Google’s Panda update, a few months ago, made it significantly harder for websites without much independent content to rank highly in search results. After lambasting this move, Bing has now cut all sites it deems thin entirely out of search results, which some are calling a move toward anti-trust.
The Bing change
Over just a few days in November, Bing made some significant changes to the way search results were displayed. Websites that had previously displayed on the first page of Bing search engine results pages (SERPs) were completely gone from those same searches. Bing says that these changes were to remove pages that were “thin” from its results:
Some pages captured in our index turn out to be pages of little or no value to users and may also have characteristics that artificially manipulate the way search and advertising systems work in order to distort their relevance relative to pages that offer more relevant information.
The Black Friday theory
Bing claims that this change in its search results is entirely an effort to improve results for users. One thing many watchers have noticed, however, is that this change to Bing search results cut out almost all Cyber Monday and Black Friday search results that were not directly associated with Bing. Even cybermonday.com, which is operated by Shop.org, which Microsoft sponsors, was entirely removed from search results. What did still show up on Bing search results, however, was Bing’s own shopping site’s curated page of Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals, all of which send some revenue back to Bing.
A question of antitrust
Bing is currently a member of FairSearch.org, a coalition of groups calling for Google to “end anticompetitve behavior” and pushing for the federal government to take action against Google’s “unfair” ranking of websites based on factors under Google’s control, such as the number of +1 clicks on Google Plus. Bing, however, by removing websites that were in competition with its own shopping search products, was taking the same type of action that FairSearch calls Google out on.
What this means for affiliates
For affiliates and website owners, the move by Bing to remove thin sites and competitive sites entirely from its SERPs has a huge impact for affiliates. The end result is pages that use syndicated content, spun content or contain advertising only will eventually end up punished by search engines. Providing something useful to website visitors and having a well-rounded marketing strategy that includes SEO as a part, but not the whole, will be the most long-term effective way to move forward.