Last week, Microsoft held their Search Summit, where approximately 80 search experts gathered in Bellevue, Wash., to hear about and discuss Microsoft's search products. In previous years, Microsoft held two separate conferences, with organic / SEO represented at Search Champs and advertisers at Ad Champs. This year, they decided to combine the two, enabling SEMs of all stripes to learn and share knowledge.
Of course the biggest buzz out of this conference was around Bing, Microsoft's new search engine. Bing has generated a lot of talk since it launched two weeks ago, especially due to the $100 million national advertising push Microsoft has put behind the brand.
Microsoft's goal with Bing was to create a "decision engine," rather than a search engine. According to Microsoft, "Bing will help you make smarter, faster decisions. We included features that deliver the best results, presented in a more organized way to simplify key tasks and help you make important decisions faster."
The real question coming into the Search Summit was whether Bing could really provide a new experience for searchers, or whether it was just Live.com with a cooler name.
Needless to say, we got an in-depth view of Bing and its features at the Search Summit. Some of the more interesting enhancements from an advertiser perspective are the related searches in the left navigation, as well as enhanced image and video search. Another feature I particularly liked is the inclusion of customer service phone numbers in the organic listings, which will be very useful to the average searcher.
All of this is very interesting. However, while Microsoft's search engines have historically delivered excellent ROI on PPC, they have also suffered from low traffic volumes. Those of us who've been adCenter advertisers for a while wanted to know if we could expect more traffic on our PPC ads from Bing.
While that question won't be answered for some time, Microsoft also (coincidentally) released several adCenter upgrades a couple of weeks ago, including making some much-needed improvements to the adCenter Desktop tool. Advertisers can now use Desktop to add or edit targeting settings such as geo-targeting, dayparting, and bid boosting – features that AdWords Editor currently lacks, incidentally.
Also announced just before the Summit was the fact that the Microsoft Content Network is out of beta. Microsoft has plans to expand their network by allowing small publishers to participate, similar to Google AdSense.
Wisely, Microsoft has added the important features that content network giant Google offers its advertisers: site targeting, site exclusion, and placement performance reporting. Advertisers can choose text or image ads in the Content Network. Keyword monetization data is available via the Ad Intelligence tool, as well.
The presenters stressed the importance of working with your adCenter account team in order to maximize the ROI from your PPC account. I heard a lot about "internal tools" available to account reps that can help identify new keywords and content sites which will enhance the performance of your account.
So what does all this mean to a PPC marketer? Historically, we haven't placed many of our Fluency Media clients in adCenter. Traffic was too low, and both the online interface and the Desktop tool were painful to use. This isn't the first time that Microsoft has rebranded its search engine in an attempt to gain market share, so I was skeptical that this incarnation would be any different.
Well, I've seen enough already to put that skepticism to rest. Bing has already seen impressive traffic increases. Pair that with the impressive functionality of the engine, especially in certain verticals like travel and shopping, and I'm ready to reconsider some of my client PPC placements.
Not only does Bing have a feature-loaded travel engine at www.bing.com/travel, the SERPs for travel-related searches on bing.com are relevant and well-organized.
We have several clients in the travel vertical who have relatively limited budgets. Over the next week or so, I plan to move some of their PPC budget from Yahoo to adCenter. I honestly feel that while traffic may be lower, they'll get better ROI from Bing than from Yahoo.
Bing may not be for everyone, just like Google isn't for everyone. But as a PPC marketer, I like what I see.