Foretelling the Future of Search: 5 Revelations Shared at #BingAdsNext
Last week, I flew out to Seattle for BingAds Next, an annual event that Microsoft hosts to give power users the opportunity to learn about upcoming products and emerging trends in online advertising.
Given Bing’s reputation for throwing the most opulent events in the industry (believe me, I’ve enjoyed my fair share of orange candy bars and never-ending cocktails, courtesy of the Microsoft crew), I was excited for the trip, but the itinerary was vague and, as a first timer, I had no idea what I was in for.
Entryway to Microsoft’s elusive Envisioning Center
True to form, the event far exceeded my wildest expectations. My day started with a tour of Microsoft’s Envisioning Center, an interactive lab that showcases futuristic technologies that the company has not yet perfected or released for public consumption. This experience was wild—definitely the closest I’ll ever come to experiencing time-travel—but unfortunately, I must spare you the details as I signed an NDA that swears me to secrecy.
Luckily, I CAN give you an overview of the speeches that followed, which offer a glimpse into what paid search advertisers can expect in the not-so-distant future.
Here’s a recap of the most exciting details revealed at BingAds Next this year:
#1. Bing Will Be Seamlessly Integrated With More of Our Daily Activities
“That’s a tough question, I’ll Bing it for you!” said no one ever. For years, it was Bing’s mission to replace Google as the popular search engine. In 2016, they’re taking a different approach to boost search volume. Rather than encouraging users to cheat on their go-to engine, Bing is one step ahead.
Nowadays, when people need to search for something, they leave the program they’re using, open a browser and embark on a search. Bing’s goal is to simplify this process and give users access to do a search directly within the application they are working in. Rik van der Kooi, Micorsoft’s Corporate VP of Search Advertising, said that communication models that invoke search inside of a dialogue, like the Chinese app WeChat, is a great example of this trend in practice.
To do this successfully, Bing must be omnipresent—always in the right place at the right time. This functionality has already been integrated into many features in Windows 10. For example, in the newest version of Microsoft Word, users can do a search from directly within the document they’re writing. Bing scans the document and uses the context to better inform the search, then presents the SERP in the right-hand rail of the document. I can’t imagine that anyone would favor the “old” style of searching to this. Not only is it a seamless transition (search is just ONE click away!), the results are personalized and it eliminates the need to pop in and out of various windows.
With Smart Lookup, Bing integrates seamlessly into Word.
In the coming year, we can expect to see Bing integrated into more and more of the features that you use on a daily basis. In a quest to expand rapidly, Microsoft is pursuing numerous partnerships with leaders across various industries.
#2. BingAds is Launching a New Version of Editor and it’s Mac Friendly (!!)
When Dare Obasanjo took the stage to give us a product demo of BingAds Editor, you could tell that the room was getting a little restless. Our morning had been filled with fascinating presentations painting a picture of the future of Bing and now we were getting a tour of boring old Editor? It seemed like it would kill the excitement and momentum the presenters had been building all morning.
And then, Dare pulled out a Mac.
Using a Mac at Microsoft’s headquarters feels like sacrilege, even if you’re a guest, so the idea of a Microsoft Program Manager running a demo on one seemed blasphemous. It could only mean one thing: BingAds Editor is finally going to be compatible with Macs. To prove that this isn’t just a lofty 2016 goal, but truly in the works, Dare gave us a live tour of Editor on his MacBook. It’s not quite ready for public consumption (the Product Team is aiming for a full release in early Summer 2016), but it does offer complete parity with the Windows version of Editor.
To say that this news was well-received by attendees is a vast understatement. People went BANANAS and the Twittersphere was even more excited. Upon making the announcement, Dare immediately became the MVP of BingAds Next. I happened to be seated beside him for the remainder of the conference and witnessed more than one person refer to him as their “hero” for the day.
You may be wondering, given the small number of Mac users out there, why all the hoopla around this announcement? Power users have been requesting this feature for years and Bing has been promising to move to a more customer-driven product model. This is an indication that they’re really adopting this philosophy.
#3. New Partnerships and Syndication Will Make Bing a More Attractive Advertising Space
Bing prides itself on its ability to form partnerships with many industry leaders. In fact, they attribute this strength to the fact that they are NOT Google (who many of these partners find themselves competing with). At this point, Bing is seeing 4-5x year over year click growth in Bing syndicated clicks and they expect a whopping 19% of clicks to be from syndicated partners in 2016 (due to the inclusion of AOL, which is expected to provide access to 43M new, unique searchers).
Digital marketers should absolutely consider expanding their targeting to include BingAd’s Search Partners. This will allow them to reach more users on sites like WSJ, Bloomberg, Amazon, and Forbes.
#4. Bing Will Double Its International Market Share in 2016
Given its low market penetration, many advertisers currently exclude Bing from their international strategies. However, that’s likely to change in the coming year. According to Rik van der Kooi, one of the Bing team’s primary goals this year is to expand internationally. Their goals to gain and retain users outside of the United States are so aggressive that he admitted he’ll be disappointed if their international market share is not doubled within a year’s time.
We can expect to see a very different chart next year.
This could have a dramatic impact on account managers whose clients advertise in foreign countries. They must keep an eye on Bing’s growth and be prepared to allocate more advertising dollars to non-US based BingAds campaigns by the end of next year.
#5. The Next Big Thing Already Exists
Bill Buxton, a principal researcher at Microsoft, wrapped up the event with a mind-blowing philosophical assessment of the digital advertising space. His presentation was truly captivating (I’d probably need to listen to it on repeat for a few hours to catch ALL of his brilliant takeaways), but the thing that resonated most with me was the concept that the next “big thing” is already here.
Bill Buxton’s Long Nose of Innovation
According to Bill, any technology that is going to have a significant impact within the next ten years is already ten years old. He went on to explain that, to create something truly groundbreaking, you must refine an existing technology. The key is to innovate to reduce its complexity while increasing the value of all others that it interacts with. The great innovation lies in changing the relationship between things that already exist to provide users with a better experience.
He referred to Bluetooth as a great example of this in practice. Before Bluetooth, we had two entities that were equipped with computers, a car and a phone. Each item functions fine solo but together, through Bluetooth, they seamlessly integrate into a single entity. Ultimately, this innovation is human centered; it takes something that was challenging for the user (having a conversation while driving) and improves the experience by connecting the phone to the car. Even better, when the user arrives at his destination, the two computers can disaggregate seamlessly, without impacting the consistency of the conversion.
It can be hard to get people excited about Bing, but I’m personally excited to see what the future holds for the second-string search engine. As it expands its presence through new partnerships and integrations, I hope to see a significant uptick in search volume, which would truly shake up the paid advertising space. What future Bing features are you excited about?