In February, comScore released their monthly analysis of the US search marketplace, reporting Google with a 67.6% share of the search market and Bing, which powers Yahoo! search, a 28.7% share.
Though these findings continue to confirm Google’s dominance in the search landscape, it’s important to highlight that Bing’s share of the market has continued to grow year-over-year, accounting for 3.6 billion searches per month.
As advertisers continue to navigate an increasingly competitive and complex landscape, these search trends underscore an incredibly profitable and accessible opportunity. But even as most search marketers continue to invest in Google and Bing, they haven’t been met with the same level of success across both engines.
In the US, Google cost-per-click (CPC) increased 10% year-over-year and click-through-rate (CTR) remained relatively flat in Q3 2013. Compare these trends to Bing, where impressions increased 10%, click volume increased 33%, CTR increased 21% and CPC decreased 3% (according to data my company collected for our proprietary Marin Global Advertiser Index).
Additional search volume came at a lower price on Bing with an average CPC of $0.78 compared to $0.93 on Google in Q3 2013.
In a recent conversation with John Gagnon of Bing Ads about our findings, he focused on the revenue opportunities that exist on Bing, highlighting the unique audiences that Bing captures for their advertisers.
“I think it’s important for advertisers to recognize that if Bing Ads is not on their media plan alongside Google AdWords, they’re leaving a large chunk of revenue on the table. Bing Ads has a 29% share of the US search market, and millions of users not on Google.”
It’s clear the opportunity to capture additional traffic and revenue on Bing is growing.
Volume and performance are the two challenges advertisers typically face when allocating budget across the two search giants. Some marketers can’t spend enough on Bing, while others cease to invest due to declining performance.
On the surface, the disparity in investment isn’t entirely caused by the quantity of users or due to the quality of the audience but rather, the fact that Bing search campaigns haven’t been managed and optimized to the same standard as Google campaigns.
Since a significant share of conversions and revenue come from Google, search marketers dedicate the majority of their time managing and optimizing Google campaigns, continually adding new keywords and negatives, updating and testing ad copy, and optimizing bids and budgets.
Though there’s no getting around Google’s 67.6% share of the market, this story begins to sound like a chicken or the egg dilemma: invest with better performance, or invest for better performance? With a comparable level of investment managing and optimizing Bing campaigns, advertisers should see a comparable level of return on investment.
If your AdWords campaigns are performing well, chances are that replicating those campaigns within Bing Ads will result in immediate, incremental revenue. Though this is a simple solution, it addresses a more complex strategy in campaign management: keyword parity.
As campaigns mature, keywords evolve from experiments to proven revenue drivers, often performing similarly across the engines. Though it makes sense to copy these successful keywords from Google to Bing, many advertisers fail to maintain keyword parity, resulting in missed revenue opportunities.
Identifying where these keyword gaps exist can be a daunting task. To promote publisher parity, implement tracking when engaging in keyword expansion. Take detailed notes on where, when and why these keywords were added. These are not only essential to analyzing performance, but are critical when copying top performing keywords across engines.
To retroactively assess keyword parity, download a sorted keyword performance report and apply an Excel vlookup to compare Google and Bing keyword sets. Take note of where the gaps are for top performing keywords, add these keywords and calculate appropriate bids. This strategy should also be applied to top performing ad creative and can lead to significant financial lift.
Sykes Cottages, a leading independent cottage rental agency (disclosure: a client at our company), which had once abandoned their Bing campaigns, recently re-evaluated their paid search program and invested in a cross-publisher management and optimization strategy. As a result, they achieved a 25% decrease in Bing CPA to align with Google performance while growing conversion volume 260%.
Over time, many advertisers have scaled back or abandoned their efforts and investment on Bing due to Google’s commanding share of the search market and the time required to optimize rapidly growing campaigns.
Yet, advertisers own budgets are expected to work harder and drive incremental revenue each year. As Bing’s share of the search market continues to expand and Microsoft continues to invest more in ad technology, savvy advertisers are seizing the opportunity to expand their reach and revenue potential.
Technology can help marketers simplify cross-publisher management and optimization, but advertisers that continue ignoring these emerging trends will ultimately be left behind.