With cloud services such as Windows Azure now a viable alternative to traditional web hosting, numerous webmasters have reached out to us to ask if, and how, Bing uses the document location as a part of its ranking algorithm. In other words: does cloud-based web hosting outside of the document’s intended geography negatively impact a document’s ranking? Though it’s only one of over a thousand features we consider in our ranking, document location is a key contributor to a document’s relevance. Even when hosting your site in the cloud, you can directly influence this feature by paying special attention to the document location signals highlighted below, in order of priority:
1. Metadata embedded in the document
Use the “content-language” meta tag to embed a document location in the <head> section of your documents:
<meta http-equiv=”content-language” content=”en-us”>
The “content” attribute is comprised of a 2-letter ISO 639 language code, followed by a dash and the appropriate ISO 3166 geography code. For example:
- de-at: German, Austria
- de-de: German, Germany
- en-us: English, United States
- es-ar: Spanish, Argentina
Alternatively, embed the document location in either the <html> or the <title> element using the same format:
- <html lang=”en-us”>
- <title lang=”en-us”>
Keep in mind that the priority order for these tags is: <meta>, <html>, <title>. In other words, the document location set in the “content-language” meta tag will always supersede the document location indicated in the <html> or <title> tag. Its best that you use one option, instead of multiple options here.
2. HTTP headers
For host-wide location tagging, you can choose to embed the document location by using the “content-language” HTTP header and follow the language-dash-location format outlined in the previous section of this post.
For more information on setting HTTP response headers please refer to:
3. Top-level domain
Out of the top level domain categories distinguished by the IANA, only the country code top-level domains (or ccTLDs) influence the document location. For an overview of the currently assigned ccTLDs, please visit IANA’s website at: http://www.iana.org/domains/root/db/.
Top level domains other than ccTLDs, including .com, .net and .org, do not influence the document location.
4. Reverse IP lookup
For each document we add to Bing’s index, we perform a reverse IP lookup to determine the document’s location. Reverse IP information is yet another signal used when other signals are less conclusive.
Reverse IP information is provided to us by a third party data provider at highly regular intervals. However, we encourage you to continue to report errors through the Bing Webmaster Tools.
Although Bing leverages several other sources to determine the definitive document location for ranking, these signals are primarily used as supporting data and do not carry the weight of the signals outlined above.
In the future, we’ll allow you to go hands on with your document locations, and submit the document location per path through the Bing Webmaster Tools. We will keep you updated right here.