Meta's ad-free tier, Google's AI image tools, Amazon's lead gen ads and more feature in this month’s list of search and social news.
Search and SEM are so synonymous with Google that it even permeates the language we use. Instead of searching for something, we 'Google' it, and SEM practitioners often reference making changes in 'AdWords' despite Google's rebranding. But although Google is the undisputed king, Bing's market share and reach continue to grow. According to data provided by Microsoft in September 2018, in the United States alone, Bing and Yahoo combined accounted for 5.5 billion searches from 137 million unique users and represented a 34.7% market share for desktop searches. With the transition of all Yahoo traffic to Bing in March 2019, adopting a Bing-specific strategy is more key than ever to a successful PPC program.
Most people's first instinct when launching on Bing would be to copy over their entire Google program and continue with strategies they had already seen success with on Google. While this is a good starting point, not refining your strategy to be Bing-specific and leverage additional functionality available on the Bing platform can lead to lost opportunities and efficiency. Continue reading for some specific areas to consider when defining your Bing strategy and program setup.
The difference most often cited between Google and Bing PPC programs is cost. With fewer searches and fewer advertisers than Google, Bing is definitely the less competitive of the two search engines. As a result, CPC is likely to be lower, although to what degree will vary from program to program. To account for this difference and avoid needless overspend, follow these steps when copying new campaigns from Google to Bing:
1. Set starting bids at ~20% of the current Google Max CPC. From there, refine up/down based on performance. This is where machine learning simplifies things as the algorithm can more quickly calibrate optimal bids based on performance and the bidding landscape.
2. Start with a low budget and scale-up. Pay attention if any of your campaigns are limited by budget or are losing impression share due to budget so you can adjust accordingly. Also, consider how costs are generally lower when defining your overall budget for Bing. For most businesses, the budget for a successful Bing program will be roughly 20-35% of their Google Ads budget.
3. Keep an eye on how conversion rates and your optimization metric (e.g. CPA, ROAS, Margin, etc.) differ for Bing versus Google. While conversions are also often cheaper in general on Bing, the difference in user profiles between Google and Bing, which we will cover next, may lead to some surprising insights.
Due to this demographic difference, you will often see different behavior on Bing versus Google. For example, as touched on above, cost per conversion tends to be lower on Bing for most advertisers. Although there are likely many factors at play, the fact that many Bing users are higher income may mean they are less likely to be bargain hunting and have a clearer purchase intent. Regardless of the cause, if you do find your Bing program benefiting from lower-cost conversions, bake this benefit into your strategy. Consider upping your target CPA for Google to reap more conversions on that platform while still hitting your overall CPA goal. It may also be worth re-evaluating your Bing budget to allocate more spend to that platform if you are not yet at the point of diminishing returns.
In addition, depending on the variety of products you sell and their target audience, you may find that some campaigns that perform very well on Google don't do as well on Bing and vice versa. Take advantage of any learnings like this and allocate spend accordingly. Increase budgets for higher-performing campaigns and, if the delta versus Google is that great, consider pausing them on Google entirely and allocating that spend to Bing instead. In short, take advantage of any performance differences to benefit your program as a whole.
As opposed to Google, Bing also offers more granular targeting options that you should consider leveraging to further drive efficiency for your program. The first area to consider is ad scheduling. Bing actually allows you to set different timezones per campaign (as opposed to the account as a whole), and apply ad schedules to your campaigns accordingly. Particularly if you run campaigns in multiple countries, the ability to localize ad schedules should lead to increased performance without the need to create multiple Bing accounts.
In addition, Bing also offers much more control over search partner targeting. As opposed to Google where you can only choose between targeting search only or search and search partners, Bing enables you to create search partner-specific campaigns and even exclude particular search partners. So, for example, if you are generally seeing good performance via Bing Search partners but aol.com specifically has a much higher CPA, you can simply exclude it from the list, ensuring search partners only benefit and do not hinder your program's performance.
Lastly, Bing enables you to specify whether or not you wish to target close variants, such as plurals and misspellings. Google, however, recently enabled close variants for all exact match keywords without the ability to opt-out, essentially turning them into phrase match keywords. Particularly if you are seeing search queries for close variants that are driving up spend without resulting in conversions, include this setting in your Bing setup.
Bing also offers several extension options not included in Google Ads that may help to increase click-through and conversion rates. Released in April 2019, action extensions consist of 70 pre-defined calls to action that can be applied at the account, campaign, or ad group level. For example, if you run a travel booking site, you can add a 'reserve' extension that includes a calendar icon and, upon clicking, takes the user directly to the reservation page. Or, for a quote comparison site for insurance, home repair services, etc., you could include a 'Get Quote' button that leads directly to your lead capture form. According to Microsoft's official blog, beta customers who tested various action extensions saw, on average, a 20% increase in CTRs. Consider what type of actions make the most sense for your products or services and incorporate them into your Bing strategy.
In short, Bing's differentiators versus Google both in terms of typical performance and demographics and unique features provide an opportunity to drive efficiency. While copying over what has been successful in Google is a great way to quickly get Bing up and running, refine your strategy as data begins to roll in. Look for areas where Bing's typically lower costs and different demographics benefit your program and adjust your budget allocation and goals accordingly. In addition, take advantage of Bing's more granular settings and value-added features to better optimize your program. By tailoring your setup to Bing's performance and features, you can make your overall SEM program more successful.
To learn more about how you can drive improved performance on Bing, connect with our digital media experts today.