The Critically Important Role of Bing Ads in Search Marketing

bing-ads-logoIt was one of those moments in time I bet many Microsoft executives would like to revisit. The day they decided that Bing Ads (formerly known as Microsoft adCenter) had to be different from AdWords.

We all know the outcome, using a mixture of familiar terms with different meanings led to advertiser confusion, which in turn led marketers to bad decisions and poor results, which is why so many marketers cut back on Bing Ads, or even stopped marketing on Bing Ads altogether.

The unfortunate thing is that in reality search campaigns running on the Yahoo Bing Network often yield better ROAS than those run on Google AdWords, but due to lower volume, Bing Ads has often been labeled as a “nice to have”.

Because Bing was so different from AdWords, it required lots of different processes, additional learning was required, and unfortunately time is the biggest constraint on PPC teams. So Bing has suffered terribly and hasn’t received their fair share of the ad pie.

Strike that, Reverse it

Last year the Bing Ads team, realizing what was happening, made the wise decision to reverse the path of trying to be different and instead opted to become more like AdWords. And what a year it was for the Bing Ads team.

The frequency at which Bing released “parity” updates to their platform was like nothing I have ever seen from Microsoft. It seems as though there was a significant update every month.

One of those updates was to change the rules of engagement between Google and all AdWords API users. Microsoft decided to let Bing Ads users import their Google AdWords accounts directly into Bing Ads.

This was a bold move, to say the least. Why? Because at the time, The Google AdWords API terms of service specifically forbid “co-mingling” of AdWords data with third party services. In other words, it was illegal to use the API to try to manage Bing Ads alongside AdWords.

Platforms like Kenshoo, Marin Software, and Acquisio found creative ways to help users without breaking that rule, but were in fact unable to deliver a platform that would let users compare data from both search engines and make decisions for budget allocation based on relative success of ads running on both platforms. Microsoft had the resources to challenge Google and thankfully for all of us, they did.

As this was happening, the FTC was ruling on whether Google was acting like a monopoly. The API terms were one of the points of the hearing and as a sign of good faith, Google agreed to make changes to allow co-mingling of data – clearing the way for a new era of innovation for performance marketing software companies, which will benefit marketers tremendously.

Starting with those who use AdWords import function in Bing Ads, as Bing Ads has mostly reached parity with AdWords, importing campaigns into Bing Ads can be a matter of minutes, not days.

Parity with AdWords in an Enhanced Campaign World?

As Google announced the structural shift to enhanced campaigns I was curious to see how Bing Ads team would react. So much work has gone into reaching and maintaining parity with Google AdWords, it was hard to imagine Bing Ads wouldn’t follow AdWords and force users down the same new structure.

But the forced migration to Enhanced Campaigns has angered many savvy marketers who know that the loss of control over targeting will mean less profit. What would Bing Ads do?

Well, the team at Bing Ads announced that they will replicate Google’s enhanced campaigns functionality, hence maintaining Google AdWords parity. But rather than simply replicating AdWords functionality, Bing Ads went one step further and will give advertisers the choice to migrate to enhanced campaigns or to keep the old structure intact.

“At Bing Ads, we believe very strongly in giving advertisers the tools and flexibility to control their spending, target the most relevant audiences, and ensure they can get the best return on investment. We do not believe bundling mobile, desktop and tablet advertising together in an opaque manner is in the best interests of our customers,” Bing said.

This is great news for everyone.

For those smaller advertisers who have limited time to work in Bing Ads this is great news because the work they will invest in their Google enhanced campaigns will be importable “as is” into Bing Ads.

For those advertisers with larger budgets and who require more control, this is great news, as they will be able to continue to deploy campaigns with device and carrier specific targeting for example. Further, this shows that while it’s important for Bing Ads to keep up with Google to facilitate the flow of ad spend across AdWords and Bing Ads, it does not mean they will stop innovating – which is great news, because to improve their share of search budgets they will need to be creative and to add more value to marketers.

Final Thoughts

Bing Ads has a lot of potential besides just search. They have tremendous reach into almost everyone’s lives through Windows 8, Office and Xbox, as well as to a lesser extent, Windows Phone.

Also, there is their partnership with Facebook. One can only hope that one day soon they will unleash this massive proprietary asset and turn it into an ad network to threaten Google’s marketplace hegemony. Because that would be a real game changer. And we all need more quality ad opportunities to drive performance.

Bing Ads is critically important to the Performance Marketing world because it can help optimize results today, and most likely they could be a huge part of the performance marketing ecosystem tomorrow, but more importantly, Google needs Bing Ads to be successful, as they are the only reason Google cannot be called a monopoly, which nobody wants to see happen – not even Google themselves.

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