Bing Takes Clear Stance On Mobile SEO: One URL

Mar 12, 2012 • 8:36 am | comments (13) by twitter Google+ | Filed Under Bing SEO

Bing Mobile SEODuane Forrester from Microsoft posted on the Bing Search Blog a significant statement on mobile SEO. He said that Bing proposes the "one URL per content item" strategy.

Google has not been bold enough to make such a clear proposal, but Bing has and I am happy they have done so.

Bing said:

At Bing, we want to keep things simple by proposing the "one URL per content item" strategy. For each website, instead of having different URLs per platform (one URL for desktop, another for mobile devices, etc.), our feedback is that producing fewer variations of URLs will benefit you by avoiding sub-optimal and underperforming results. It can help manage unwanted bandwidth usage as well.

Bing explained the benefits include:

  • You have more ranking signals coming to this URL. Example: the vast majority of mobile URLs do not have inbound links from other websites as people do not link to mobiles URLs like they link to regular web-situated URLs.
  • This is also less search engine crawler traffic coming to your web servers, which is especially useful for large websites. Fewer URLs to crawl reduces the bandwidth our crawlers consume.
  • Less work (and potentially less cost) building, updating and maintaining a stand-alone mobile-focused website.

At the same time, Bing is not suggesting that every single mobile URL should match to a desktop URL and be that desktop URL. There are times when you need to have mobile specific landing pages, but when you do, Bing suggests that you "opt to block from us via the usual methods (robots.txt, webmaster tools)."

Google on the other hand has been very indecisive on their mobile SEO recommendations. The latest recommendation from an individual Googler but not as an official Google policy was to use the one URL approach but Google has suggested so many different methods in the past.

I am very happy Bing has taken a stance on which way SEOs and webmasters should focus and try to set some guidelines for mobile development in the future.

Forum discussion at Bing Community.

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03/12/2012 12:47 pm

Duane is a great feller. He represents Bing beyond comparison. Clearing up the fog on this issue will help is focus on sending the right signals and improve our efforts to market our sites. Thanks Duane!

Bryson Meunier

03/12/2012 02:36 pm

Duane should probably have checked with his coworkers before announcing this, as Andy Chu, Director of Mobile and Local Product Management at Bing said in October re: mobile websites:  "Q.  Do you recommend creating mobile websites in order to get more qualified traffic from Bing mobile search?Chu: Yes, we encourage companies to create a mobile-specific site to optimize the small form factor mobile device experience for consumers."  And in the second personalized search session at SMX West, Rangan Majumder, head of the Bing ranking team actually said that mobile sites will outperform desktop sites for some searches in Bing. So this is actually not unlike Google in that the webmaster evangelists are appearing to contradict what other high ranking members of the company have said. At this point, though, Barry, your journalistic integrity is suspect at least, as you are obviously a convert to responsive design and want to find some endorsement from the engines to validate you. I'm sorry but it's not that simple. Say all employees from the search engines could agree that the one URL solution was preferable to building out content on a separate URL from a technical standpoint-- how would that make a site built with responsive design any more competitive for concepts that aren't on the desktop site? It wouldn't. If you're reformatting your desktop content and you've failed to account for differences in the mobile searcher user experience, the end result is going to be a sub-optimal user experience for mobile searchers, which will have them either getting frustrated with the site in question and going to a competitor site that's better optimized, or getting frustrated with the mobile search experience and going to a competitor search engine. I can assure you no search engine wants either of these things to happen, as both scenarios would ultimately lead to them closing their doors. The best way to account for mobile searchers specific needs is to make a mobile home page with a mobile-specific information architecture, and use responsive design only when the content should not change between mobile and desktop: Anything else may be mobile-friendly, but given that it won't get as much mobile search traffic, can hardly be called mobile SEO.

Barry Schwartz

03/12/2012 06:32 pm

I do not sell SEO services, so I have no benefit from supporting one view vs the next. I report on the forums here, I do not know why you are getting into "journalistic integrity"? That is very nasty of you.

Bryson Meunier

03/12/2012 07:07 pm

You do more than report, which is the problem. I didn't hear anything from you in October when Andy Chu recommended mobile-specific sites, and Rangan's comment is missing from your SMX West coverage. If you reported fairly there would be no need to discuss journalistic integrity.  You don't have to sell SEO services to benefit from supporting one view vs the other. You get search engine traffic from keywords related to these issues, and this benefits your ad supported site. If people see your reporting as less than credible it could lead to less search engine traffic down the line, which could eventually mean less revenue for you. This isn't nasty, this is the truth. Look, I think you know I've been a reader since you opened this blog and generally enjoy the content. Just wish you would consider both sides of this issue, as responsive web design isn't a magic bullet for everything in mobile SEO. You do your readers a disservice when you report the pros without the cons.

Barry Schwartz

03/12/2012 07:11 pm

I didn't report it then because the forums weren't talking about it. In any event, I have cited you and enjoyed your comments here. Just cause we argue on this point, it doesn't mean you have to be nasty to me. I've never said anything nasty about anything you do, despite us not agreeing on this point. And I have said, there are plenty of good times to create mobile only landing pages. But I still think, for the bulk of one's content, at least at this stage in the game, one URL, same content, different UI, is the way to go. That is until Google says otherwise. Duane is the voice of Bing and he has spoken. He can change his mind - feel free to ask him to.

Bryson Meunier

03/12/2012 07:45 pm

Didn't mean to be nasty so I apologize if it came across that way. I do know that you've stopped saying Google recommends responsive design because John Mueller does after I pointed out that many people in Google seem to disagree with John Mueller within Google, so I know you're somewhat objective. I just rarely hear any other viewpoints from you on this issue, so it gets a little frustrating to keep getting one side of the issue when I know there are serious drawbacks to it in terms of optimization. But to your point, that could be because responsive design is the popular viewpoint at the moment, however misguided I think it might be. I know Duane indirectly, and respect him, but I know his boss at Bing better. Will try to get some clarification from that team, as I think this perspective leaves as many questions as answers.  Especially in light of the fact that others Bing trusted to speak on their behalf have seemed to contradict him. We can agree to disagree on the same content one URL issue. I think I've demonstrated numerous times how brands are currently benefiting from serving mobile searchers different content, which doesn't really happen with responsive web design (even though it's possible to some extent). Whether Google or Bing officially endorses that view is irrelevant to me, as it's not against their guidelines and it's better for search engines and users generally, but you are entitled to your opinion.

Bryson Meunier

03/12/2012 08:24 pm

Three more things:  1) This perspective is primarily related to duplicate URLs, not mobile SEO, per se. Duane and Bing stopped short of saying always go with one URL, leaving it up to the webmaster to figure it out beyond duplicating desktop content for mobile users: "Can I still optimize display for mobile clients?  Is it the end of style URLs?We do not recommend you change everything right away. We are recommending that you think twice in your future strategies and figure out if the “one URL per content item” strategy can improve your SEO. Occasionally, it may make sense to keep some URLs targeted at specific clients (e.g. mobile devices), which you can opt to block from us via the usual methods (robots.txt, webmaster tools) or not. Our real concern is the hundreds of millions of additional URLs that are created on mobile-only domains, which for most of them will never accrue any value and rarely, if ever, rank in any form of search, yet still consume resources on both your servers and ours." If I as an SEO see value in creating a mobile homepage with content that mobile searchers are looking for, and then use responsive design to reformat duplicate URLs when appropriate, Bing would not, according to this article, oppose that strategy. 2) I would also say Bing's advice here is based on the principle that mobile URLs won't rank without link signals to tell Bing of the page's value; but this isn't true of Google search post December update, in which they released Old Possum/Skip redirect to solve this. This change will allow properly redirected smartphone URLs to rank without link equity for smartphone queries in Google search.  3) Finally, I might have to call BS on your claim that you're reporting on this because the forums are talking about it. As of this writing you're the only person in the forum link you posted talking about this. I know you can be objective, but you do have a clear bias for responsive design, and it's not helping your credibility on this issue, in my opinion. Not trying to be nasty, just reporting what I see.

Barry Schwartz

03/12/2012 08:30 pm

Yea, one more thing.  I suggested the SEL columnist team to pick you to write this up at SEL.  I said I rather not write it and let you do it because you have such a strong view on the opposite of what Duane suggested.    Just an FYI.

Bryson Meunier

03/12/2012 09:07 pm

Thanks, Barry. I appreciate it. You are looking more objective than you did this morning. :) Just to clarify, I'm not opposed to what Duane said for desktop URLs that are duplicated for mobile searchers on a separate URL. I just think there's opportunity to get more volume and satisfy mobile searchers beyond simply reformatting your desktop content for mobile search. Should I just upload the write up at SEL like I do my column then? Or will someone be getting in touch with me?

Barry Schwartz

03/12/2012 09:09 pm

I'll email you directly.

Winston Burton

03/12/2012 09:23 pm

Makes sense to me.  Use a separate style sheet to render the page successfully on a mobile phone :) 

SEO Company India

03/14/2012 12:32 pm

Definitely a great post. Hats off to you! The information that you have provided is very helpful.


04/07/2012 05:26 am

 if it's a one URL policy, then what's this? So directories one URL, and subdomains two?

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