Welcome to Day 12 of 12 Days of Experts! This month, we’re featuring 12 hand-picked articles by industry experts and thought leaders, offering a wider perspective on marketing, business, and leadership. We hope you enjoy these voices from outside the WordStream world. For our final entry in the 12 Days of Experts series, we wanted to do something a little different. Earlier this year, I spoke with John Gagnon, Microsoft’s Bing Ads Evangelist, about the future of Bing Ads to coincide with the launch of WordStream’s Bing Ads Performance Grader. I’ve no doubt that you’ll find John’s perspective on Bing Ads as fascinating as I did.
From its humble beginnings running Overture and Yahoo! ads on the MSN Search network to its present incarnation, Microsoft’s online advertising platform has come a long way during the past few years. Since 2012 when adCenter was rechristened Bing Ads, Microsoft has continually improved and tweaked Bing Ads to offer advertisers a robust, flexible ad platform that can leverage the power of the Yahoo Bing Network.
However, despite the growing popularity of Bing Ads, many advertisers remain unaware of the opportunities they’re missing out on by only advertising on AdWords.
To coincide with the launch of WordStream’s free Bing Ads Grader, we spoke with John Gagnon, Microsoft’s Bing Ads Evangelist, about where Bing Ads is headed, and discovered five things you probably didn’t know about Bing Ads.
Sure, Google is still top dog when it comes to market share, but Bing has slowly and steadily made considerable gains in search, particularly in high-competition verticals.
“Not everybody uses Google,” Gagnon says. “I was just looking at retail [data] yesterday, and if you just take retail as a subvertical of Bing Ads, 31 million of the searches we have for retail – which is I think 50% of the searches that we have – don’t use Google. We have 29% market share, 5.6 billion searches. When you go into verticals, man, it’s crazy. Like travel, telecoms, something like 70-80% of the searches done on Bing, those guys aren’t using Google for search. Those are like net new customers you wouldn’t get if you were just advertising on Google, so people are missing out.”
Image via Search Engine Watch
Don’t miss Mark’s recent post on seven other ways that Bing Ads beats Google AdWords in flexibility and performance.
Contrary to common misconception, the Bing Ads Syndicated Search Partners network can drive high-quality traffic. Some naysayers dismiss the SSP network as a waste of time, but according to Gagnon, it can actually offer advertisers more control.
“If you look at AdWords, and you look at the search partners and the search networks, we have a pretty big partner network [through Yahoo!],” says Gagnon. “And so we’ve actually inherited that, and we have a good amount of traffic that comes from the partner network. One of the differences [between AdWords and Bing Ads] is that you can bid that out. John Lee posted something on Search Engine Watch about this. You can break that out separately like you would in a content campaign. Our search partners, breaking that up, is actually a really big win for people. Instead of just opting out, they can get more volume with us just by opting into it, but breaking it out and treating it separately.”
As important as Quality Score is, many advertisers don’t realize that Bing Ads calculates Quality Score differently than Google does, which could mean further missed opportunities.
“We do have some smaller differences in Quality Score in the way that we break that out,” Gagnon told me. “You know, Google just came out and said, ‘Hey, for a long time we’ve been saying [Quality Score] is a thermometer not a thermostat,’ right, where you change the dial for Quality Score and it makes everything better. Like, we’re just trying to tell you the temperature, show you how things are doing, and that should give you a gauge on what you should focus on. The big thing for our Quality Score is a little bit different, especially for things like landing page quality and other things that can get a bit confusing.”
Although Bing Ads calculates Quality Score differently than Google, many of the same factors do apply to Bing Ads – including keyword relevance and, ultimately, your click-through rate. However, Gagnon said that when it comes to Quality Score and CTRs, it’s all relative.
“What we look at when dealing with Quality Score is, first and foremost, it’s a measure to help you prioritize campaigns and do some optimization, but the biggest component of it is going to be your keyword relevance, your click-through rate,” says Gagnon. “And that click-through rate is your click-through rate relative to your competitors – NOT your actual click-through rate. Let’s say you’re in position 8, your click-through rate is going to be .5, that could be amazing. That could get you [a] really great Quality [Score], even though you’re in position 8. That click-through rate, adjusted by position and other small geographic differences as well as many, many, many, many other factors, but that’s the key component of [Bing Ads’] Quality Score.”
Let’s face it – most advertisers don’t have perfect accounts, and most advertisers could stand to improve at least a few aspects of their accounts, whether that be their ad copy or their landing pages. While Bing Ads calculates the “Holy Trinity” of keyword relevance, landing page relevance, and landing page user experience, mistakes in any one of these three areas may not necessarily result in the kind of penalties you might expect.
“Now, there are some intricacies for our Quality Score that are interesting,” says Gagnon. “The three main components are going to be your keyword relevance, the landing page relevance, and the landing page user experience. In general, what we find is that for user experience, if you have an issue there, you actually have an issue pretty much across your account. Maybe you have a pop-up that goes and blocks the user from engaging with your site, or there’s no content on the page or something of that nature. If you don’t have a problem there, you don’t usually see problems in the account.”
Of course, problems with keyword relevance can be a major red flag, no matter how well-structured the rest of the account may be or how intuitive the user experience is. Fortunately, according to Gagnon, Bing Ads’ match types can be more forgiving.
“What we tend to see is that on Broad and Phrase match, your keyword relevance scores can be a little bit lower,” Gagnon told me. “That’s actually more a function of a couple different pieces, and long story short, here’s the red flag: for landing page relevance specifically, if you have a problem on Exact match, you have a problem. If you have a problem on Broad or Phrase match, it’s not as big of a deal because the way we end up generating this score, we look at the three different buckets you have – keyword relevance, landing page relevance, and landing page user experience.
“If you don’t get a pass, let’s say you’re best-in-class click-through rate, you’re number one, your click-through rate is 99% – you know, it’s just unbelievable – but for whatever reason, you screwed up on the landing page relevance, and there was an issue there, your Quality Score would go to a 5 or 6,” says Gagnon. “So you could look at that 5 or 6 and say, ‘Wait a second, something’s wrong.’ But, truth be told, when we’re looking at your score, when we’re putting you in the auction, we’re trying to figure out your CPC, we’re actually using that 99% [CTR]; we’re saying, ‘Hey, everything looks good here.’”
Many PPC advertisers mistakenly assume that Quality Score is a vital component of Ad Rank in Bing Ads. However, this is not the case.
“Quality Score is NOT included in the [Bing Ads] Ad Rank formula,” says Gagnon. “We use Quality Score as kind of a window into Ad Rank to give you an idea of how you’re doing. The funny thing is, I used to work at Google before Bing, and that’s more or less how it was [there] too. I just don’t think they’ve ever made it that clear [laughs]. This is why I’m talking about keyword relevance.
“If you look at Ad Rank, what it really boils down to is your click-through rate [multiplied by] your bid,” Gagnon says. “That is the vast majority of everything. And there are a number of checks that are like, ‘Hey, does the experience suck?’ That could include page load times and all these other things that are in there. But those page load times and those other things are on a gradient; it’s not like a ‘yes or no’, it’s not like a ‘one or two’, or you’re good or you’re not.”
It’s impossible to look at Bing Ads as an advertising platform without speculating how closely Microsoft is going to move the needle toward what Google is doing with AdWords. While Microsoft has made no secret of its desire to make the Bing Ads experience resemble Google AdWords as closely as possible, that doesn’t mean that Microsoft is content to leave Bing in its present state.
I asked Gagnon about what we can expect from Bing Ads in the coming year or so, and what he had to say will come as welcome news to Bing Ads advertisers and those considering branching out to the platform.
“If we look at the next six months to a year, there’s a lot of things we’re going to be delivering. One of the big things we’re trying to deliver on is actually these richer extensions; things like more visual extensions, what would that look like?” says Gagnon.
“We realize that we have that opportunity because one of the really awesome things about a search results page is that you see them evolving. Not just with product ads, which we launched in April, but with ad formats and ad extensions. You see Google playing around with the Carousel and image extensions, so there’s definitely experimentation to be done there. We have something called Rich Ads in Search, which is available for bigger premium clients. I don’t know if we’ve nailed that formula yet, but that’s an area we’re definitely exploring.”
“If you look at what we’ve done, what we’re doing around a Google MCC-type product and log-in, that’s going to be a big thing,” Gagnon told me. “We know that billing and managing across multiple accounts has been kind of a pain in the butt, so we’re going to be fixing that and making a lot of improvements there. I think you’re going to start to see more from us in the insights perspective. We have the Opportunities tab, but one of the hidden gems of search marketing, in my opinion, is the Bing Ads Intelligence Tool. It gives you insane data. If you wanted to know, for any keyword by any position, let’s say for ‘Ugg boots’, in position 1, on Exact match, we’ll give you the number of clicks, impressions, CPCs, click-through rates, for whatever period of time you want from the last three months.
“We give you an insane amount of data on the auction and the marketplace that Google just isn’t giving right now, but it’s in this tool,” says Gagnon. “How do we get that out there, and how do we improve Opportunities? A lot of that work that we’re doing behind the scenes is manifesting in Opportunities.”
“We’re going to be improving a lot of the data services that we expose,” says Gagnon. “We realize that when you’re advertising on Bing, search marketing really matters to you and we really love your business. What we need to do is we need to give you more information, and better information, so you can make smarter decisions, so we’re starting to do that.
“We’re going to make a push there and continue to, because we want to make sure that advertisers get all the data they need,” Gagnon says. “There’s some cool research [tools] that we’ll be talking about, things like ad copy heat maps. What that’s really about is getting to the click-through rate part of Ad Rank and what combinations do well.”
With so much planned for Bing Ads, now’s the time to see how your account measures up. WordStream’s free Bing Ads Performance Grader gives you actionable insights into your account performance in 60 seconds or less, along with detailed suggestions on how to improve your account to maximize your return on investment and get more out of Bing Ads.
I and everyone here at WordStream would like to warmly thank John Gagnon and everyone on the Microsoft Bing Ads team for taking the time to speak with us – thank you. Unless otherwise indicated, all images are copyright of Microsoft/Bing Ads.
Originally from the U.K., Dan Shewan is a journalist and web content specialist who now lives and writes in New England. Dan’s work has appeared in a wide range of publications in print and online, including The Guardian, The Daily Beast, Pacific Standard magazine, The Independent, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, and many other outlets.
See other posts by Dan Shewan
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