Something is rotten in the state of Bing search
Relja Novović, writing on BikeGremlin I/O last month, about a recent experience with the search results on Bing, where websites tend to just disappear for no apparent reason:
I ran into an interesting problem with the Microsoft Bing search engine (used by DuckDuckGo, Yahoo, Amazon’s Alexa and many others […]). My websites just got erased from their search results — overnight! Simply completely disappeared from Bing’s search results.
This is something I’ve been wanting to write about for the past year or so. I ran into the same problem as Novović, Lapcat Software’s Jeff Johnson, and many, many others. I’ve never taken the time to write about this outside of Twitter, but today feels like a good day to do so.
Earlier this year, I think it was January or February, I noticed that I couldn’t find my site on DuckDuckGo, which I then used daily. After checking on Bing — which DDG relies on — I noticed that specific requests for results for my domain returned an empty page, with a message saying “some results were removed” or something similar, and now it basically says nothing at all.
After days spent investigating the reason that might be behind this sudden disappearance from Bing’s index, I realised three things:
- The Bing Webmaster Tools support is not helpful if existant at all,
- The same thing seems to happen regularly to other people, including Jesse Squire. A quick Google search on this issue will tell you how common this phenomenon appears to be.
- Bing sucks, we all know this: it is a bad search engine, on top of being cringe. The fact that my main suspect in this investigation looks to be detailed in great length is this article by Chase Watts, Bing Exploit Allows Website Owners to Deindex Competitors (archive.org link since the original post is not on LinkedIn anymore), kind of proves my point.
Jesse Squire posted a follow-up post on this issue, after everything solved itself:
Fast forward almost exactly one month after Bing Support’s response. Ostensibly and miraculously my site is no longer violating Bing’s guidelines. I guess Bingbot changed its fucking mind. Woohoo. My site is now being indexed again by both Bing and DuckDuckGo. Jeff Johnson tweeted on June 21, about a week after his post, to celebrate that both his site and mine had been restored. After checking today, that seems to be true. Bing webmaster tools also confirms that my site is receiving some traffic. However, results on DuckDuckGo still seem incomplete compared to what they used to be, especially compared to Google. Oh, well.
To recap: I did nothing, Bing de-indexed my website, Bing said I violated its guidelines, I continued to do nothing, Bing restored my website, and now everything seems (mostly) fine.
Remember that Bing is owned by one of the biggest and most powerful companies the world has ever seen, that Bing’s index is more or less the only true alternative to Google’s, and that many other search engines depend on it for their product and survival.
If Google owned Bing, and if Google’s goal was to put their own search engine in an even stronger position than it is — 84% marketshare, they wouldn’t do anything differently than Microsoft:
- Build an alternative so that people have a choice
- Make this alternative terrible
- Don’t improve anything for a few years
- Watch users happily run to Google
- Consolidate monopoly on search.
Also, a few good details noticed by Relja Novović:
Another brilliant thing I noticed: Bing’s documentation/knowledge-base/FAQ has no search option! Ironic, isn’t it?
To add insult to injury, when you “Google” the term “BikeGremlin” on Microsoft Bing or DuckDuckGo, SERPs show BikeGremlin social-media accounts and results from a website “bikehow.com” that has literally copied my articles and re-published them!
This week, I tried one more time to get in touch with Bing support, I guess this makes it the seventh or eighth time. In a couple of days, I expect to receive a generic email saying that my website doesn’t follow Bing’s guidelines, without saying anything more, even if my website apparently follows every guideline. I have a background in SEO, I write original content, I have a very clean website, I use Bing Webmaster Tools and Google Search Console, and I can’t find anything wrong. I can’t find any reason for this removal. I can’t find any solution to this problem. Clearly, this is a Bing issue, and they are extremely bad at fixing it, or at least point their users to the right direction.
The good news is that apparently they can fix this problem, so this is me hoping I’m next on the “mistakes to fix” waiting list; not that I really care about being on Bing search results, but I do care about being discoverable on other meta search engines à la DuckDuckGo, Ecosia, or Qwant.