Anyone engaging in pay per click (PPC) marketing should be familiar with Google AdWords, and the basics of running a search marketing campaign through it. Given Google’s global dominance and near-monopoly in most markets for PPC marketing, busy marketers, online or otherwise, can perhaps be forgiven for neglecting the opportunity presented by the main alternative platform for PPC marketing campaigns: Microsoft’s Bing Ads. Here, we’ll focus on this “little brother” of the search advertising world, and hopefully putting this on busy marketers’ radar for 2015 to trial PPC activity via this platform!
Bing Ads is Microsoft’s platform for running PPC campaigns on its Bing.com search engine. Launched in 2009, Bing.com is Microsoft’s late entry into the search engine market space. If you’ve never tried searching on Bing before, simply head to Bing.com and pop in a few sample search terms, ideally related to your business or a particular service, and you can see how the search results and ads look. Take a moment to do this now, paying attention to the ads that show up for your searches. You may even see some of your competitors running ads in this space, so take note!
Bing.ie search engine
If you’ve done the above exercise, you’ll likely have thought “aha, almost identical to Google!”
You would not be wrong in thinking this. As a late entrant to the search engine space, Bing has borrowed heavily on established conventions from Google, and tends to follow trends and features here rather than leading the pack in terms of innovation. That’s not to say the good folks at Bing are not innovative, but to the untrained eye, the differences between the search engines are minimal. As this article is about Bing Ads rather than the Bing search engine itself, we will focus more on the advertising capabilities of the Bing ad platform from here on in.
In 2014, searches on the Bing network accounted for almost 19.5% of all searches in the US. Outside of the US, however, this falls to between roughly 5-10% of searches in non-US markets. Percentage-wise that’s quite low, but volume-wise that’s still a hefty chunk of searches happening on Bing. The bottom line on answering this particular question is: Based on these stats, namely if roughly 5-10% of potential searchers for your business are using Bing, then why are you neglecting advertising in this space?!
If that stat alone is not enough to convince you of Bing’s merits, an ad created in the Bing Ads platform can show across other platforms thanks to the Yahoo-Bing search alliance. This means ads will be displayed on Bing.com, Yahoo searches and partner sites. In addition, Bing is the default search engine option on Microsoft products and services, such as Windows Phones and Tablets, Xbox Live, Internet Explorer and smart search on Windows 8.1 and above.
When you factor that there will always be a cohort of users that never change such default settings, you can see how Bing has made inroads into the search market space, and particularly with a potential older demographic that may not be as tech-savvy when it comes to switching browsers or default settings. This last point may be of particular relevance to anyone pitching their services or products to an older audience.
Anecdotally, Bing offers potential cheaper cost-per-clicks (CPCs) and cost-per-acquisitions (CPAs) largely due to the fact that there is often less competition for ad space on Bing. We have clients who have trialled Bing Ads to find that they have less competition compared with Google AdWords and go on to enjoy a new source of cheaper leads/sales (albeit at a low volume). However, we have also had clients in notoriously competitive spaces on AdWords, e.g. legal and financial services, trial Bing Ads, only to find that that it is equally competitive and expensive in such areas.
Simply put, all you need is a website and a credit card, much like Google AdWords! Naturally, there are certain policies and restrictions on both networks around the types of websites and business models that are acceptable. See Bing Policies for more info in this area.
If you have experience with running PPC ad campaigns via Google AdWords, getting the hang of the Bing Ads platform will be quite straightforward. Bing Ads offers a live user interface (UI) and an offline Bing Ads Editor that you can download to manage your campaigns. Both the UI and the Editor offer the option to import your AdWords campaigns relatively seamlessly into Bing Ads. Bear in mind that due to the differences between the platforms, you may encounter some skipped items or minor errors here, particularly if your AdWords account is large or complex, or has advanced features such as RLSA campaigns.
Small differences are found in the interface in terms of where certain account and campaign aspects are housed, worded or grouped in their various tabs and columns. However, a couple of hours playing around with your newly imported campaigns from AdWords into Bing should see you quite comfortable in terms of navigating around the account, particularly if you are already comfortable with the AdWords interface.
In terms of budget, we would typically recommend that if 5-10% of your potential searchers (rising to 19% for those targeting the US), you should allocate 10% of your AdWords spend to Bing Ads. This amount should not be taken away from your AdWords budget, otherwise you risk hurting your core PPC campaigns. If you already have a small AdWords budget (less than €2k/month for example), rather than using our 10% rule, we would suggest a minimum of a €300/month budget for Bing Ads for a 3 month trial, since any less than that in terms of a potential €10 daily budget is unlikely to produce much traction, particularly if your account also contains a lot of campaigns and/or keywords. Bidding is done in the same way as AdWords, on a CPC basis. Do note that bids in Bing Ads must be set to a €0.05 minimum (unlike AdWord’s €0.01 minimum), so this will impact on any budget and bid decisions. It’s best to leave budget and bids as un-ticked options when importing AdWords campaigns, so these can be set by yourself afterwards.
As with all PPC campaigns, it is important to be able to attribute sales, leads, sign-ups or other customer interactions with your website that you deem valuable back to the click origin. Consequently, you should not run any Bing ads activity without first getting your Bing ads conversion tracking (now known as Universal Event Tracking, or UET) set up. This is essentially the same procedure you likely went through with setting up AdWords conversion tracking. Your developer places a snippet of code generated from within the Universal Event Tracking section of the Bing Ads UI onto the “thank you” or confirmation page of the desired conversion activity.
Afterwards, you should do a test on Bing to trigger your ad using an obscure keyword, and convert as a customer would, just to make sure the code tracked this action correctly, making a note of the keyword used and the time. If after 24 hours a conversion has not registered against this keyword in the UI, it’s time to speak to your developer regarding code troubleshooting.
Leaving aside the obvious matter of likely low traffic volume based on Bing’s market share, no analysis of Bing as a platform would be complete without looking at some of the disadvantages.
As an additional ad platform to manage if doing PPC in-house or if you are an agency, adding Bing Ads to your digital marketing efforts will also require additional time and effort in terms management and reporting. As busy digital marketers managing multiple platforms and campaigns, it is important to portion your optimisation efforts according to the platforms that drive the most conversions and/or have the most potential. As Bing is unlikely to drive huge quantities of leads or sales when compared with AdWords, make sure to strike the right balance in terms of spending time working on the accounts.
The Bing Ads platform is lacking in a few features and capabilities that have moved out of pilot/beta on AdWords to become part of the mainstream of search advertising, and as such, will always be playing catch up to AdWords in terms of innovation. Examples here of features that are lacking in Bing Ads include all aspects of remarketing, callout extensions, review extensions and the glacial pace of the rollout of Bing Product ads outside of the US.
Of particular frustration is the language and location targeting restrictions for international advertisers. Bing Ads is only available in 12 languages, and is available in 37 countries, and the table below allows for no deviations from these settings.
As you can see from the table in addition to several key languages missing, e.g. Japanese, Russian, Turkish and Polish, there are several further omissions. For example, Portugal being absent as a market (despite Portuguese being available for Brazil) and that there are large chunks of Latin America absent (even though Spanish exists as an option to serve several markets there). These restrictions also mean you cannot target minority language or ex-pat communities in certain countries, e.g. the Polish community in Ireland, or the British community in Spain.
It’s highly unlikely that Bing will topple Google in the search engine, and by extension, PPC ad stakes, particularly outside of the US. For now though, it is very much part of the search advertising landscape in the 37 countries that it’s available in, and will continue to grow and refine itself incrementally, as well as expand into new markets. At TinderPoint we’ve seen huge improvements to the Bing Ads platform and tools over the past few years, and have had many happy clients continue to use Bing successfully after an initial 3 month trial. We look forward to the future of what Bing Ads can offer anyone engaging in PPC activity, especially with an update to both the UI and Bing Ads Editor coming soon.
When looking for an agency to get you set up on Bing Ads and to manage the account on an ongoing basis, always look for the agency’s Bing Ads Accredited Professional status and accompanying Bing Professional directory listing. This is a program, similar to AdWords Certified Partners, that demonstrates that the agency has team members who have passed the Bing Ads official exam and are best qualified to give you guidance in relation to your investment with Bing Ads.
Tinderpoint is a member of the Bing Ads Accredited Professional program and you can view our directory listing. Get in touch today with our experienced PPC team, who will be happy to discuss your Bing Ads options and your wider PPC strategy!