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Webmaster Blog

October
25

Anatomy of a Bing caption

A caption (also known as a summary) is the area of a Search Engine Results Page (SERP) devoted to a particular result. Captions help users to decide which result to click on and help site owners to communicate to users what to expect on their page.

Captions are an oft-forgotten tool of the SEO toolkit. Ranking is certainly the most important factor in determining user clicks, but captions are also a contributor. In this post, I will give you a primer on captions. I’ll show you all of the components of a caption and give a bit of insight about how Bing generates each of those components.

Every search result has a caption, which consists of four parts: the title, the snippet, the URL, and the Preview. I created a handy table below.

Component

Primary Sources

Title

<title> tag, <hx> tags

Snippet

Meta description tag, page content, description from DMOZ.org

URL

Page URL

Preview

Page content, extracted page data, commonly clicked links

 

The title is the most important part of your caption, because it’s the first place that a user looks when they are scanning a set of results. It is also the “blue link” that users click on to visit the result’s target page. Bing’s primary source of the title is the <title> tag in the header of your HTML. You can help users find your Web site’s content if you include a short title, which is descriptive of your page.

The snippet is text in the caption that is meant to give the user an idea about what’s on the page and why we chose that page in the search results. The snippet can be pulled from the meta description tag of your Web page, the description at DMOZ.org, or algorithmically generated from the content on your page. In general, we attempt to limit snippets to two lines. You can help Bing create a high-quality caption by adding a meta description to all of your pages (though we can’t guarantee that we’ll pick it) and by making sure that there’s ample descriptive content on your page. It’s also best if the meta description says something specific about the page itself, rather than being the same for every page on your site.

The URL is, of course, the URL of your page. Though there’s usually only a single URL from which to choose, sometimes we have to make a choice for the best URL for your page (e.g., www.aa.com and www.americanairlines.com go to the same place). In general, it’s best to keep your URLs simple and, if possible, to be descriptive of your page.

The Preview is unique to Bing. We’re still experimenting with the best content to put in the Preview, so expect us to be running many trials over the next year to optimize the user experience. For now, we try to put a supplemental snippet in the Preview and also popular links from your page.

The captions team plans to do more posts about how to help us create better captions for your site, some insight into how captions are generated, and more statistics about the value of captions. If you have specific questions you’d like us to answer, leave a message in the comments.

-Mark Johnson, Senior Program Manager Lead, Captions

Comments

  • I'd be interested in learning how Bing chooses titles. I have no problem with my English pages, but for some other languages, it tends to pick h2 tags, which are not as relevant as the title or h1 tags. May this be related to the words surrounding my h2 tags? I wonder.

  • I had suspected that the meta tag is not "dead"

  • @anthony I'll plan a post on titles in the near future.

    @diabetic_supplies the meta tag often contains a great description of the site; but not always, which is why we reserve the right not to use it.

  • useful information, so many SEOs tell us that SEs don't use tags anymore!

  • I use meta tags on all webpages I find them useful.

  • So a keyword based URL would be best then. There are many people who think Google is giving too much ranking power to keyword specific URLs. What about Bing?

  • Good info.  I'm in the process of implementng this at my website:  www.argyletv.com/entry.aspx however it's not easy.  I wish I knew about this before I created my website.  What do they say about hindsight being 20/20?

  • Nice Content

  • great post. thank you.

  • "The captions team plans to do more posts about how to help us create better captions for your site"

    This is a good idea, thanks.

  • I'm sorry but it wsn't clear to me how we can help Bing arrive at a suitable preview.  Maybe allow us to submit a "preview" the way we would submit a sitemap.  Some short text description.  THX!

  • Does Bing follow the NOODP and/or the NOYDIR directives concerning captions/description tags?

  • Why do certain sites have content and links in the preview, while some sites only have links?

  • Let me learn Bing serp First, then i will apply for my blog http://www.esc-creation.com

  • Great post tanks for sharing http://yurosie.blogspot.com