move to adapt.

Schema.org might also tempt search engines to directly answer questions on the results page. This will eliminate the need to actually visit the site that helped to provide the information. Publishing the local weather or currency conversion rate on a travel site won’t drive much traffic because search engines provide those answers directly. Schema.org means that this practice will only expand.

Not everyone is overly concerned about this change. “If websites feel ‘robbed’ of traffic because basic information is provided directly in the search results, one has to ask just how valuable those websites were to begin with,” notes Aaron Bradley who has blogged about Schema.org as the SEO Skeptic.

“The websites with the most to lose are those which capitalize on long-tail search traffic with very precise but very thin content,” Bradley says. “Websites with accessible, well-presented information and — critically — mechanisms that allow conversations between marketers and consumers to take place will continue to fare well in search.”


Three Things To Do Right Now


  • Audit the data that you store about the things that you sell. Do you have the main sales attributes readily available in machine readable form? Make sure you have the size, color, price, previous feedback, awards, etc. easily readable.
  • Review the data type hierarchy currently supported by Schema.org to see where your business fits in and the types of data that you should be collecting.
  • Check your content management and web authoring systems to see if they support microdata or if they are at least planning for it. Microdata is not just a few lines of code that go into the heading of each page. It needs to be written into the HTML at a very detailed level. For some site administrators it will be a nightmare, but for others who have done proper planning and have selected the right tools, it could become an automatic path to greater search exposure.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, claudiobaba

More About: bing, business, Google, MARKETING, Schema, schema.org, Search, SEM, SEO, Yahoo

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Bing has been able to hold its share of the search market while scrambling slowly up the ladder thanks to its “niche targeting.” Rather than trying to provide the best possible results in every sector, they have focused in on sectors like shopping, sports, images, maps, and travel. To help further this approach, Bing recently partnered with the company KAYAK – a flight, hotel, and vacation search company that will now be powering the results in Bing’s travel search.

Bing states that this move is designed to allow the core Bing team to “focus our development resources on delivering even more unique and valuable features for customers.” Another way of stating that is that Bing is admitting they can’t do search as well as KAYAK, but are confident of their ability to reallocate those resources to other, more worthwhile projects.

Jay Bhatti, a former Microsoft employee, gave his feedback on the deal. Among other items of note, Bhatti reminded the industry that this is the second time that Bing has gone to an outside travel group. Their $100 million buyout of Farecast several years back seems to have been little more than wasted money. Bhatti also comments on how the deal is likely to be demoralizing for members of the Bing team.

KAYAK has been a vocal company inside the industry, especially when it comes to their relation to the major search engines. When Bing was first released, KAYAK representatives actually complained that Bing seemed to be mimicking their structure and services. More recently, KAYAK has been pushing to stop the Google-ITA deal. The Bing partnership will at least resolve the copy-cat accusations.

While Bing entered the search arena as an innovator, eager to create its own internal projects that would dazzle the denizens of the world wide web, their focus has clearly shifted in recent months. The partnership with KAYAK to run travel search is just one of several recent acquisitions, with the list also including the very recent partnership with The Dealmap. Far from trying to present their own niche specializations, Bing is buying or partnering with experts in the field, forming a collage of different search technologies in its bid to gain ground on Google. As for whether this tactic will work, only time will tell.

[via the Bing Blog and Business Insider]

Update: I received a message from a Microsoft PR representative clarifying that KAYAK had not been purchased, but was simply partnering up with Bing. Her message clarified the exact nature of the deal:

Bing Travel and KAYAK announced a partnership to incorporate KAYAK travel search services within Bing Travel in the U.S, starting with flight search. Bing Travel tools, together with KAYAK’s comprehensive travel search results, will allow travelers to easily and quickly find the best airfare on the Web. What this means for Bing Travel customers is that, in the coming weeks, travelers will have access to a more comprehensive set of flight itineraries including more airlines, airports and cities; in addition to the unique travel tools Bing Travel provides such as Price Predictor, flexible search, Flights Answers and more.

Check out the SEO Tools guide at Search Engine Journal.

Bing Partners with KAYAK Travel Search


Most of the world looks at corporations as unfeeling, sometimes mechanical organizations that act in the interests of shareholders and (we hope) the general public. What we don’t expect is that these corporations will start throwing insults and accusations at one another like aggravated adolescents. However, that’s precisely what’s happening. Google, convinced that Bing has been cheating by using their top SERP (and actually showing some pretty significant evidence along those lines) called the Microsoft search engine a “cheater.” Now, immediately after denying the claims, Microsoft is calling Google a webspam profiteer.

This all happened on a the Farsight webspam panel, where Microsoft representative Harry Shum (Vice President of Search Development for Bing) first addressed the concerns of copied results. He questioned why Google hadn’t come to Microsoft with the concern first, rather than making a mess of the entire situation in the press, and further stated that the evidence presented by Google was comprised of “a few outlier examples constructed very creatively.”

Was Shum trying to “get even” when he launched into criticisms of Google playing “both sides” of the spam war? That’s hard to say for sure, but it certainly looks like it. “I’d say you [Google] are really sidestepping the big problems, the origin of spam, why they appeared in the first place,” Shum stated. “There must be an economic incentive to create this kind of content. Why? 70% of those pages show Google Ads.”

Matt Cutts, head of Search Quality and often seen as the voice of Google, stated that Google Ads were irrelevant when it came to spam monitoring, and that Google Ads made up a fairly small portion of the field when compared with other affiliate programs incentivizing spam sites.

So Bing is a cheater, Google is a spam profiteer. Meanwhile, I’m just waiting for someone to start shouting “I am rubber, you are glue.”

Check out the SEO Tools guide at Search Engine Journal.

Microsoft Accuses Google of Profiting from Spam


It’s not often that the major technology companies start accusing each other of cheating directly. In fact, while constantly at each other’s throats, these groups usually pretend to play nice — while doing everything legally possible to prevent each other from progressing. With that in mind, it’s been a very entertaining week, with Google accusing Bing of cheating by using Google’s search engine results, Bing denying it, and now Google providing some backup to their claims.

It all started with a post from Danny Sullivan at Search Engine Land, which evoked a fairly immediate response in the simple line of “We do not copy Google’s results,” quoted over at ZDNet. Now Google is bringing the battle to their home turf with a full blog post on the topic — all designed to substantiate the claim.

Amit Singhal, the Google Fellow who’s backing up the accusations, runs us through the entire story. It starts with the term “tarsorrhaphy,” a surgical procedure that almost no one knows about — and that Google was the first to find the common misspellings for. While Google queries for the misspelled word returned the typical smug “didn’t you mean” suggestion, Bing seemed to be lifting the top Google result without bothering to give the corrected spelling.

However, this was just the start. Google reps started looking at the query results from Bing, focusing on both common and bizarre terms to get a sense of the field. The definite trend was that the top Google result, even when it was “something [Google] would consider mistakes of our algorithms,” was displayed as the top Bing result.

To be certain, Google did what any good corporation would do — they created completely fake terms and loaded the top result with a site that was irrelevant to the imaginary keyword. Once again, Bing showed the top, and intentionally unrelated, Google result. Busted, Bing. Busted.

Check out the SEO Tools guide at Search Engine Journal.

Google Backs Up Claims that Bing Is “Cheating”


Bing may not have the biggest portion of the market (in fact, being generous, they have about 10%), but the group they have is fiercely loyal. Why? Is it the National Geographic images on the home page? Is it the dedicated loyalty to any Microsoft product? Is it how memorable the name “Bing” is? We think not. Rather, it’s all because Bing has done an excellent job at branding itself for several key niches. Furthering its position in the travel search niche, Bing has added a “destination comparison” tool.

Bing only introduced “destination pages” in the last few weeks, but their Bing blog is already excitedly discussing new user-end abilities to interact with the page. More specifically, users can compare various destinations by showing flights, weather, events, videos, attractions, hotels, and more for each, all in a sleek side-by-side display. The feature will also suggest new, similar comparisons for you to add in case you want to make your decision any more complex.

Want to do your own search? Here’s how:

  1. Go to the “Travel” page of Bing.
  2. Go to the “Destinations” section.
  3. Hover over the visual image display. A new “compare” option should appear.
  4. Click on the check-box next to “compare.”
  5. Rinse and repeat for any other possible destinations.
  6. Click the “Compare X items” button that has appeared in the top-right of your screen.

Bing’s feature update doesn’t end there, however. Aiming to make Bing the “travel search of choice” for users, Microsoft has added in an enhanced hotel information search in both the destination comparison and other travel sections of Bing. New information will include more images, detailed descriptions, user reviews, and more.

While Bing has fallen behind Google in most areas of the search engine battlefield, their search features continue to thrive; there’s no shame in doing your travel searches on Bing.

Check out the SEO Tools guide at Search Engine Journal.

Bing Adds a Destination Comparison in Travel Search