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As a local business nothing is as important as attracting local customers into your storefront. New customers is the lifeblood of any business. Bing Places can help bring fresh new and free local customers. Yes, Bing Places is not as big as Google Local Listings, but why care where a customer comes from, just that they come.
Bing says that registering a small business with Bing Places is a 3-step process. However, there are three main categories of businesses you can list: Local or small business with a store front, chain business with multiple locations and businesses offering services at customer locations.
Advertising agencies that would like to add listings on behalf of their clients can also do so, but they must first create an agency account by filling the Bing Places Agency Details Form. After which, they can follow the same listing procedure, while taking advantage of the bulk upload feature that allows you to add up to 10,000 lines of Excel information in a single update.
You must have a free Microsoft account to log in to the Bing Places management tool, though. A Microsoft account is basically the account you use to log in to Hotmail, SkyDrive or Xbox LIVE. If you don’t have a Microsoft account, Bing Places prompts you to create one from the registration interface.
Here’s how to get started with Bing Places for Business to help customers discover your business online.
Step 1: Claim Your Listing
Visit the Bing Places homepage and click “Get started.” The screen shot below is the sign up interface you will see prompting you to add your business.
Type into the appropriate text fields either your phone number or your business name and location. Click “Search” to see if anything shows up.
Chances are Bing has a listing for your business already. If so, you will be prompted to moderate your search or claim an existing listing. If not, you will be asked to click “Add New Business” to open a Microsoft account log in window that will give you access to create a new listing. Enter your Microsoft account username and password as prompted to log in to the Bing Places for Business dashboard.
Step 2: Complete Your Listing Profile
Once you are logged in, it’s time to start adding more details about your business. Below is a screen shot of what you will see when logged in:
The left hand side presents all of the different drop-down menus you will be required to open and fill to complete your listing. The right hand side shows the map and photos that will change corresponding to the details you add about your business.
Bing says: “Adding complete information about your business helps you tell the best story about your business. You can add photos of your business & services, hours of operation, services offered and list the various ways customers can reach your business.”
Step 3: Verify your listing.
After you fill in all of the details about your business, click “Submit.” A new window will open asking you to verify your business. The window will look like this:
Provide the correct contact address to verify your listing. Bing will send you a verification PIN number to the address listed there, which you should receive within 3 to 5 days. Verifying your business listing helps guard against unauthorized changes to the listing.
Bing says: “You can verify your listings by receiving a PIN at your business address, phone or email. All businesses must provide a valid address, but some types of businesses can hide their address in search results.”
Managing Your Bing Places for Business Listing
Once you receive your PIN number in the mail, log in to the Bing Places for Business dashboard and enter the PIN number to verify and start managing your listing. Managing your listing entails editing and adding information regarding your listing to take control of your business image and reputation on the web. You can manage multiple listings under one dashboard with Bing Places for Business.
Remember customers usually have many options when searching for local businesses online. Put your best foot forward by uploading detailed information about your local business, including days and hours you are open, payments you accept, parking information if available, and pictures of the small business building or offices to fully engage customers.
Although there is no denying that Google remains the dominant search engine, it’s important to remember that search behavior is constantly evolving and, as I’ll cover below, millions of internet users do turn to Bing to help them navigate the web.
It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking Google has so much of a head start that other search engines aren’t worthwhile but, as the third most popular search engine behind Google and YouTube, the reality is that Bing still handles billions of queries each month. You could be in the running for some of those clicks, calls and sales with a Bing Places listing.
Bing’s parent company, Microsoft has invested heavily in new functionality over the last few years, including rolling out a Search Entity API which brings “rich contextual information about people, places, things, and local businesses to any application, blog, or website for a more engaging user experience.” It’s also continued to make advances in visual search, with thumbnails for video results and the ability to perform searches based on images snapped on a smartphone, revamped its advertising offering, acquired LinkedIn and partnered with the likes of Amazon to power searches on Amazon Silk.
Bing’s market share has grown as a result of these advances, with a 17% year-on-year increase in 2017-18. According to Microsoft’s own data published in March 2020, its search network handles 12.2 billion searches from desktop users alone per month, globally. 54% of search users are conducting product research while 43% use search for brand discovery.
If you’re still not convinced, consider this; Bing is the default search engine for all Windows devices (and there are over 1.5 billion of them worldwide), meaning your audience doesn’t even have to consciously choose to use Bing, it’s simply there waiting when the browser window is opened. This is true not just of domestic settings but in the workplace too, where Microsoft software and cloud solutions are commonplace.
With a DA of 94, Bing is also a valuable citation source – which can help you with your Google visibility too.
While its market share percentage is unmistakably dwarfed by Google’s dominance, Bing still commands billions of eyeballs and high-intent searches per month. Could having a presence on just a fraction of those searches thanks to a Bing Places listing be transformational for your business? Of course it could.
Setting up a Bing Places for Business listing
It’s quick and easy to set up a Bing Places for Business listing (we have a detailed guide on doing so here). After signing in or creating a Bing Places for Business account, you can check if a listing already exists and claim it as your own if so and then add any missing details.
If you have already spent time optimizing your Google My Business listing, there’s also an option to import all of your information to Bing Places with just one click.
If neither of those is an option, you can simply work through the wizard and input your business details when prompted.
Where is Bing Places for Business data used?
Just as Google Maps and Google Assistant are powered by Google My Business, Bing Places for Business provides data for Bing Maps and any Bing-powered voice device. This covers more territory than you may think as Bing is used as the default voice search engine for Amazon Alexa devices, including the Echo family. This gives substantial reach, with Amazon confirming that it had sold over 100 million voice assistants at the start of January 2019 and double that by January 2020.
In addition to the Echo line, Alexa is pre-installed on a range of other products, including Fire TV sticks, Fire tablets, smart TVs, wearable devices and more than 100,000 different smart home products from over 9000 brands. At the CES tech trade show at the start of 2020, Amazon hinted that other partnerships are in the works which would see Alexa powering voice search in cars (this is especially pertinent for local businesses, with the majority of drivers using voice to find a local business nearby when at the wheel), TVs and other devices.
In addition to Alexa, Bing of course powers its own Cortana search, which is the default assistant for all Microsoft devices, spanning everything from the Windows operating system to the Xbox gaming console.
Bing data is additionally used in Yahoo! search results, so setting up a Bing Places listing means you’re covered for Yahoo! local search results too. In fact, Yahoo! search results are entirely powered by Bing (this is why we stopped reporting Yahoo results in our tools in February 2020) so one Bing Places listing gives you twice the bang for your buck.
Where do reviews on Bing Places for Business come from?
We all know that reviews are a must-have digital currency and a core component of local search visibility. Of course, they are also essential for building consumer trust. As with your Google My Business listing, Bing Places displays relevant reviews, which it pulls in from trusted third-party platforms to the local search results.
Unlike Google local search, Bing shows reviews from a couple of different sources in its Explore panel. In addition to the information pulled from your Bing Places listing, your local panel may display a recent review from TripAdvisor right next to your latest Facebook review for example. In both cases, the reviews are showcased in a box with an average star rating where applicable and a link to read further reviews from each source.
Is Bing Places for Business important for SEO?
There is no doubt that Bing Places is key to better visibility in Bing local search results.
Bing confirms that its local ranking algorithm “is primarily based on relevance, distance and popularity.” It also says that, “Adding detailed business information in Bing places helps the Local ranking algorithm to accurately match your business listing to user searches.” On the subject of improving your rankings in local search Bing advises that,
Bing Local results are retrieved from our Bing Local database. Make sure your Bing Places data is complete and accurate, to ensure the Bing Local database has complete information about your business.”
If you are eager to improve your rankings for any tool or search engine using Bing data (such as Amazon devices and Windows desktops), optimizing your Bing Places listing is a non-negotiable first step. On the flip side, if you are absolutely certain your desired audience doesn’t touch on the typical Bing user (aged 55-64, married and with an average household income of $100,000 or more) then optimization for Bing could well take your focus unnecessarily away from Google.
Bing’s own search ranking algorithm is generally considered to be less intricate than Google’s. It is known to favor certain things that Google has evolved from (such as keyword density, and the more basic elements like H1 and H2 tags), so optimizing your web site for Bing to back up your Bing Places listing could actually undo some of your Google optimization and may even harm your Google rankings.
What are the main differences between Google My Business and Bing Places for Business?
Aside from the obvious fact that Bing Places powers Bing local search results and Google My Business is used by Google, there are other subtler differences in the way the two are known to work:
- While both Bing and Google have the shared ambition of giving users the most relevant results for local businesses near to them, Bing’s algorithm factors in social signals, such as Facebook shares, as an indicator of quality, where Google does not. If you are a very visual business, such as a clothing designer, an interior stylist or event venue, this could work in your favor, especially if you are already well established on relevant social networks like Instagram.
- Bing values high-quality images. You can add up to 100 pictures to your listing, two of which should show the exterior of your business. Bing also suggests you add images of the interior showing detail such as seating arrangements so visitors are clear on what to expect, good quality product images, images showcasing any awards your business has received or events attended along with pictures which illustrate your services and any specific equipment used. Image dimensions must be a minimum of 480×360 pixels (Google’s minimum image size is much smaller at 250 px tall x 250 px wide). Unlike Google, you can upload images of up to 10MB (Google has a 5MB limit), provided that the same dimensions are adhered to.
- For both Bing and Google, reviews are an important part of the local search results for each business but, while Google predominantly displays Google reviews, Bing Places for Business displays reviews from third party sites including Yelp, TripAdvisor, and Facebook.
- When you search for your listing on Bing, you’ll also note that the layout used differs to that of Google. As I’ve mentioned above, Bing has invested heavily in visual search over the last few years and this is apparent in its more attractive display. In Bing, the local business information appears in the main search results area which makes it much more of a focal point (Google also uses a box but it is often placed to the right of the search results rather than integrated directly into the main listings on desktop). Bing’s display features a strip of images across the top of the listing, a delineated box with contrasting background, buttons with icons to request directions or go to the business web site and a scrollable carousel for information including reviews, social media links and popular products.
Bing Places and Data Aggregators
Local citations remain an intrinsic part of any locally focused SEO campaign but, manually creating listings can be an arduous, time-intensive process. Data aggregators streamline the task of building larger volumes of accurate citations. An aggregator is effectively a large scale data gatherer. It collects information on businesses which it then passes to other sources, such as search engines.
Bing Places act as a source of information for three of the major data aggregators, Localeze, Data Axle, and Factual. With some aggregators, such as Factual, no longer taking individual submissions from businesses, your Bing Places listing ensures that your information can be gathered and distributed by data aggregators, helping to strengthen your local search position.