These topics are interesting and valuable to discuss; however, let's look at a few data points around some performance metrics we've noticed across two specific verticals: financial services and retail. These verticals provide some good insight beyond noting that Microsoft's search market share has increased.
The market share shift is probably the most talked- and written-about. It's worth noting again here, especially because it's the first time I can remember where the main storyline wasn't Google's market share increasing.
Microsoft's search market share increased from 8 percent in May to 9 percent in July, according to comScore.
By no means has this significantly shifted the online landscape. However, our clients in both verticals have felt a lift in impressions -- a direct measure on search volume. Our retail clients are up slightly (6 percent), while our financial services clients are up significantly (27 percent).
This goes beyond just Bing's growth, and is an also an indicator of the recent rebound in the stock market. This volume growth is also interesting, given a lot of the testing that has been occurring in the way the paid listings are being displayed.
We've noticed on several occasions that the number of paid ads shifts significantly. This isn't unique to Bing, but appears to be more in flux, and to have a greater variance than with other engines.
All the press and interest that people have shown over Bing has brought additional advertisers and added spend from current advertisers. This additional interest has lead directly to an increase in cost per click (CPC).
CPCs will naturally rise with additional competition; however, many advertisers haven't been paying a lot of attention to their Bing results. Now, they're suddenly realizing that the ROI has been strong and they're trying to compete for the lift in impressions.
Again, financial services in particular have seen a significant increase (68 percent), which can mean as much as $5 increase per click considering the higher product value for some financial services products like mortgages or home equity loans.
What does it all mean to the bottom line? For the near term, we've seen positive results. Our retail clients have seen a decrease in cost per order (CPO) of 32 percent, which not only increases the value of Bing's traffic, but brings down the overall CPO across the entire paid search portfolio and allows for incremental opportunity wherever it may exist.
In financial services, the CPO is slightly higher (1 percent), but considering the greatly increased CPC, we can't ask for much better. This decrease is largely due to two factors:
- Bing Cashback. With consumers looking to save any money they can, having this available to consumers increases the overall conversion, even for advertisers who don't offer this service.
- The ability to refine search terms, or dive deeper into any given category. These examples have given consumers the ability to quickly refine their searches without clicking on any ads first, and therefore increasing the conversion rate due to the refinement of results and getting consumers closer to what they want quickly.
Overall, Bing is certainly something that, if you have the budget and time to dedicate (while Microsoft updated their search results they haven't done anything to improve the ease of use within their interface and it isn't always the easiest place to make changes), is an opportunity worth pursuing. It will be key to watch the rising CPCs and the looming Yahoo/MSN deal, which is a whole other story.