Live Update Bing through IndexNow in GitHub Actions

July 12, 2023 - 8 min read (1455 words)

Search engines operate on huge datasets and the cost of crawling is significant especially when content is changing infrequently. Organic discovery of new content through crawling is therefore slow. Pages and sitemaps are revisited infrequently leading to a lag between the posting of new content and its inclusion in search engine indices.

All parties involved in the search engine experience benefit from a better model for updating search engine indices. Pushing notifications of content change in real time to search engines allows them to optimize their effort when crawling on updated content when most content on the web changes infrequently. Users of search engines receive search results with content that is both updated and more relevant. Site owners avoid the cost of frequent crawling of their sites and benefit from their most recent content being presented to users in a more timely way.

To support this model, most engines now offer a custom API for site owners to programmatically push notifications of content updates, deleted URLs and new URLs that should be prioritized for crawls and subsequent indexing. For example, Google offers the Indexing API and Microsoft offers the Submission API. The challenge with the vendor specific API model is that each engine’s API implementation differs as does its authentication and authorization mechanism. This forces developers to create code for each engine.

IndexNow seeks to resolve the vendor specific notification API challenge by offering a unified interface and common site ownership verification mechanism. This allows developers to write a single set of code to update multiple engines. The project is currently backed by Microsoft Bing.

Without IndexNow, it can take days to weeks for search engines to discover that the content has changed, as search engines don’t crawl every URL often. With IndexNow, search engines know immediately the “URLs that have changed, helping them prioritize crawl for these URLs and thereby limiting organic crawling to discover new content.”

This article covers an integration with IndexNow through GitHub Actions using a shell script to update the Microsoft Bing search engine with updated URLs in this blog implementation upon each deployment of the site.

The evolving GitHub repository storing this blog and its implementation can be found here.

—Update: July 14, 2023—

After creating and then posting on the implementation used in this article, I ran a series of tests having noticed that the URLs I was submitting through the Microsoft Bing IndexNow API endpoint were not appearing within the Microsoft Webmaster Tools portal on the URL Submission screen. Additionally, I noted that my quota for submissions was not being decremented on the same screen despite the endpoint returning HTTP 200 status responses indicating success.

I concluded that the Microsoft Bing IndexNow endpoint is currently not working as of the time of this writing. As soon as the support feature in the webmaster tools returns to a working state, I will raise a support issue with the Bing team. In the meantime, I recommend using vendor specific APIs to submit updated URLs for a site.

Refer to the following posts for alternate implementations using vendor specific APIs to accomplish the same URL submission goals as described in this article without using IndexNow:

Live Update Google through the Indexing API in GitHub Actions

Live Update Bing through the Submission API in GitHub Actions

—End Update—

Table of Contents

Getting Started with Bing and Bing Webmaster Tools

Bing Webmaster Tools is the portal for establishing site ownership with Bing and managing URL submission, tracking search performance and managing search engine optimization. I observed a number of quirks when running the webmaster tools portal in both Chrome and Safari. Those quirks can be avoided by utilizing Microsoft Edge when running the portal.

If you are already a verified owner of one or more sites with Google, it is possible to import your properties and verified ownership direct into Bing via an exchange with Google Search Console. Other methods for verifying site ownership are also available.

Creating and Hosting the API Key

The first step in using the IndexNow API is to generate, and then host in a text file, an API key to prove ownership of a given site. The file should be named after the key with the extension .txt and contain a single line with the key as its contents. While they key may be generated in a number of ways, it must be at least eight characters long. The Bing engine provides a useful generator with a mechanism to download the host file.

In a Gatsby site, the key file may be placed in the /static folder and will be added to the root of the generated site during a production build.

Structure of an IndexNow Request

The body of an IndexNow request is a simple JSON object. It contains only four properties: the host, api key, hosted key file location and a list of URLs. In the case of Bing, it may be submitted using an HTTP POST to It is important to set the Content-Type header to application/json; charset=utf-8 for the request to be accepted by the API.

POST /IndexNow HTTP/1.1
Content-Type: application/json; charset=utf-8
  "host": "",
  "key": "8846484b349642449a66629f496422f8",
  "keyLocation": "",
  "urlList": [

Building and Submitting the Request via a Bash Shell Script

The URL structure of a generated Gatsby site can be derived from the structure of the code that builds it. Therefore, a script that uses the structure of the repository as its source material can be created that builds the URLs of the pages that were generated is easy to create. Additionally, the JSON structure of an IndexNow request body is straight forward so creating it in a shell script is possible with a series of echo commands directed to a local working file. Once the temporary working file containing the JSON request is created, curl can be used to submit the request to the IndexNow API.
#!/usr/bin/env bash

# Configurable variables used in IndexNow call and URL construction

BLOG_DIR=../../../content/blog/; # Location of /content/blog/ folder relative to tmp working dir

WORKING_DIR=$( pwd; );

# Create and enter the working directory if it does not exist
if [ ! -d $TMP_DIR ]
    echo "Creating temporary working directory.";
    mkdir $TMP_DIR;
cd $TMP_DIR;

echo "Building POST body from repository structure.";
if [ -f $JSON_FILE ]
    rm $JSON_FILE;

# Begin JSON body construction
touch $JSON_FILE;
echo "{" >> $JSON_FILE;
echo "  \"host\": \"${HOST}\"," >> $JSON_FILE;
echo "  \"key\": \"${BING_API_KEY}\"," >> $JSON_FILE;
echo "  \"keyLocation\": \"${BING_URL_TO_KEY_FILE}\"," >> $JSON_FILE;
echo "  \"urlList\": [" >> $JSON_FILE;

# Add the root URL
echo "    \"${BASE_URL}/\"," >> $JSON_FILE;

# Iterate over folders in the /content/blog/ directory
# to create links to each individual generated blog page
BLOGS=($(ls $BLOG_DIR));
for BLOG in "${BLOGS[@]}"
  echo "    \"${BASE_URL}/blog/${BLOG}/\"," >> $JSON_FILE;

echo "    ]" >> $JSON_FILE;
echo "}" >> $JSON_FILE;
# JSON body construction complete

echo "JSON POST body contents:";

echo "---";
echo "Updating Bing through POST to /IndexNow...";

# Use curl to POST the JSON content to Bing IndexNow endpoint
curl ${BING_URL}/IndexNow \
  -H "Content-Type: application/json; charset=utf-8" \
  -d "$(cat $JSON_FILE)" \
  -s \

echo "---";
echo "Done.";

The complete current version of this script is available at this location.

The GitHub Actions Workflow Step

In the continuous integration workflow for this site, I added a step to the primary job following the step that builds and deploys the generated output of site to Azure. The step is configured to only run for pushes to the default branch to ensure that it only executes following production releases.

By default, GitHub Actions workflows run in a fairly restrictive user context. The script above performs a number of operations that require elevated permissions to perform in that space like creating a working directory and files within it. As a result, the script must run in sudo mode to work correctly. Per the GitHub Actions Documentation, a passwordless sudo mode is available in the workflow context which makes executing the script fairly painless.

The Linux and macOS virtual machines both run using passwordless sudo. When you need to execute commands or install tools that require more privileges than the current user, you can use sudo without needing to provide a password.

- name: Update Bing via IndexNow
  if: github.event_name == 'push'
  working-directory: ".github/scripts"
  shell: bash
  run: sudo ./

The complete current version of this workflow can be found at this location.

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Written by J. Patrick Fulton.

gatsbyjs bing indexnow github actions seo