In discussing the evolution of Bing and the way Micosoft is thinking about search, Rik van der Kooi, Corporate VP, Advertiser and Publisher Solutions Group, said “You will see us evolve Bing more and more as we understand people more completely, and it is not always going to be with a SERP, but it is going to be ubiquitous.”
Examples of this ubiquity include integrations across Microsoft products including Office, Xbox and Microsoft’s digital assistant, Cortana.
On Cortana, van der Kooi said, search is moving from being reactive to proactive. Noting Gmail’s new Inbox app’s integration with Google Now, van der Kooi acknowledged, “We aren’t alone in that quest. . . . But we think we have some tremendous assets — not just speech recognition, but touch points across work and private life. We think with Cortana we have a tremendous runway ahead of us.”
When I asked Stefan Weitz, Director of Search for Bing, about the limitations of Cortana being tied to Windows phones, he made it clear that Microsoft is not thinking of it that way — that Cortana capabilities are and will continue to evolve into other products and platforms.
Weitz told the group, “We think of Bing less and less as a destination portal. We’re trying to put search where users are.” The question they are asking is “How do we create search capabilities to allow users to use any modality they want.”
And, this is Bing’s roadmap for growing market share: “All the places where people go today, we want to be. Ask how we’re going to grow market share, this is how. Bing is not a destination — we’re putting search where people are.” Weitz cited Bing integrations with iOS, Twitter, Facebook and Amazon as further examples of this approach..
In addition to discussions of where search is headed, Bing Ads executives announced several new and upcoming features.
Universal Event Tracking – Available now to all advertisers, UET is powered by a new code snippet for tracking goals and conversion events. Because the code is placed site-wide, it also gathers the gamut of site behavior metrics like bounce rate, time on site, pages per visit, etc. UET is compatible with major tag managers.
Cross Device Tracking – UET relies on the MSID, the ID assigned to users when they login to Microsoft accounts, which will enable Bing Ads to offer cross-device tracking. What this actually looks like in terms of reporting and targeting remains to be seen. Nishant Gupta, Principal Lead, Product/Program Management for Bing Ads, confirmed this is the first integration of the MSID with Bing Ads.
Remarketing – This will build from the UET code snippet. Remarketing capabilities will be limited to search, to start — think RLSA — as a bid boost on the Yahoo Bing Network. Being able to target audiences with creative and landing pages is part of the roadmap. The goal is to extend remarketing out on third-party sites and enable targeting across a publisher network via first and third party data.
Display Network – Speaking of third-party sites, Bing Ads announced that a display ad network similar to AdSense is indeed in the works.
In an interview, David Pann, Bing’s General Manager, told me that the development teams have finished work on an API for the soon-to-come display network. He said the decision to invest in supporting their own publisher network came from publisher demand. On ad formats, Pann explained the driving philosophy is to enable advertisers to build once and publish everywhere.
Accounts Summary – While not technically announced at the event, this new MCC-style multi-account manager rolled out yesterday afternoon.
App Extensions – App extensions will start rolling out next month. This will eventually encompass a suite of extensions including app-installs as well as measurement tools across devices and platforms.
Offline Conversion Tracking - Gupta said the longer term next step is to enable advertisers to bring in CRM data as well as offline tracking. “The whole industry is struggling with the question of, ‘How do I know that’s the same person’,” added Gupta about the challenges of tracking users across devices and in-store and attributing conversion events back to advertising.
This past year, much of the focus for Bing Ads has been on bringing parity between its platform and Google AdWords — to make it easier for advertisers to import AdWords campaigns, and reduce friction in managing campaigns. The thinking being that if Bing Ads accounts for roughly 30 percent of search ad traffic, they shouldn’t expect ad managers to spend more than 30 percent of their time managing Bing Ads accounts.
I asked Pann, now that much of the parity work is complete, when can Bing Ads begin to justify asking advertisers to invest more time and money in the platform by offering something AdWords can’t. “When we can over-index our share of query volume for share of wallet,” Pann responded. He cited product ads an example of this piece. Yahoo recently made 100 percent of its traffic open to product ads. But data is clearly a key piece the company is eying. “We need to do more with ad formats and data. There are areas where we can give advertisers more access to our data.”
Pann said the organization is much more open to giving Bing access to Microsoft’s data trove. “It took a long time for the organization to embrace this approach to data to understand the consumers.” In part, Pann says the change in attitude is because Bing has earned respect and credibility within Microsoft, but Pann also credits Satya Nadella, Microsoft’s new CEO: “Satya has lit a fire in the organization”.
One way data might become available is through Azure, Microsoft’s cloud platform. Pann said they are looking at ways to integrate with Azure and leverage the businesses intelligence and Azure services.