Bing Ads is sometimes disregarded as irrelevant and if you’ve been doing PPC marketing for any amount of time, you’ve most likely heard about how much better Google AdWords is than Bing Ads…
But what if I were to tell you that Bing Ads is actually BETTER than Google AdWords??? That you can actually get a higher return on ad spend by pulling all of your advertising budget from AdWords and pushing it into Bing.
Well, I got news for ya…I’m not gonna say that 😄. But I am gonna say that Bing Ads may be worth a deeper dive than many of us have given it credit for.
If you haven’t been in the industry for several years (or living on earth), you may be asking: “what the heck is Bing Ads?” So, let’s start by reviewing what it is exactly.
What is Bing?
To start, it used to be called something else.
You know that teenage niece you have that’s going through an identity crisis while she’s finding herself and wanting to be called something else every other week? First, it was Kimberly, then Kimmie, then just Kim, and then finally settling on Princess. Well, that’s kind of like Bing Ads.
Originating from Microsoft’s previous engines (MSN Search, Windows Live Search, and Live Search), Bing Ads was officially launched by Steve Ballmer in 2009. Yup, this same Steve Ballmer:
What was originally known as Microsoft adCenter, later became MSN adCenter, and is now currently known as simply Bing Ads. That last one is a pretty big name transformation, but I guess that’s what the neigh sayers said to Princess in the beginning also.
Microsoft claims that they came up with this name after analyzing the results from a focus group study. They claimed that it was memorable, short, easy to spell, and would function well as a URL across the world. Also, the sound reminded people of that sound made when you discover something or decided on something…kinda like ‘bingo!’.
However, many of the industry peeps still believe that it stands for ‘Because It’s Not Google’. I, for one, think that Steve Ballmer was just a really big fan of Friends.
You get some bonus coverage too!
The relationship between Yahoo! and Bing goes back to the earlier days of PPC advertising, before Microsoft even had its own PPC platform, and it’s evolved throughout the years.
Early on, Microsoft was piggy backing on Yahoo’s PPC platform by serving their ads on MSN Search and sharing a portion of the ad revenue. Then, Microsoft developed its own PPC platform (MSN adCenter) and began showing Yahoo! Ads in its search results.
After that, neither of them were showing each other’s ads. It wasn’t until 2010 when they once again joined forces to form the Microsoft Search Alliance, which later became known as the Yahoo! Bing Network. This partnership was modified in 2015 when Yahoo! came out with their own platform, Yahoo! Gemini.
Today, when you advertise on Bing Ads, your ads will still show in Yahoo!, just in a more limited capacity. To summarize that all, you get a little bonus coverage, and who doesn’t love a little bonus. Plus, a company that has an exclamation point in their name. Well, that’s just darn right exciting in itself!
It’s actually pretty BIG.
Contrary to popular belief, people actually do still have Hotmail accounts (I may or may not be one of those people 😉), use Internet Explorer as their web browser, AND use Bing for search. And in fact, in the U.S., that number is actually quite large. According to the most recent numbers, Bing accounts for over 20% of the U.S. search engine market share. If you throw in the Yahoo! partnership, that number is well over 30%.
30% of anything is a healthy chunk that shouldn’t be avoided. Imagine if you’d leave out 30% percent of your lunch today. You’d still be pretty hungry. What if 30% of your day was spent reading this blog post? You’d probably be pretty angry at me.
Who Uses Bing?
Now that we have a better understanding of what Bing is for, let’s take a look at WHO Bing is for?
Outside of North America, more specifically the U.S., Bing’s presence is rather limited. In fact, 85% of all Bing users are located in the red, white, & blue. Of those, 87% come from users of Internet Explorer (now Microsoft Edge), which just so happens to be the default search engine for any Windows device, which happens to be owned and operated by Microsoft, which also so happens to be the same owner of Bing. Coincidence? Probably not.
Here are some more traits common to Bing users:
- Less tech-savvy
- More blue collar rather than white collar
- A bit older in age (35+)
- More likely to have children
- ⅓ of Bing users are college graduates
- ⅓ have household income of greater than $100K
For obvious reasons, understanding the user persona of Bing is very useful when deciding whether or not to pursue Bing Ads as a potential channel to advertise in. For example, Bing might be a good idea if you’re trying to sell to wealthy grannies that might be a little new to technology.
Big Benefits of Bing
We all know the BBB, right? No, not the Better Business Bureau, but the Big Benefits of Bing. Well, if not, here’s a little synopsis that will help with that:
- Expanded reach – As we just noted, Bing serves a different market than Google which you most likely don’t want to miss out on. How else is granny supposed to learn about your product?
- Ease of starting – If you already have a Google AdWords account running, which you most likely do, it’s as easy as clicking import to get your Bing account launched. Well, maybe not that easy, but Bing does make it extremely efficient for us by providing us with the option to import our campaigns directly from AdWords.
- Similar territory – Learning an entirely new interface with Facebook ads may be a little daunting, and don’t even get me started with LinkedIn or Twitter. However, you’ll find that the layout of the land in Bing is quite similar to AdWords. Let’s say, if the social platforms are cousins of AdWords, then Bing is like the younger brother.
- Cheaper traffic – Less competition=cheaper traffic. Not guaranteed to be set in stone, but we have found more often than not we can get the same keywords at a cheaper rate on Bing.
- Awesome support – If you were to ask me this one a couple years ago, I’d be singing a much different song. Today, on the other hand, Bing has made a huge turnaround with their dedicated support teams. Bing knows they have to hustle to gain ground and it shows in their support. Big shoutout to our KB reps–Whoop whoop Emily & Phong!
How Are Google and Bing Different?
Although Google and Bing are similar in the fact that they are both search engines, they’re also different in many respects. It is commonly thought that Bing is in a constant game of follow-the-leader and simply follows suit with every update that Google makes to their platform. And in some respects, this is true (à la expanded text ads). However, these two competitors still do form their own identities through differences, some subtle and some larger.
Video search is the wave of the future. Google knows it and has been preaching about YouTube for several years now. Bing also knows it and, although they don’t have a YouTube as an advertising channel, they do have a video search interface that many visitors actually say they prefer over Google’s.
Instead of serving a vertical list of videos with small thumbnails, it gives a grid of larger thumbnails that you can actually play without ever leaving the Bing interface. Also, for many of the videos, if you hover over them, they will even play a preview of the video. For those more mature audiences, they say that Bing (aka “the porn search engine”) is also a lot more lenient when it comes to filtering out mature content–but honey, if you’re reading this, I wouldn’t know anything about that.
Although Bing has experimented a bit with providing advertisers the option to create sponsored video ads, it never quite caught on and Bing is still clearly behind in the video advertising arena. However, it’s useful to know that Bing is providing a quality product to their users and it’s these little things which may be able to push the user demographics in one way or the other.
For those who need a little assistance in finding exactly what they’re looking for, they may be pleasantly surprised to learn that Bing is there for them. Whereas Google only provides 4 suggestions in autocomplete, Bing provides 8.
This is especially important to note for digital marketers as these autocompletes can play a major impact on search terms and help guide us when performing keyword research.
With features such as reverse image search and voice search, Google still beats out Bing in some respects. Also, for loyal Googlers, the ease and convenience of all the integrations with other Google services (Gmail, calendar, etc.) may be too big of a draw to keep them from transitioning over to the Bing side; however, Bing does provide some enticing features themselves that, if more people knew about them, would potentially draw a wider audience.
To start with, Bing rewards is pretty darn cool. Bing literally provides rewards to you simply for doing what you do everyday – search!
So, why is this important for digital marketers, you ask. Well, as digital marketers it’s important for us to have a firm grip on the lay of the land. By offering free movies, music, games and more for simply searching as you normally would, it’s clear that Bing is making a statement. Sure, they may need to work (and bribe) a little harder than Google, but they mean business.
Perhaps the largest and most important difference between the two is search quality. “Google it” is a phrase that we’ve all heard and said before. To ‘Google’ has become a verb and is almost synonymous with performing an Internet search. “Bing it” may not be quite as common, but they are telling Google to “Bing It On”.
Bing ran a study called “Bing It On” in which they blind tested the competing search engines side by side to see which results the visitor would prefer. According to Bing’s original findings, they won that test in a 2:1 landslide. These results, however, have been disputed. Bing furthered the test and used Google’s top search queries to compare side by side with Bing’s results and, although by not by as convincing of a margin, Bing once again won.
Regardless if you believe the results or not, there’s something to be said about the difference in search quality between the two. Some could claim that Google’s machine learning algorithm may have overcomplicated the science of the search by providing the user with what they think they’re really searching for and not what they’re actually searching for.
Due to this, it’s quite possible that Bing did win their challenge. It’s important that we understand this difference because, even though we may or may not be directly concerned with organic search results, this does have an impact on the online presence of our clients and, ultimately, the quality of the channel we’re spending advertising dollars on does influence our target audience.
Since we’re a PPC agency after all, we’ll focus most heavily on this final difference, which is paid search. To analyze the paid search, we’ll break it down to 3 key areas: pricing/competition, quality score, & verticals.
Supply and demand – It’s the first (or second) thing taught in any econ 101 course. As discussed earlier in this post, Google has a considerable strong hold on the market share between these two search engines and, therefore, the ad real estate is much more competitive. More competitive ad real estate means higher prices. Understanding the difference in pricing and competition is important when setting up an ad budget.
Even though most of us fall under the “I’m willing to spend a million dollars if it makes me money” category, we still need a starting budget to test the waters. According to a study run by AdGooroo, Google’s average cost per click was 71% higher than Bing’s.
Although the sheer audience size that Google possesses is a strength for them, the cheaper price on Bing also opens the door to them as a potential option. In fact, some would even call it the best deal in PPC. A potential test run in Bing would be significantly cheaper than testing Google and, hell, if it continues to make your business money, you may as well spend a million dollars.
One of the most critical factors in determining your CPC is quality score. Both Bing Ads and Google AdWords have their own definitions of quality score. We’ve all been trained to understand that high quality score equals cheaper clicks and we’re all constantly working on finding ways to get that QS to a 10. Although this sometimes mysterious score can be difficult to understand, we can clearly understand that there’s a difference in this score between the two platforms.
Let’s start with what this score is comprised of, according to both channels:
- Ad relevance
- Expected clickthrough rate
- Landing page experience
These 3 components build the quality score for both Bing and Google; however, the way that they impact your PPC accounts is different. Quality score is thought to be one of the two primary factors impacting your ad rank (the other being bid amount) and although it does in AdWords, this is not the case with Bing, at least not directly.
Bing provides you with the quality score more so in order to guide you on how to improve your account’s quality, so that they’ll be more prominent in search results.
Even though QS does indeed impact the likelihood that your ads will appear in the Bing Network, it does not have a direct impact on the ad rank during the auction. According to Bing themselves, “Quality Score in this form serves as guidance for advertisers on how to improve their ad to increase traffic and revenue. However, it’s not the same metric used for ranking and pricing in the ad auction.”
When deciding whether to try out Bing or not, a good place to start thinking is whether or not your industry has a presence in Bing. Since Bing does seem to appeal to certain demographics more than others, it also makes sense that they would have a larger presence in certain industries.
The below chart displays several verticals in which Bing’s quarterly ad impressions are either competitive or beating Google’s ad impressions (in millions).
As you can see, Bing is actually the market leader in the financial services industry. This also correlates with the demographics as the users tend to be a bit older and wealthy.
However, when continuing to look at the study, we find that the CTRs are considerably higher in every one of these verticals in AdWords, meaning that visitors are simply clicking them more often.
Lastly, the CPCs in each of these respective industries also behaves differently in Bing and Google. As expected, Bing is way cheaper in every vertical included here.
Based on the above numbers, it’s pretty convincing that there are some verticals where Bing can be a tough challenger to Google. The verticals mentioned above are not all-encompassing and if you don’t see yours on the list, we would still encourage testing Bing as an option to expand your reach; however, it helps to understand where Bing can make a larger impact.
Bing Ads Best Practices
To Bing’s credit, they’re very aware of that giant in front of them that is casting the shadow, and they’re climbing that hill to get out of the shade. In the meantime, Bing knows where they stand and they’re making the most of it. Bing understands that for the vast majority of PPC advertisers, Google AdWords is their first option and for this reason, they provided us with the handy dandy import from Google AdWords function.
Once you feel you have a sound structure in your AdWords campaigns, we recommend to utilize the importing option to bring your AdWords structure into Bing. Since these two channels do behave differently, it’s best to not wait too long to import the campaigns and simply import once you have that structure down in AdWords. From there, you’re off to the races managing two separate platforms.
Importing campaigns is a great and efficient way to get your Bing Ads account up and running. However, getting conversions tracked isn’t quite as convenient. Since Bing is its own separate platform, it has its own separate conversion tracking code that will need to be planted, and just importing your AdWords campaigns won’t take care of this step for you.
Bing’s conversion code works a bit different than AdWords’. Whereas in AdWords you create a separate conversion pixel for each conversion goal that you want to track, Bing has one Universal Event Tracking code. In essence, it’s one tag to rule all your tags, a bit like how Google Tag Manager works for Google.
So, before you let a little thing like conversion tracking scare you aware from Bing, take a look at just how easy it is through these 3 easy steps Bing provides for us:
Monitor & Optimize Separately
So, you have your campaigns imported from AdWords and you set up conversion tracking with the Bing UET code. Now, let’s sit back, relax, and watch the moolah come in. Noooot quite. As mentioned several times, Bing and Google are two completely different entities and, as such, they need to be treated as different entities.
You might be thinking “I love my Google account so much and there’s no way I could love another account the same”. However, once the campaigns are imported, your new Bing account will need the same loving care and affection that you provided to your Google account which helped it to grow into the beautiful account it is today.
A good place to start would be to adjust the bids appropriately to Bing. The Bing Keyword Planner is a free tool that can help you accurately set your bids based on the estimated traffic volume in Bing. Generally speaking, you can expect to lower the bids in Bing due to the lesser competition.
Since Bing did release expanded text ads that are the same format as Google’s, it’s still possible to import your ads from AdWords. In fact, it’s even possible to import only your expanded text ads from Google if so desired. Whether you choose to import both ETAs and/or standard text ads, from that point forward, we recommend you begin testing different ad messages in Bing that may be more aligned with your Bing demographics.
In addition to bids and ad copy, the search terms you will come across in Bing may differ from the AdWords search terms. It’s fine to import your negative keywords from Google; however, after some time you may find that the negative keywords being added in Bing may be different than those in Google. Also, the strong search terms which you’ll be extracting to create new Single Keyword Ad Groups will be unique in their own rights.
Wrap Up on Bing Ads
At the end of the day, regardless of CPCs, CTRs, or any other PPC acronym you can throw out there, the one metric that should dictate where you place your advertising budget is the Cha-Chings. Our clients and adoring fans have heard us preach this since day one and we truly believe it. The PPC world can get pretty cluttered and confusing at times, but it’s really pretty simple when you break it down to one question and answer.
What’s making me more money?
Let’s do that & let’s do it right!
Will Bing Ads be the missing piece to your marketing puzzle that you’ve been searching so long and hard for? Maybe or maybe not, but one thing’s for sure, we can test it.
At this point, it is clear that Bing is on the map and they’re here to stay. As more and more marketers expand to Bing, it’s safe to bet that. Just like everything else in the digital marketing world, there will be changes and updates. Who knows, maybe one day Google will even provide an option to “import from Bing Ads”.
Now, the challenge is on for you to Bing it on. How will you use Bing Ads to expand your audience reach? Perhaps you’ve already tried Bing Ads? If so, have you had success and in which verticals do you find it to work best?
We’d love to hear your feedback–so if you have any questions or comments, please feel free to email me at joelneustaedter@hotm…. I mean, please leave your comments below. 🙂