Bing has made a splash in the media recently – but now that the hype has faded, what will be the real impact of the new search engine for search marketers in the trenches? Most professional search marketers are now used to the perpetual changes in algorithms, bidding systems, performance metrics, and ad center tools that occur every time a search engine shifts its strategy. Bing may be the first new search engine in years that actually keeps things the same, while at the same time offering a new opportunity to drive revenues from mature search programs. While Bing’s ad center, Microsoft Advertising, is pretty much the same as prior iterations appearing on MSN.com and Live Search, it may require marketers to adjust their strategies to take full advantage of Bing’s assets.
As reported here on SEL by Danny Sullivan, some early research showed gains for Bing, while other reports showed traffic patterns across all the search engines remaining largely the same. Those reports looked at visits to each engine and the number of searches performed. At Marin Software, where we closely track paid search spending, we did see a slight increase in spending in Microsoft Advertising – during a week when spending on both Google and Yahoo dropped slightly. And the spending jump was based on an increase in the number of clicks, not the cost per click. This probably makes sense, as Microsoft did not do a strong outreach effort to advertisers in advance of Bing’s launch. It’s still unclear how Bing will impact the SEM market in the long-term. In the meantime, here are three tips search marketers should keep top of mind when running paid search programs on Bing.
Keep Bing’s differences in mind
Many marketers have never bothered to move their Google ads to Microsoft Advertising, but you should. Just ask your Microsoft Ad rep if they will accept an export from your Google account, and you could be up and running quickly. It doesn’t have to be a lot of your time, but will result in incremental traffic to your site.
The conversion rate may be slightly lower on MSN.com for some categories, so you can keep the same bids or lower them by about 15%. For lead generation categories such as insurance, weight loss, or credit checks, the conversion rate actually appears to be better on MSN, perhaps due to differences in quality score enforcement and possibly demographic differences.
Think about the demographic differences carefully, as MSN/Bing users will tend to be less technology savvy. Of course, most searches are performed on Google for all users, but on the margin, Windows users who do not bother to change their defaults are more likely to end up at Bing, where as more technology savvy users will likely be using Firefox and Google. What is the impact of this for search marketers? Depending on your category, your ads may be more or less suitable for Bing searchers.
Leverage Bing’s synopsis feature
The Bing “synopsis” feature (which shows a snippet from the results page) is beneficial to advertisers, as it will likely keep users on the results page longer, instead of clicking away to another site. Depending on the number of ads that show up, the mouseover can overlap the ads themselves (see below). In this example, the ad in position 8 (Kohl’s) gets better treatment than ads 5, 6 and 7. However, for most advertisers, click-through volumes will be too low to draw any statistically significant conclusions from these differences.
Know the ins-and-outs of Microsoft Advertising
While Microsoft has launched a new look and feel for Web visitors with Bing, the backend and ad center are largely the same. While there are important differences between Microsoft and Google, the most critical issues are in measurement. When using Microsoft tracking, search marketers cannot track revenue amounts, only the occurrence of a sale. Assuming your orders are of different values, you will want to use another tracking technique such as Google Analytics, Omniture Site Catalyst, or Marin’s tracker. Don’t try to measure costs and conversions by different match types – it’s really not possible with Microsoft Advertising. There is, however, a nice parametrization feature that can cut down on the number of ad groups you will need, which is very handy for advertisers with a large numbers of products.
Bing is a blend of the old and the new, and best-practices in search marketing still apply. If you are managing very large search marketing programs, Bing probably won’t be the main focus of your job, but it was and is still a great place to pick up some incremental traffic. Here at Marin, and I imagine across the search marketing industry, we will pay attention to any demographic differences that the Bing front-end yields over time. But as with anything in paid search, you don’t have to take anybody else’s word for it – you can jump in directly to measure your own results.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.