An Open Letter to Bing Regarding JSON-LD

by Aaron Bradley on March 24, 2017

in Search Engines, Semantic Web

An Open Letter to Bing Regarding JSON-LD Support

Hi Bing, how's it going?

Pretty well, I think.

I was really happy to learn in October 2015 that Bing had started turning a profit. Competition in the search engine arena is vital, as it provides search engines with an incentive to innovate and, more importantly, ensures that search engines will endeavor to win over users by returning the most useful and relevant search results they possibly can.

But Bing also understands that sometimes it's in their best interests and that of their users to work cooperatively with their competitors to align on standards and best practices.

This was the case in November 2006, when Microsoft, Google and Yahoo! agreed to support a common sitemaps protocol.

And, more recently, you, Google and Yahoo! joined forces in June 2011 (joined later by Yandex) "to create and support a common set of schemas for structured data markup on web pages": schema.org. The initiative has been an enormous success: millions of domains now use this standard to provide information about the objects referenced in their web pages.

A structured data vocabulary of course requires a method of encoding it that data consumers can understand, and when schema.org was released the sponsors recommended microdata as the preferred syntax, and soon (after some missteps) embraced RDFa as well.

Microdata and RDFa are both excellent methods of adding schema.org annotations to HTML documents, and few would argue that there was a better standard available for this purpose when schema.org was announced.

In January 2014, however, JSON-LD became a W3C Recommendation.

As you're doubtlessly aware, JSON-LD offers some significant advantages for webmasters over microdata or RDFa. Since it does not rely upon HTML elements to make declarations it is far less error-prone than microdata or RDFa, and, unlike those syntaxes, does not require the use of tags to make statements about information that is not visibly present in web documents.

Perhaps most importantly, as it is "100% compatible with JSON" it provides a method of deploying linked data that the vast majority of web developers are already familiar with and use on a daily basis in their work.

In recognition of JSON-LD's benefits, Google has incrementally increased its support for it as a mechanism for providing structured data markup, and it is now its recommended method for doing so. And, at least as evidenced by what's returned by their validation tools, Yandex, Apple and even Pinterest are now capable of understanding JSON-LD-provided data.

As a result, in particular, of Google's support for the syntax, JSON-LD has seen significant and rapid adoption on the web. While looking at changes to Web Data Commons data extracted from Common Crawl over time is not a strict apples-to-apples comparison (as Common Crawl does not use the same corpus for each crawl), a comparison of their November 2015 extraction to that of October 2016 nonetheless suggests JSON-LD is quickly gaining in popularity.

Web Data Commons domains with triples by data type,  November 2015 and October 2016 Common Crawl extracts

In this environment webmasters, developers and – especially – search marketers are finding themselves having to make an increasingly difficult choice: continue to use a cumbersome inline markup syntax in order to maintain or gain search visibility in Bing, or use JSON-LD with the realization that this will result in the loss of structured data-powered features in Bing search results.

Bing's failure to support JSON-LD means, too, that their users are increasingly ill-served by that lack of support, insofar as more and more webmasters are choosing the latter of those two options.

That is, as Bing has long generated featured snippets for things like products and recipes based on structured data markup, it must consider these snippets to be of value to searchers.

Bing product rich snippet

Bing recipe rich snippet

But as more and more webmasters use JSON-LD exclusively to provide structured data, Bing users will see fewer and fewer rich snippets, from fewer and fewer publishers, populating their search results.

I'm confident that you're aware of many, if not all, of the points I've made here in order to try and persuade you to publicly and demonstrably support JSON-LD.

And I'm actually fairly hopeful that you're already making efforts to do so. Nothing could make me happier than to find out that writing this letter was unnecessary by virtue of a soon-to-be made announcement that you have approved JSON-LD as a method of providing Bing with structured data.

But if you're still equivocating on this course of action, let me make this plea on behalf of developers, search marketers, linked data enthusiasts and Bing users everywhere: please join the party and throw your weight behind JSON-LD.


{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Jeannie Hill March 25, 2017 at 12:20 pm

May I add my voice to Aaron Bradly’s to request more support for JSON-LD. Having noted it says on the Bing Webmaster Help Forum, “At Bing, enabling users to make key decisions through visually appealing, information-rich search results is a key component of our search experience”, more support is hopefully forthcoming.

(https://www.bing.com/webmaster/help/marking-up-your-site-with-structured-data-3a93e731)

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2 local seo April 3, 2017 at 12:04 pm

I suppose maybe the profit clouds the eyes a bit.
Great article,thanks.

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3 Amit Jain April 10, 2017 at 3:33 am

JSON-LD definitely offers real advantage over microdata. If the industry giants start to cooperate with each other having a standard markup will go a long way and makes things easier for us web developers. Great article and love the letter style you wrote it in. Cheers.

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4 Richard L. April 11, 2017 at 11:53 pm

I agree wholeheartedly here. As one of those professionals who has chosen to use only JSON markup, it would be a wonderful thing to wake up one day and see my markup supported in Bing. I’m a daily Bing user but I optimize for Google at the expense of my Bing results, simply because I don’t want to format my markup in two different ways.

We get that the obvious focus has been on maps and AI recently, and updates to webmaster features don’t seem to be a huge priority. With an increasing portion of markup only present in JSON-LD format these days, however, shouldn’t availability of that data suffer as a result? It seems like that’s a good way to make some dumb, outdated robots straight out of the gate.

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5 Strivers May 16, 2017 at 11:44 am

Great! If bing fully supported JSON-LD then we don’t need to have different tactics for different search engines.

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6 Simon May 24, 2017 at 5:03 am

Seconded. I have been using JSON+LD exclusively for over 1.5 years and, at a guess, compiling JSON+LD snippets for clients accounts for about 1/3 my income. Get on board Bing, your customers are leaving you behind!!!

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