Though Google dominates the search engine market internationally, Microsoft’s Bing search engine is used by a sizeable percentage of desktop users in North America. Website owners in the U.S. need to ensure that their sites follow Bing’s SEO rules as well as the ones from Google. Bing recently announced new penalties for websites that structure their internal links in a way that’s designed to manipulate algorithms.

Bing’s new penalties are related to sites that use various schemes to boost the SEO of their sites. These tactics try to make the internal links of a site seem like they’re from external sites. If a website owner can trick the algorithm, they can make their pages look more relevant and rank higher as a result. While some of the issues they discuss can happen by accident, the company notes it will now take action against sites that are deliberately trying to confuse algorithms with inauthentic link structures. 

One target of Bing Webmaster Guidelines’ ire is the practice of subdomain leasing. Bing describes the tactic as “hosting third-party content or letting a third party operate a designated subdomain or subfolder, generally in exchange for compensation.” Since the subdomain has nothing to do with the main site, it benefits from site-level signals that the website owner can manipulate to their advantage. 

While some argue that there shouldn’t be anything wrong with this SEO practice, Bing has taken a stance otherwise. And to make the tactic unprofitable, they’ve announced penalties for sites that rent domain space in such a manner. 

As they explained in the post announcing the penalties, “We decided to consider “subdomain leasing” a violation of our “inorganic site structure” policy when it is clearly used to bring a completely unrelated third-party service into the website boundary, for the sole purpose of leaking site-level signals to that service. In most cases, the penalties issued for that violation would apply only to the leased subdomain, not the root domain.”

Another problematic practice is buying multiple domains and controlling the content on all of them. Bing argues that Private Blog Networks and other link networks are used as doorways to duplicate content. Bing describes the problem as “cases where a single website is artificially split across many different domains, all cross-linking to one another, for the obvious purpose of rank boosting.”

It’s not a problem for a person to own more than one site and to link between them when appropriate. The issue for Bing is when websites aren’t specialized enough to justify them being two separate sites. Having one site split up into four domains doesn’t help consumers, and it’s something that is done to boost SEO. Bing says that if you want to use different landing pages and domains with duplicate content, make sure to declare one website or destination as the source of truth. You can do this by redirecting duplicate pages with HTTP 301 or adding canonical tags pointing to the destination. The post suggests that website owners won’t be penalized if they use proper redirects. 

Bing is the first search engine to announce these kinds of penalties, but Google will likely follow suit soon. Though it’s possible they already made a change in the algorithm to account for sites with inorganic link structures. 

For more news about SEO algorithms, read this post about the new BERT language update from Google.