If pay-per-click advertising makes sense for your business (and it does for most), then you're probably already using Google AdWords. But chances are you've only dabbled with Yahoo! and Bing advertising. If that's the case, it may be time to take a closer look at your options. The partnership between Yahoo! and Bing--announced last July--is about to become a reality this fall in the form of a combined pay-per-click platform that will give small-business advertisers an alternative to Google.
Microsoft hopes the partnership will lead to increased search volume, which in turn will attract advertisers to its ad platform. "You need a lot of advertisers to provide the most relevant advertising experience. You don't want to show an ad for 'Tacoma plumber' when a visitor is searching for a plumber in Seattle. The only way to create a market to attract more advertisers is to have a product with a high volume of searchers using it," says Matt Lydon, general manager of Microsoft advertising.
Will Bing and Yahoo! succeed? That's anyone's guess. But in the meantime, here are seven compelling reasons to give advertising on Bing a shot:
- Bid prices are lower.
Google has been around far longer and has a more robust advertising marketplace. The result is a saturated marketplace. For any given keyword, there can be dozens--sometimes even hundreds--of companies bidding for placement on the first page of search results. Currently, that line is shorter on Bing, and as a result advertisers can expect to pay less for placement on most keywords.
- Conversion rates are better (sometimes).
Google and Bing reach different audiences. Google is the default search engine for most people, so your Google ads are going to appear to a wider demographic. While you can expect your Google campaigns to get plenty of traffic, it typically takes a lot of work to bring conversion rates up to an acceptable level. You won't get nearly as much traffic from Bing, but you'll get access to the MSN audience. This can translate into higher sales for certain types of businesses. Compared to Google users, MSN users are older (the bulk are in the 25-54 age range, as opposed to Google's audience, which ranges from 13-34) and primarily female (57 percent vs. 50 percent).These are the customers of choice for most B2C marketers.
In addition, you can use AdCenter to target specific MSN properties to reach specific markets. For instance, MSN's celebrity gossip portal reaches affluent females between the ages 35-49--customers of choice for many B2C businesses. (For a breakdown of MSN user demographics see the AdCenter Lab.)
- Better customer support for small accounts.
Google advertisers who spend more than $500,000 per year have a dedicated account representative who can help with the various technical and billing problems that pop up from time to time. The rest of us have to settle for offshore support which can be, ahem, a less-than-satisfying experience.
Bing is attempting to woo the little guy with a higher level of customer support for small advertisers. Aside from being able to talk to an account rep, small advertisers can take advantage of the Quick Launch program, a service that provides you with free advertising consulting. The only requirement is that you spend at least $500 per month--a figure most of us can easily meet.
- Search traffic is about to grow. According to Comscore, Google's search share in May was around 64 percent compared with Bing's paltry 12 percent. If you've advertised on Bing already, you've probably seen the effects of this when looking at your campaign reports.
However, the new partnership will bring Yahoo!'s and Bing's combined traffic to more than 30 percent--nearly half of AdWords. This kind of traffic can provide a serious bump to anyone's PPC campaign.
- Advertisers who prepare their campaigns ahead of the partnership will have an advantage over those who wait.
Both Google and Bing require advertisers to establish an account history before their ads will show to a wide audience. On Google, this process can take a few weeks to six months (or longer, depending on how established your competitors are). The same will ultimately be true on Bing.
Right now, however, there are relatively few advertisers, so account history is easy to establish. Once the Yahoo! migration is complete (tentatively planned for this fall), it will be much more difficult. So get your campaigns ready now.
- You can import your Google campaigns directly into Bing.
Google and Yahoo! have some annoying differences that make it impossible to simply copy-and-paste a campaign between the two. For instance, Yahoo! has a 40-character title limit while Google's is 25. Yahoo!'s minimum bid is a penny, while Google's is a nickel.
Bing is eliminating these legacy features and standardizing based on Google's ad formats, match types and minimum prices. This means you'll be able to import your Google AdWords campaigns into Bing and Yahoo! almost verbatim.
- It's just plain smart to diversify.
If you've been advertising on AdWords for some time, you may have been hit with the dreaded "Google slap." If Google determines that your website is of poor quality, that your ad is a bad match for a particular keyword, or even that your landing page loads too slowly, the company may make changes to your account or even shut it down entirely. Sometimes these slaps are subtle, and other times Google runs amok and shuts down thousands of advertisers at once. (The company banned more than 30,000 accounts during the December '09 wave, and even more were affected by the July '07 quality score update.)
This unpredictability is, hands down, the single biggest complaint advertisers have with AdWords. More than a few companies have gone out of business because they relied solely on Google for web traffic. This is a critical mistake--one that is difficult to recover from once it happens. Adding a second PPC source to the mix diversifies your traffic and reduces the chance that you'll wake up one day to find your website has become a ghost town.
Microsoft is betting big on its future in search advertising and investing heavily in a combined platform that is starting to look like a compelling choice over AdWords. If you've been sitting on the fence, now might the time to take a chance on something new . . . before your competitors do.
Richard Stokes is the founder and CEO of AdGooroo, a Chicago-based Kantar Media company and a provider of digital marketing intelligence. A certified expert in both email marketing and conversion optimization, Stokes is a respected speaker and author on search topics. Find him on Twitter at @AdGooroo.