Google and Bing have joined forces at a SXSWi panel on website ranking! For the next hour representatives from each search engine behemoth will be answering questions about how they list and rank websites. But, given that a month ago Google accused Bing of stealing their search results, isn't this really a duel for search-ranking glory? To that end, I'm scoring the panel.
Is an affiliate link a purchased link?
Cutts: In general, we dislike purchased links. It's not sustainable over time.
Forrester: Search engines first looking for quality content ... so there are bad downstream effects to purchased links. Therefore we discount. However! If they are valuable links, not so bad.
Google answered first, Bing seemed to think that quality content comes from purchased links.
What's an appropriate amount of time to punish rule breakers?
Cutts: Rephrases question, name checks NYT, gets first laugh of the panel.
Is ranking no longer based on seniority? Also, how is social going to enter results?
Forrester: There's validity to age! That doesn't mean it's our only factor. We would love to use social signals more, and we're down with Facebook.
Cutts: Gives a non-answer on age. I find social metrics handy! We'll be doing more of that.
Will there be more transparency re: the tools you're using to rank?
Cutts: we'll give you a CSV file of all the links pointing to your site! You can see what we see. Also, Google has rooms full of people who are authorized to name links as junk!
Forrester: We've launched a new service that will let you view/export up to 20K inbound links to your site.
I find Bing useful for common searches, but on long-tail searches, I still turn to Google. Is this a conscious strategy?
Forrester: We set the quality bar very very high. Which is to say, if it's a niche level query answer ... meh, we may not keep it in our index.
Shorter Bing: your query isn't mainstream enough for us.
Poetryfoundation.org! How do I compete with Poem Hunter?
Cutts: Try to get your authors involved, and have them link to their poems.
But what if poets are no longer living?
Why do social search engines like delicious have better rankings than you?
Cutts: Social has its place--like when you need a plumber! Google is best a reflecting opinion of entire web. We use social to the extent that it's truly useful.
Forrester: If your friend base doesn't know something on subject x, we aren't going push those results.
I'm building a web app--but it doesn't build pages. Am I screwed?
Moderator: You're screwed.
I'm a search marketer, you say not to scrape/rely on rankings, but everyone does it. Gonna fix this?
Cutts: It's your job to tell your clients that this doesn't work.
Forrester: I used to work in this field. I stopped using ranking reports 8 years ago. Have your boss tweet at me, I will tell him not to do this.
Moderator: The only time scrapping is allowed is Bing on Google and Google on Bing.
Forrester: What tools do you want us to incorporate? Come and talk to me.
Cutts: We've got a webmaster blog!
Winner: Google! But it was much closer than I anticipated.
Bonus search-relevant poem located using the handy poem tool at Poetry Foundation: