Disabling bing’s ‘preview’ and Click Through Rates (CTR)

Microsoft’s Bing search engine is continuing to maintain its initial single digit market share. I know some of my clients now see it providing 3-5% of their search engine traffic. Therefore, it may not be worth most web master’s time to worry about SEO differences between Google and bing yet. One big difference that most identify as a unique benefit is bing’s “preview” feature, such as document preview of Bing search results via the “Hover Links” feature. By holding your cursor over a link on the bing results page, the user will see a pop-up showing extended snippets of text and links from the destination site, without having to click on the link. bing will attempt to show this document or page preview (or image or video), even if the site is entirely flash-driven. However, what content bing decides to use in those situations isn’t obvious.

Therefore, if web masters’ just want to make sure the preview isn’t generated for a particular page, they just need to add the following meta tag in the <head> section on that page to disable previewing:

<meta name=”msnbot”, content=”nopreview”>

And if you would need to disable previews on every page of the site, the following line should be added to robots.txt:

x-robots-tag: nopreview

One thing to note…bing has implemented these previews with an expectation that users will quickly review to help them determine which site they should choose from the search page of results. By turning off the preview, you may reduce the number of users that click through to your site, if other previews tempt them away. Or, you may find they do click on yours because you aren’t previewing something they aren’t looking for. You’ll need to monitor and possibly revisit this previewing if their share of search traffic increases.

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