Bingbot is a web robot made by Microsoft that has been crawling and indexing the web since launch in October 2010. The data that is created this way powers Microsoft's search engine, Bing.
How Bingbot works
Search engine crawlers are how search engines find and keep content updated to deliver relevant and timely search results on their site. Bingbot is trained to follow links around the web and index the content it finds - so that it can be displayed for relevant search queries on Bing.
Granting access to Bingbot
Internet bots like Bingbot are constantly crawling the web and following links, so provided your website can be found, eventually, it will be.
Webmasters can specifically stop this behavior if it is unwanted in the robots.txt file. In that file, you can specify what files and folders a bot can and cannot index. This is useful for preventing bots from finding private files and folders, but it depends on the bot honoring the robots.txt file, which some may not.
Most of the time, a user will want their site to be crawled and indexed by Bingbot. This is because when a website is indexed, it allows the display in search results and increases visibility. Since search engines are commonly used by most users, search engine visibility is one of the best ways to drive organic traffic to your site.
To increase visibility, users will want to follow SEO best practices. SEO is a large topic in and of itself, but general tips that apply to optimizing sites for Google, such as generating quality, relevant, and timely content, also apply to Bing.
Bing provides some tools to help Bingbot find and properly index your site. Unfortunately, there are unscrupulous tools out there that masquerade as Bingbot and attempt to crawl your site. It is not uncommon for malicious indexing tools to crawl all available files and directories to try and find common weak points in the software. These are very often general bots looking to crawl as many websites as possible, rather than targeted attacks.
Because of spoofers, Bing provides tools for users to verify whether a given bot is legitimately Bingbot or not. Servers will provide logs of everyone who visits the site, which includes the user agent string and an IP address. This user agent string will typically mention "bingbot", but that alone does not guarantee trustworthiness.
The Verify Bingbot tool can be used to determine the legitimacy of a suspect bot. Input the IP address it came from into the form and the tool will tell you if it is the authentic Bingbot or not.
If the Verify Bingbot tool determines that it is not Bingbot, then it is recommended to blacklist and block the IP address from accessing your site. While the act of being crawled in and of itself is benign, a bot that pretends to be Bingbot is likely to be crawling your site looking for vulnerabilities that can be exploited.
Importance for SEO
Bingbot is important for SEO, as it is how your site gets listed in Bing search results. Though Google dominates the global search market, Bing is nonetheless one of the bigger and more mature alternatives. In addition to this, having high visibility on as many search engines as possible is very desirable for driving organic traffic to your site.
Bing provides webmaster guidelines to help you optimize your site for Bingbot. These tips are often invisible to the end-user, so there is little drawback to implementing them. One of the best things to do is use the robots.txt file to specify the location of your sitemap.
A sitemap is a list of links in an XML format (other formats including RSS, Atom, and TXT files are also supported) that Bingbot can read to understand where all your pages are and how they are linked, for easier indexing. You can also submit your sitemap directly to Bing via Bing Webmaster Tools.
Bing also provides a content submission API. This can be used to programmatically submit the latest information to Bing whenever an existing page is modified or a new page is created. By implementing the API programmatically, this makes submitting content to Bing automatic, rather than waiting for Bingbot to periodically crawl your site and update the information used in search results.
In summary: Bingbot FAQs
What is Bingbot used for?
Microsoft’s Bingbot crawls and indexes the internet, just like Google’s counterpart, Googlebot.
How can you stop Bingbot from accessing your website?
You can grant or deny Bingbot access to specific files in the robots.txt file of your website.
How do you verify Bingbot?
Microsoft offers a free tool that allows you to enter an IP address to find out if the bot that accessed your site was in fact Bingbot.
Is Bingbot relevant for SEO?
Yes, because without the Bingbot, your site will not appear in Bing’s search results. While Google is the market leader, Bing can still help you to get more traffic.