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Are You Losing Money to Microsoft adCenter's Syndicated Search Partners?

John Lee
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If you aren't reporting on Microsoft adCenter's Syndicated Search Partners, there's a good chance you're losing money. You can look at this statement in one of two ways: either you're losing money because the traffic isn't converting or you're losing money because you aren't maximizing your potential from this PPC channel.

Microsoft adCenter, much like Google AdWords, has an extended network of websites that repurpose the Bing search results as their own including your adCenter PPC ads. These sites make up what adCenter calls Syndicated Search Partners.

In the not-so-old days when Microsoft adCenter only published ads on Microsoft properties and partners you couldn't report on the Search Partners individually -- and chances are it wouldn't have mattered (low volume). Then came the Search Alliance, which brought all of Yahoo's Search Partners into the mix. With the alliance came improved reporting and insight into the Syndicated Search Partners.

Find Search Partners in the Publisher Performance Report

Reporting on the Syndicated Search Partners isn't the easiest thing to do, but it's worth the effort. In your adCenter account, go to the Reports tab. From the Report: dropdown, choose Publisher Performance. You will also need to decide if you are going to review the data at the Account, Campaign, or Ad Group level.

Create new report

Depending on the performance of your account (or the period of time you choose for the report), running the Publisher Report may take a few minutes.

Once it has loaded, don't be fooled by the report's appearance. On first blush, this report looks like a Placement Performance report for the Content Network, but it really isn't.

Next, download this report so that you can view it in a spreadsheet.

Download zipped CSV

Now you can sort the report and manipulate it to tell you exactly what you need to know.

Use the filter feature of Excel (or whatever spreadsheet software you use) to filter Website URL column by the text "Bing." This will show you all of the results for "Bing and Yahoo Search Properties Only."

These are your traditional search results. Pull these rows into another spreadsheet and total all of the columns for a sum of search performance.

Go back to the original data and switch the filter to does not contain "Bing." This will show you all of the Syndicated Search Partners. Again, pull this data into a separate spreadsheet and total the data.

Now you can compare performance of Search vs. Syndicated Search Partners. In many cases you may find that the Search Partners are a high traffic, high spend channel that doesn't convert well.

That being said, there have been a few accounts where Search Partners perform well (or even better than Search). This goes to show that you should always look at the data before making any decisions to restrict traffic to adCenter's Search Partners.

Change Your Distribution Settings

This leads me to the final piece of this puzzle. How do you change your distribution settings to restrict your adCenter traffic to only Search or only the Syndicated Search Partners?

First, this change is made at the ad group level. You can choose manipulate ad distribution in the native interface, but you'll be forced to change each ad group one-at-a-time. To speed this up, use the Microsoft adCenter Desktop tool where you can make distribution changes in bulk across all of your ad groups.

In the native interface, go to an ad group you want to change and click on Change Settings. Under the ad group name you will see a line that says Ad Distribution. When you click the edit link, you will be given the option to show ads as follows:

  • All Bing and Yahoo search networks and syndicated search partners

  • Only Bing and Yahoo websites

  • Only Bing and Yahoo syndicated search partners

Change ad group settings

Again, making ad distribution changes in the native adCenter interface could take a while if you have a large account. Using the desktop tool will speed things up immensely.

In the tool, drill down to the ad group level and select those ad groups that you want to edit. Toward the bottom of the screen you'll see a drop-down menu labeled Network Distribution. Here you can select which of the three settings you would like to employ.

Network distribution

As Microsoft adCenter continues to gain in importance thanks to the Search Alliance, it also becomes more important to manage adCenter to its full potential. This includes improving your return in any way possible.

Manipulating your ad distribution and either accentuating or removing adCenter's Syndicated Search Partners is a great way to do just that. Recently, I improved an account's ROAS from the mid 60 percent range to the upper 90 percent range just by removing the Search Partners. And another account looks as though it would benefit from having a campaign specifically targeting the Search Partners with a dedicated budget.

As with all things PPC, it comes down to reporting and making data driven decisions to improve performance.

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