What does iOS 7 mean for you? Even if you don’t own an iPhone.

iPhone5s-PF-3UP_HERO_PRINT

Today, Apple released iOS 7 to everyone with an iPhone 4 or newer and iPad 2 or newer.  Much has been said by reviewers and even mainstream media about the design changes that are part of iOS 7, but little has been said about the large change in iOS 7’s web search.  For the first time since the originally launched, Google is being abandoned as the default search engine across the device.  Starting today, when a user asks Siri a question that can’t be answered the default search engine used for web searches is Bing.  So why is this important?

Bing isn’t Google.

While this goes without saying, what I mean is that Bing (and Yahoo) doesn’t view your website the same way as Google.  Since most websites have been concerned with increasing their Google page ranking, most SEO campaigns focus almost exclusively on optimizing for Google while relegating Bing to a very distant second or ignoring it completely.

To www or no www

The most obvious difference between Google and Bing is the way they each handle a website address, specifically the www.  In the early days of the web, all site URLs followed the structure of www.websitename.com.  The www is the primary sub-domain and many websites still use it as their primary domain name even though its use is not required.  When the Bing search robot indexes your website it accesses your URL without the www.  If the non-www URL is sent to your www subdomain via a 301 redirect then all is well with Bing and it will index your site as normal.  But if your site doesn’t use a 301 redirect, you run the risk of not being indexed by Bing.

The risk of not being indexed

In the early days of search engines, their biggest asset was the size of their indexes.  The larger the index, the more data could be examined to find what your search.  But after several years of boasting about the size of their indexes, the statistic has become irrelevant to most consumers.  However for a website owner the risk of not being indexed is just as real today.  Without an index of your site on file, a search engine cannot display your website in its search results no matter how great and relevant your content is.

Meta keywords could be the death of your website

Meta keywords trace their origin to the dawn of the search engines, when the algorithms that determined a website’s value were not sophisticated enough to interpret the content of a website by examining the actual content.  Meta keywords and descriptions were the only way webmasters could tell the early search engines what their website’s pages were about.  But over time, meta keywords were abused with SPAM sites including hundreds, sometimes even thousands of keywords into their meta tags so that they would be seen as relevant for almost anything and unsuspecting browsers would visit their website.  Today, Google completely ignores meta keywords, while Bing has taken the stance that a site with too many keywords, especially keywords that their algorithm determines are irrelevant, is SPAM and should be heavily penalized by a lower pagerank or even de-indexing.

How to make your site Bing and iOS 7 ready

Fortunately, if your website isn’t ready for Bing, hope isn’t lost.  It’s very easy to make the changes needed so that your site isn’t affected by the upcoming spike in Bing usage.  Without getting into all of the technical jargon, I will walk you through doing a quick assessment of your site for Bing.

1. View the source code of your website.  Depending on which browser you are using this is normally available under View or in a Developer menu.  Close to the top of your page you should see your meta tags that look like <meta name=”keywords” content=”….  If you do see this, then your site does display keywords.  While a few won’t hurt your rankings, since they’re not used anymore they can safely be deleted either through a plugin on your site or through editing the HTML source of your website.

2. Adding a 301 redirect to your htaccess file is the simplest way to insure that your website redirects non-www visits to your preferred www version.  Again, remember that having the www is not necessary for your website to function properly unless it is required by your website host or CMS.  You will need to add the following code to your htaccess file, replacing osostudio.com with your website’s URL.

RewriteEngine On
RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} ^osostudio.com [NC]
RewriteRule ^(.*)$ http://www.osostudio.com/$1 [L,R=301]

What this bit of code accomplishes is redirecting any page visited without a www to the www page.  Ex. osostudio.com/services/web-design would redirect to www.osostudio.com/services/web-design [Note: Oso Studio’s website is designed in the reverse manner, redirecting all www requests to non-www URLs.]

This post is by no means anywhere close to an exhaustive listing of differences between how Google and Bing index websites, these two issues are those that are most often overlooked by web developers not well versed in Search Engine Optimization best practices.  To familiarize yourself further with Bing’s requirements, you can visit the Bing Webmaster Tools portal at bing.com/toolbox/webmaster.  You can also enlist the help of a Search Engine Optimization studio to audit, maintain, and optimize your site for improved page ranking on both Google and Bing.