Webmaster Center blog comments Q&A, Round 3

The Bing Webmaster Center team has been very busy lately, working on very cool stuff that we can’t wait to share with you (patience, Grasshopper – all will be revealed in time). But the blog waits for no one (well, that’s the intent, anyway). From time to time, we gather up enough interesting tidbits of Q&A that we want to share with all of our blog readers. Now it’s that time again. So let’s get to it.

Q: I’m not able to gain access to Webmaster Center with the authentication code used in a <meta> tag. Can you help?

A: The Webmaster Center online Help topic Authenticate your website recommends using a <meta> tag formed as follows:

<meta name=”msvalidate.01″ content=”0123456789ABCDEF0123456789ABCDEF” />

However, some users attempt to combine the flow of authentication codes for multiple sites in the <meta> tags. If you must use the <meta> tag method of authentication (as opposed to the XML file authentication method as described in the Help topic), we recommend placing your Bing Webmaster Center authentication code last so that it is not followed by a space. In addition, Webmaster Center does look for the proper XHTML-based closing of the <meta> tag – the ” />”, so be sure to use this closing in your code.

This issue is discussed further in the Webmaster Center forum topic Site Verification Error for Bing Webmasters Tools.

Q: Why do I have to register as a user in the Webmaster Center blog just to post a comment?

A: We were getting a few non-registered visitors who were posting way too much spam in the blog comments. We needed to block that junk from being posted, so we implemented a new rule that requires folks to register before they can leave comments. Since we can control spam from registered user accounts, we felt this was the best course for minimizing the disruption of irrelevant comments. We hope this is not a hardship on anyone!

Q: I’ve posted two random blog comments requesting inclusion of my site into Bing News Service? Why haven’t you added my site?

A: Let’s redirect those requests to the right place. To request that Bing add your news site to our list of news sources, we ask that you send the request via email to the Bing News Service team. Please be sure to identify yourself, your URL, what types of news you provide, your audience, and any other determining factors such as awards won, etc.

Q: I have a very complicated or specific question to ask about my site and the Bing index. Can you answer it here?

A: Blog comments are best used for furthering the conversation about the associated blog article. Specialized service requests or specific questions about Bing products and services requiring detailed, individualized answers are always better left in the Bing Webmaster Center forums as a starting place. We have a forums administrator on staff who, along with the regular VIP contributors there, can offer helpful advice and insight to your questions. There are some amazing folks participating over there!

Q: How do I get my company listed in the Bing local listings?

A: Use the Bing Local Listing Center form. You may need to sign in to your Webmaster Center account or create a new sign-in account to access this form.

Q: How can I ensure that my local business contact information (address and phone number) from my website get into the Bing index?

A: One common problem we see with this is that some sites rely solely upon an image containing text to convey this information. This is not good practice for SEO. If you want to be sure MSNBot (or any other search engine bot) can to read such information, please add it to your website as text (the image is OK as long as the text version also exists)!

Q: Your recent posts on web spam has brought up a question: how do I report web spam that I find in search engine results pages to Bing?

A: To report web spam sites, we recommend that you go to the Bing Support web form to file the complaint. In the Problem list, select Content Removal Request. In the resulting list box, select Other. In the comments text box, include specific and detailed information in your report. Complete the rest of the form and then click Submit.

A member of the Bing web spam team will review the report and investigate the matter. If the report is accurate, appropriate action will be taken. Note that if the report is malicious and false, no action will be taken against the accused site.

Q: My website offers tax-related services. As a result, I use the word “tax” numerous times in my content. Could Bing consider my site to be web spam due to the appearance of keyword stuffing? When do I cross the line from acceptable to web spam?

A: The key here always comes back to how the content appears to the human reader. Is it logical? Is it readable? Does it make sense? In this particular case, the repeated use of the word “tax” in content regarding tax services offered is reasonably expected and thus is fine. In fact, including a solid set of explanatory content that defines these keyword phrases only strengthens the case for reasonably repeating this word. If the use of this repeated word makes contextual sense to the reader and is not a clumsy attempt to stuff the word in where it’s not necessary or helpful, and you have a good amount of supporting content to accompany it, you’ll be fine. Our crawler sees this usage and understands it is legitimate. Just write your content for the reader’s comprehension and the crawler will not penalize you for keyword stuffing.

The important thing to remember is that true web spam often involves multiple issue violations. As such, it typically takes more than one violation to trigger web spam consequences – having a slightly above average number of keywords won’t automatically torpedo your site. Just as you need to do several things well to improve your ranking (build good content, build valuable inbound links, target several keywords, etc.), you need to do several things wrong to really hurt your ranking. That said, if it’s obvious that you are trying to abuse the system, even with just one egregious issue, then penalties will ensue.

Lastly, we don’t define any borderline between acceptable and non-acceptable web spam. If you think what you’ve done might be considered web spam because you know you’re trying to game the system, then take a different approach to optimizing your pages. I’ll repeat my mantra: write content for the human reader, not the crawler. Develop good, unique content that is readable, understandable, and valuable. If you do this without involving any black-hat, SEO-style trickery in an effort to artificially boost your ranking, then you’ll never have to worry about this being an issue.

Q: Regarding backlinks in forum comments and link-level web spam, is it only a problem when the page linked to is not relevant to the conversation in the forum, or is this a problem for all backlinks?

A: It always comes down to whether the effort is intended to legitimately benefit the human reader or benefit the owner of the link. If the link in a blog comment is relevant to the content in both the blog article and the blog comment and as an extension to that content, is of value and interest to the reader, then it is not a problem. In fact, this is a fine idea (whether or not the rel=”nofollow” attribute is automatically applied by the blog to user-generated links). However, if the link in the blog comment is not relevant to either the blog article or the blog comment’s content, is not of relevant, legitimate interest to the reader, and instead is only beneficial to the link owner, then that is web spam. It’s pretty straight-forward.

Also consider how the blog comment link is formed, as in whether it is a single link inline to the comment’s content or is it a bazooka blast consisting of multiple, irrelevant links following a short, generic message that could be applicable to anything (or nothing). If your goal is to tell the reader about some information relevant to the post and that info is found within good content on your site, that’s great. Add those links! Even if rel=”nofollow” is employed by the blog in all UGC-based links, the potential for driving live traffic to your site is good, and if the content there is worthwhile, that will improve public awareness of that content and ultimately be a good link building strategy. But if the comment is merely an excuse for blatant advertising links, it is web spam. Note the difference in intent. If you do right by the reader, you’ll be fine.

If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions, feel free to post them in our SEM forum. Later…

— Rick DeJarnette, Bing Webmaster Center

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