How we rank on search engines that aren’t Google

SEARCH ENGINE OPTIMIZATION

A few months ago, we read an interesting list on Search Engine Journal that included 14 alternatives to Google. This article got us thinking about how our website ranks on search engines that aren’t Google. Can the people using these alternative search engines find pkwydigital.com?

We spend most of our time optimizing our websites for Google searches because that’s what most people use. More than 90% of searches in the US take place on either Google or a Google-owned search engine (Google Images, YouTube and Google Maps). Plus, a lot of content marketing and SEO best practices we use are considered industry-standard across search engines.

In the last year, almost half of our website’s traffic came from organic search. About 95% of that organic traffic was, in fact, from Google. We also had (small amounts of) traffic from Bing, Yahoo, AOL, DuckDuckGo and a few other alternative search engines.

So, how do we rank on these search engines? Are these search engines delivering fewer people to pkwydigital.com simply because people aren’t using them? Or is there greater potential for visibility here?

To find out, we chose five keywords (from Google Search Console’s data) that deliver searchers from Google to our website. Two were branded terms, two were terms with commercial intent and one was an informational query. We searched these terms on Google, as well as five alternate search engines: Bing, DuckDuckGo, Yahoo, AOL and Ecosia. Ecosia uses a version of the Microsoft (Bing) search algorithm. We’re including it here because its servers run on renewable energy and they plant trees with their profits – two things we can definitely get behind.

Branded Terms

There are multiple companies that use variations of the name “Parkway Digital” scattered across the US. We were interested to see how other search engines treated this situation. Google relies heavily on a searcher’s location when delivering results, but what about Bing or Yahoo?

Search Term: Parkway Digital

When searching from our office on Google, our website, as well as our Google knowledge panel, are at the very top of the page. To be fair, we spend a lot of time Googling ourselves and on our website in Chrome, which most likely skews the results we see.

On the five alternate search engines we chose, our website is result number two, behind a TV company in Brooklyn with the same name. You can tell that location doesn’t play as big a part in these search results. Some of these search engines also included companies that don’t appear on Google at all, giving us added competition on page one of the search results.

The fact that some companies don’t appear within Google search results, but do show up on Bing and other search engines is well documented. Perhaps most notably, Rand Fishkin, formerly of Moz, tweeted that his new company wasn’t included in Google’s search results, even when he searched using a branded term.

One cool feature we noticed was Bing’s tendency to pull Facebook and Instagram posts into search results. This helped us take up a lot of real estate on the first page of search results for our name, because we’re more active on social media than other companies that share our name. This is valuable, even if searchers aren’t going directly to our website. They may be browsing our social posts, following our accounts or jumping to our website from our profiles.

Parkway Digital social media accounts in Bing search results

Google uses a similar technique for tweets, but our name doesn’t trigger it.

Search Term: Parkway Digital Reviews

This search term is most likely people interested in the TV company Parkway Digital, not us. However, we do get website visitors thanks to this term, so we included it in this little experiment.

Overall, the TV company does rank first for this keyword, which makes complete sense. Nothing on our website is targeting this term, nor would it really make sense if it were. What is interesting is where we appear in the search results across the search engines, and which of our pages show up first.

On Google and Yahoo, our Facebook page is result number one. On the remaining search engines, our Facebook is the second result for the search term and every single search engine displayed our 5-star rating on Facebook in the search results.

For this search term, Bing produced results on a map, which makes sense, considering we’re looking for reviews of a local business. However, that map was for Parkway, Ontario, which means they didn’t actually understand what I was looking for.

Terms with Commercial Intent

These keywords are things like “digital marketing agency Buffalo NY” and “web agency Buffalo.” Historically, we receive a moderate amount of traffic from this type of query. On Google, the first page of results includes a map, as well as lists of agencies from third-party websites. There are also a lot of agencies willing to run search ads on terms like these. While this doesn’t affect our organic ranking, we lose potential website visitors to these ads.

We were surprised by how many agencies were also running ads on Bing, Yahoo and AOL on these types of terms. These search engines included fewer list websites on the first page of their search results. This left more room for agency websites like ours.

This was another place where it was obvious how much stock Google puts in a searcher’s location. Without including “NY” in our keyword, Yahoo, Bing, Ecosia and DuckDuckGo all included a web design agency located in the UK in search results because it had “Buffalo” in its name.

Search intent behind the term “web agency Buffalo” was not clear to alternate search engines either. Insurance agencies were included in search results and on Ecosia, the terms “travel agency Buffalo NY” and “passport agency Buffalo NY” were included in the related searches section.

Terms with Informational Intent

We write a lot of blog posts with our thoughts about digital marketing (like this one). One of our most popular posts is titled The Power of Nostalgia in Design. This blog post receives clicks from Google for terms like “nostalgia in design.” In fact, it ranks second in the SERPs among articles from more well-known brands, including Canva, 99designs, Quora and Fast Company.

Content-based SEO is a huge part of succeeding on Google, but does it also work for alternative search engines? In this case, yes. This same blog post ranks in either position one or two on every single search engine we tried, even when the results around it changed.

What Did We Learn?

Since our website launched in 2016, about 95% of our organic traffic has come from Google. This is more than enough to make us focus on Google, at least for the foreseeable future. However, it’s also important to note that in the same timeframe, traffic from Bing has (verrrry slowly) grown.

We’re so used to Google knowing exactly what we’re looking for that the other search engine’s lack of understanding really surprised us. There’s a reason everyone uses Google! And because we all use Google, Google makes profits that allow it to continue refining on a much larger scale than other search engines.

While putting in hours of time to rank on Bing or Yahoo isn’t on our to do list, we are going to work on the following:

  • Claim our listing on Bing Places
  • Add our business to the third-party lists that appear for commercial search terms
  • Continue to update blog posts that rank well across all search engines
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