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Webmaster Blog

March
01

How To Tell Bing Your Website's Country and Language

With cloud services such as Windows Azure now a viable alternative to traditional web hosting, numerous webmasters have reached out to us to ask if, and how, Bing uses the document location as a part of its ranking algorithm. In other words: does cloud-based web hosting outside of the document’s intended geography negatively impact a document’s ranking?  Though it’s only one of over a thousand features we consider in our ranking, document location is a key contributor to a document’s relevance. Even when hosting your site in the cloud, you can directly influence this feature by paying special attention to the document location signals highlighted below, in order of priority:

1.  Metadata embedded in the document

Use the “content-language” meta tag to embed a document location in the <head> section of your documents:

<meta http-equiv="content-language" content="en-us">

The “content” attribute is comprised of a 2-letter ISO 639 language code, followed by a dash and the appropriate ISO 3166 geography code. For example:

  • de-at: German, Austria
  • de-de: German, Germany
  • en-us: English, United States
  • es-ar: Spanish, Argentina

Alternatively, embed the document location in either the <html> or the <title> element using the same format:

  • <html lang="en-us">
  • <title lang="en-us">

Keep in mind that the priority order for these tags is: <meta>, <html>, <title>. In other words, the document location set in the “content-language” meta tag will always supersede the document location indicated in the <html> or <title> tag.  Its best that you use one option, instead of multiple options here.

2.  HTTP headers

For host-wide location tagging, you can choose to embed the document location by using the “content-language” HTTP header and follow the language-dash-location format outlined in the previous section of this post.

For more information on setting HTTP response headers please refer to:

3.  Top-level domain

Out of the top level domain categories distinguished by the IANA, only the country code top-level domains (or ccTLDs) influence the document location. For an overview of the currently assigned ccTLDs, please visit IANA’s website at: http://www.iana.org/domains/root/db/.

Top level domains other than ccTLDs, including .com, .net and .org, do not influence the document location.

4.  Reverse IP lookup

For each document we add to Bing’s index, we perform a reverse IP lookup to determine the document’s location. Reverse IP information is yet another signal used when other signals are less conclusive.

Reverse IP information is provided to us by a third party data provider at highly regular intervals. However, we encourage you to continue to report errors through the Bing Webmaster Tools.

Wrapping up

Although Bing leverages several other sources to determine the definitive document location for ranking, these signals are primarily used as supporting data and do not carry the weight of the signals outlined above.

What’s next?

In the future, we’ll allow you to go hands on with your document locations, and submit the document location per path through the Bing Webmaster Tools. We will keep you updated right here.

Comments

  • Should the geography code always be set? Is it used to define the location of the webpage or as a subcode to the language? For example, should a Belgian business tag a uk english webpage as "en-gb" or "en-be"? Currently I'm only defining the language ("en").

  • Very helpful, thanks a lot!

  • @frelax - Today search engines are detecting and associating one country per URL; so this is preferable to set as appropriate in your pages.

  • So if you have a website divided into different languages (subdirectories, eg. eng, swe,fin) - purpose is to show availability of your services for audience in other countries (eg Sweden, Finland) in their native language, then is it wise to change “content-language” meta tag in these directories to appropriate ones (fi, sv)? And you can also give for a document several tags (eg "en, se") ...

  • or be more precise use <meta http-equiv="content-language" content="fi-ee"> to tell search engines that the page is in finnish and located in Estonia...

    Point is, that if eg search in google.fi or google.com withthe same keywords then search results are/can be  quite different...

    And -

    can there be any positive impact of defining language-country for such cases (Finland and Estonia are neighbours and travelling from one to other is  quite easy & fast )

  • We've had long-standing issues with Bing not recognising the country in which we operate.  And nothing we've done (including geo tags etc) seems to help.  Perhaps you can offer some insights.

    The site is www.southerncross.co.nz - the business is a very large New Zealand organisation that provides health insurance, travel insurance and private hospitals.

    Here's what I believe to be the most useful symptom of the problem - when you do a Bing site: query it shows that over 1000 of our pages have been found by Bing (that's great).  However, when selecting "New Zealand only" pages, the site: query shows none of our pages.  In other words - we are an NZ site, hosted in NZ, with all the correct geo and language codes, and yet Bing is not recognising our site as a New Zealand site.

    The consequence is that we are virtually invisible on Bing for New Zealand people searching for the products and services we offer, despite the fact we are the largest provider of those services in New Zealand.

    Any thoughts?

  • my domain is TOP.COM.BZ   google recognizes it as normal gTLD instead of ccTLD and my domain is listed in google.com / .bz / .co.uk, etc. in all local versions too. How will Bing treat my domain name without the above meta tags mentioned. My servers are located in U.S.A.

  • Will you be using this information to return more relevant searches based on IP's of the country where the search originates from ?

    Thanks,

    Sandra

  • Thank you very much Sir for the way you described. I think finding an interpretation that works for you. will understand more your content. i will be back again. see more.

  • James,

    (The bloke at www.southerncross.co.nz). Your problem is that you have slap bang right at the top of your souce <html xml:lang="en-US" lang="en-US" xmlns="www.w3.org/.../xhtml"> which is saying "Hey I speak English and am in the USA". You needn't have bothered with the "-US" anyway as Bing would have seen the .co.nz of your site anyway, but now you've confused it. I suggest you get rid of US and replace with NZ!!! Give it 3 or 4 days and if the spiders come back.... you'll be back in Kiwi Land!

  • Thanks for this info..

  • Even they won't know what search terms people use locally. ... to rank highly for, and bring more potential custom to your website. ... host your website on the relevant ccTLD (country code Top Level Domain). ... Once you have completed your first foreign-language website, you'll find it easier to produce others.

  • Even they won't know what search terms people use locally. ... to rank highly for, and bring more potential custom to your website. ... host your website on the relevant ccTLD (country code Top Level Domain). ... Once you have completed your first foreign-language website, you'll find it easier to produce others.

    http://bobevanscoupon.net

  • This will be really useful.

  • After msn acquires yahoo searching engine we can see a bigger market share of searching for bing now. Cool. Anyway, the searching experice from bing should imporve some how.