The Pros and Cons of Bing for SEM

Earlier this year, I penned a post questioning why some in Search Engine Marketing outright ignore the combined Bing/Yahoo network for advertisers’ campaigns. Frankly, at the time, it seemed to me to be an opportunity wasted; though we know that Bing & Yahoo together don’t equal anywhere near the volume that can be found on Google, any incremental gains brought in through Binghoo should outweigh the extra manpower needed to manage said campaigns, right?

….

As I’ve seen of late, that statement isn’t always necessarily accurate. And, in fact, after my return to SEM following a two year-plus sabbatical to join the emerging world of programmatic, it was probably a bit hasty of me to make the assumption that paid search managers were only underutilizing Bing & Yahoo out of sheer laziness.

It’s been nearly a year since re-joining the paid search community relatively full-time, and during these 12 months, I have compiled sort of a checklist for myself; an Excel spreadsheet that, literally, lists the pros and cons of Bing SEM. These qualifiers have helped me to determine whether launching a campaign on Bing is, honestly, worth the resources it would require.

Note: the one major downside to Bing, which we’re all aware of, is sheer search volume. Since this is well-known, I have left it off of the ‘pros/cons’ list below.

Pro: Launching an account on Bing is easy

Thanks to Bing’s willingness to import your AdWords campaigns directly into their interface, launching a new account with them is quite simple. There is little more involved then setting up a new Bing Ads account, allowing this to access your AdWords campaign, and letting Bing do the rest. I’ve timed it out, and I can get this going, from account creation to launch, in less than 30 minutes. For a half-hour of billable time, I think this is worth the effort for most, if not all, advertisers (if that were the only concern…).

Pro: Bing has their own AdWords Editor-like tool

Want to edit your Bing campaigns in bulk fashion? Microsoft has gone full-on “copy from Google” mode with their bulk editing tool. Literally, it looks & feels very much like you’re using AdWords Editor on your Bing account. While I’m not sure how AdWords product managers feel about this, for those of us with not enough time in the day already, not having to learn an entirely-new UI is a major plus.

Con: That bulk editing tool? Only works on PCs. 

Sadly, Microsoft has not created a version of their bulk editor for Bing with us Mac users in mind. For many of you, this might not be a concern; however, for me, it means borrowing a decommissioned developer’s PC whenever I want to perform mass edits. Not ideal, and, quite often, a roadblock for me spending any real time optimizing Bing campaigns. 

 Pro: Lower CPCs

Generally-speaking, over the past 11 months, I’ve seen CPCs for the same keywords be 20-40% cheaper on Bing. These results obviously vary by vertical; but, at least for the clients I have insight into, it is fairly universal (though, I’d love to hear other opinions below).

Con: Lower CPCs haven’t translated to better CPA performance

Unless you’re running a campaign where the goal is traffic, conversions are what you’re really concerned with. Again, utilizing the data-set I have available to me since December of last year, I haven’t seen Bing campaigns deliver the same conversion rate or CPA as their AdWords counterparts. Cheaper clicks are great; but if it takes 5x more of them for the same number of conversions, then a 20% cost reduction in CPC doesn’t make it (necessarily) worth it.

Pro: Quality Scores? Not as important…

Maybe it’s because Bing is trying to squeeze as much of our SEM budgets away from Google as possible, but I’ve found Binghoo to be quite lax on allowing low Quality Score keywords to get volume. They’ve also seemed to be more lenient on landing page quality…you know, for those advertisers that just won’t score well on Google. 

Conclusion:

In terms of campaigns I am responsible for, only about 50% are live on Bing/Yahoo. Much of this is due to either client media budget, allocated monthly billable hours, etc. Admittedly, a major drawback for me is the lack of Mac support for their bulk editing tool; though, if you’re a PC user, this should be left out of your own pros/cons list.

Do you have some other insight on Bing SEM to share? I welcome opinions or other pros & cons to add to this list.

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