Goodbye Enhanced Campaigns, Hello Bing Ads

Once July 23rd rolls around, I hope we can all agree to stop referring to “enhanced campaigns” as such and get back to simply calling them “campaigns.”

It was a great message spin on Google’s part to select this antonymic adjective to describe campaigns which offer fewer targeting options and higher CPCs — but, as marketers come to see the change for what it truly is, I believe the time has come to retire that modifier.

I suspect that few people actually believed the “enhanced” bit, and fewer still do now that enhanced campaign cost performance data are emerging.  To continue to associate the word “enhanced” with the new campaign structure will only lead to more cynicism and mistrust of Google within its advertising base.  It’s a shame, really, because Google is an amazing company that has done (and continues to do) amazing things for its advertising platform.

I have noticed a shift in advertiser attitudes toward Google over the past few months, and it is most noticeable when contrasted with attitudes toward Microsoft’s Bing Ads. In my unscientifically-validated opinion, it seems that advertiser respect for Google has dropped a few pegs, while Microsoft is gaining new admirers and renewed respect.

Search Marketers are going wild over Microsoft’s Bing Ads. Image via Shutterstock.

Is Microsoft Winning New Hearts And Minds?

To  illustrate my point, let me share an experience from the SMX Advanced Conference a few weeks ago. Paul Corkery, Microsoft Program Manager for Search and Tools, was speaking on the Amazing PPC Tactics panel about some cool new features in Bing Ads.

He started off by stating that Microsoft was committed to supporting the import of AdWords Enhanced Campaigns into Bing Ads, but also he hoped advertisers would appreciate that Bing Ads will continue to support desktop, mobile, and tablet targeting.

A spontaneous cheer arose from the crowd.

“And advertisers can still control bids for mobile devices at the keyword level on Bing,” he continued. The audience erupted again.

With each new announcement Corkery made about Bing Ads, the hooting and hollering became more intense. It got so loud, you’d have thought you were at an old-fashioned revival meeting. People continued to hoot and holler, clapping and loudly showing their support for Microsoft. For Microsoft!!

This was a true out-of-body experience for me. I remember back in the old days when Microsoft was (un)lovingly referred to as “the Death Star of the Pacific Northwest” because they were so dominant in the PC software space. But here it was — crowds going bonkers for Microsoft and Bing Ads!

That spontaneous outburst in Seattle probably says as much about Microsoft’s growing momentum in our search advertising community as it does the collective frustration with Google. It sure feels like lines have been crossed, and a tipping point has been reached that will lead to advertising budgets shifting away from Google and toward Microsoft — that is, once all this enhanced campaign migration baloney is over and done with.

Advertisers Returning Verdicts On Enhanced Campaigns

The first major studies of the economic impact of enhanced campaigns have been hitting the news — and the news is not that good.

At SMX Advanced, a few PPC experts shared their experiences on a panel entitled, Best Practices for Enhanced Campaigns . My good friend and colleague, Christine Churchill, wrote a great recap of the panel in her last SEL column, but one of the most important takeaways from that session was the fact that after spending $5 million within enhanced campaigns, CPAs across all devices had risen alarmingly.

Last week, a few other leading advertisers reported similar findings.

Search Engine Land contributor Ginny Marvin wrote an eye-opening article about digital agency iProspects’ results from $6 Million in enhanced campaign ad spend. iProspect reported that while they have seen increased traffic and revenues since April, they’ve also observed higher CPCs for mobile (9%) tablets (12%) and desktops (14%).

Most significantly, Dr. Sid Shah, Adobe Director of Business Analytics, published a research and analysis report entitled, “Google Enhanced Campaigns to Impact Google’s Ad Revenue; New Algorithms Crucial For Advertiser Success.” In his analysis, which was based on $100 Million of Google AdWords enhanced campaign ad spend, Dr Shah has observed a 6% CPC increase from March through May. The report goes on to forecast another 5-10% CPC increase over the next two quarters, compared with the CPCs in the same quarters in 2012. These increases are being driven in part by enhanced campaigns.

Lisa Raehsler wrote about the Adobe research study, and Google responded to that article with an incredible statement:

Only Google could dismiss a $100 Million, 3-month ad study like this.

Really? A study involving $100 Million of ad spend isn’t a large enough sample size to make a reliable conclusion about the economic impact of enhanced campaigns? Wow. Pity the small advertisers this whole enhanced campaigns thing is supposed to help — they could gather data from now until the sun burns out and they still wouldn’t know whether it is working or not. Wow. Wow. Wow.

What’s An Advertiser To Do?

Reading these economic impact reports, which reasonably mirror my own observations and those of numerous other advertisers I’ve talked with, it is clear that advertising on Google has just become more expensive. Even if, like iProspect, you see increased traffic and revenues, these come at higher costs and take some more of the fun out of advertising on Google.

Unless Google relents on keyword level control of mobile bids (yeah, right), allows for expanded bid modifier ranges (I am still betting on this) and adds targeting of tablet devices back in (fuggedaboutit), it sure looks like the net impact of enhanced campaigns is going to be lower returns on Google ad spend.

Does that mean you should stop advertising on Google? Heck no! There’s still way too much good traffic and revenue to be had — and Google’s Display Ad network is still, in my opinion, hands-down the best in the industry. However, what we should all do is consider shifting more search ad budget over to Bing Ads.

What To Expect On Bing Ads

If you are not yet advertising on Bing Ads, and want to know if it’s worth your while or not, here are two back-of-the-napkin calculations you can use to estimate your potential on Bing based on how you are are doing now on Google.

To estimate Conversions on Bing:

In other words, if you get 1,000 conversions on Google, you can figure that the same campaign imported into Bing Ads should be capable of ~ 200 conversions in the same time period.

To estimate your Cost Per Conversion (CPA) on Bing:

So, if you are averaging $50/conversion on a Google search campaign, expect that same campaign to bring you conversions at around $40 on Bing Ads.

These are rough estimates from a sampling of our US and Canadian clients, and it is quite possible to achieve this level of performance by simply opening up a Bing account and importing your existing Google campaigns. You can do better with some time and attention. We’ve seen CPAs range from 60% – 95% of their AdWords equivalent. We’ve seen conversion volumes as high as 25% of the AdWords equivalent, but rarely below 15%.

As you can see, there’s plenty of low-hanging fruit that’s yours for the easy picking by just getting started with Bing. So, once you’ve finished dedicating your waking hours to converting and tweaking your Google Enhanced Campaigns, start spending more time over on Bing Ads. You’ll be glad you did.

As promised earlier, I’ll be starting my multi-part series on how to succeed on the Bing Ads platform. In the meantime, if you have any questions or challenges on Bing Ads, or want to share your own successes, tips and tricks, please leave a comment below. I’ll do my best to respond to your questions, as will your fellow readers, who are always willing to jump in and leave helpful comments.

About The Author

Matt Van Wagner
Matt Van Wagner is President and founder of Find Me Faster a search engine marketing firm based in Nashua, NH. He is a member of SEMNE (Search Engine Marketing New England), and SEMPO, the Search Engine Marketing Professionals Organization as a member and contributing courseware developer for the SEMPO Institute. Matt writes occasionally on internet, search engines and technology topics for IMedia, The NH Business Review and other publications.