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For companies hit by Google's Panda updates, the search giant's approach to cleaning up its index may seem quite unfair.

But if Google has been aggressive with Panda, its efforts appear to be no match when compared to Microsoft's efforts to increase index quality on Bing. Need proof? Just ask CyberMonday.com, which is run by the National Retail Federation's Shop.org.

As reported by Search Engine Land's Danny Sullivan, Bing didn't just drop the site operated by the group that invented the Cyber Monday moniker, and which has the top rank on Google for 'cyber monday', it deleted it from its index entirely. Why?

A Bing spokesperson explained to Sullivan, "Consistent with our guidance to site owners, websites that seem to rely mostly on affiliate content or that offer only thin content often don’t deliver the value searchers are looking for and may be demoted or removed from our index. This is something we continually refine and look at closely throughout the year."

CyberMonday.com wasn't the only holiday shopping site that didn't live up to Bing's standards. BlackFriday.com and BlackFriday2011.com, for instance, were also dropped from the Bing index.

According to Bing, the penalty of all penalties treatment isn't something new. But Sullivan isn't buying it. "Despite what Bing says, this change does seem new - and specifically aimed at sites featuring holiday shopping deal offers," he writes. Adding an additional level of intrigue, he goes on to point out that Bing's behavior seems at odds with prior statements made by Bing Director Stefan Weitz, which essentially indicated that Bing was most interested in assessing quality at the page level.

So what gives?

Comments made by David Andre, whose company runs the CyberMonday.com for Shop.org, hints that there may be an ulterior motive:

The site was dropped over the weekend right before Cyber Monday, and replaced with a LARGE promotion for Bing Shopping. Prior to Cyber Monday (and for the last 5 years), CyberMonday.com was the #1 result on Google, Yahoo, Ask, and MSN/Bing for searches such as “cyber monday”. We have screen images of Bing searches from Monday November 28, which show much larger promotions for Bing Shopping than the images you have. Somewhat surprisingly, search engine referrals from Bing/Yahoo to www.cybermonday.com had been exceeding those from Google in the days running up to being dropped.  So this is not a small deal for the National Retail Federation.

Although Google, given its search dominance, is facing heavy scrutiny from regulators over how it might be favoring its own properties, one can't help but think that Bing's decision to drop sites like CyberMonday.com from its index and promote Bing Shopping heavily might also invite scrutiny.

On one hand, such scrutiny would seem warranted. On the other, there's an argument to be made that Bing is just hurting itself: by dropping sites that may be useful to consumers and instead pushing them to Microsoft-operated properties, it may in some cases leave its users disappointed. After all, Bing Shopping certainly isn't what every single holiday shopper is looking for.

The big question now is how prevalent this behavior might become. But one thing is for sure: Google isn't the only search engine that's a frenemy to publishers.

Patricio Robles

Published 1 December, 2011 by Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles is a tech reporter at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

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almost 4 years ago

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