Getting Started With Bing Ads
Anyone engaging in pay per click (PPC) marketing should be familiar with Google AdWords and the basics of running search marketing campaigns through it. Given Google’s global dominance and near-monopoly in most markets for online search, busy marketers can perhaps be forgiven for neglecting the opportunity presented by the main alternative platform for search marketing campaigns: Microsoft’s Bing Ads.
Small disclaimer: I spent a year (2013–14) working for the Bing Ads team in Dublin, Ireland prior to my current role at Tinderpoint, so I have a slightly biased opinion when it comes to the role of Bing Ads in the PPC ecosystem!
Let’s Take a Step Back — What is Bing?
Bing Ads is Microsoft’s platform for running PPC campaigns on its Bing.com search engine. Launched in 2009, Bing is Microsoft’s late entry into the search engine market. If you’ve never tried it, head to Bing.com and pop in a few sample search terms, ideally related to your business or a particular service you offer, and you can see how both the search results and ads look.
Take a moment to do this now, paying attention to the ads that show up for your searches. You may even see some of your competitors running ads here, so take note!
If you’ve done the above exercise, you’ll likely have thought “Aha, almost identical to Google!” As a later entrant to the search engine market, Bing has borrowed heavily from established conventions on Google. That’s not to say the good folks at Bing are not innovative, but to the untrained eye, the differences between the search engine results and ads are minimal.
Why Should I Advertise On Bing?
In 2016, searches on the Bing network accounted for over 11% of global searches, a figure that rises to over 20% in the US. In European markets, this falls to 8–18% of searches occur on Bing, depending on the market. Percentage-wise that’s quite low, but volume-wise that’s still a chunk of searches happening on Bing.
The bottom line to answering this question is: If between 8–20% of potential searchers are using Bing, then why are you neglecting search advertising in this space?!
In my experience with running the same campaigns for clients on both AdWords and Bing, I’ve found that Bing frequently offers advertisers both a cheaper cost-per-click (CPC) and cost-per-acquisition (CPA). This is largely due to the fact that there is often less competition for ad space on Bing and thus clients can enjoy “early adopter advantage”. We have clients who have trialed Bing Ads to find that they have tapped into new source of cheaper leads and/or sales, albeit at a low volume.
However, we have also had clients trial Bing Ads in notoriously competitive spaces on AdWords, such legal and financial services, only to find that that it is proportionally just as competitive and expensive to run such campaigns on Bing.
What Do I Need To Go Live With Bing Ads?
Just like AdWords, all you need is a functional website and a credit card! Naturally, there are certain policies and restrictions around the types of websites and business models that are acceptable. See the Bing Policies for more information.
If you have experience with running ad campaigns via Google AdWords, getting the hang of Bing Ads should be quite straightforward. Bing Ads offers both a live user interface (UI) and an offline Bing Ads Editor that you should download to manage your campaigns.
Both the UI and the Editor offer the option to import your existing AdWords campaigns easily into Bing Ads. Bear in mind that due to differences between the platforms, you many encounter skipped items or errors here, particularly if your AdWords account is large or complex, or has advanced features or betas.
How Do I Manage Bing Ads?
Small differences with AdWords are found in the Bing UI in terms of where certain account and campaign aspects are housed, worded or grouped in their various tabs and columns. However, a couple of hours playing around with your imported campaigns from AdWords into Bing should see you quite comfortable in terms of navigating around the account, particularly if you are already savvy with the AdWords interface.
Much like AdWords, Bing offers an Accredited Professionals program with lessons and an exam in terms of upskilling and obtaining a formal qualification.
How Much Should I Spend on Bing Ads?
For European advertisers, we would typically recommend allocating 10–15% of your AdWords spend to Bing Ads. This amount should be on top of your current spend and not migrated from your AdWords budget, otherwise you risk hurting your core PPC campaigns. You may often see that this investment in Bing outweighs a corresponding percentage increase investment on AdWords in competitive markets in terms of cheaper traffic and conversions.
If you already have a small AdWords budget, e.g. less than €2k/month, rather than using our 10–15% suggestion, consider a minimum amount of approximately €300–500/month for Bing Ads. You’ll have a good idea after the first month if this budget is too much, too little or a good one to continue with.
Bidding is done on a CPC basis, just as with AdWords. Do note that bids in Bing Ads must be set to a €0.05 minimum (unlike AdWords’ minimum of €0.01). It’s best to leave budget and bids as unticked options if you’re importing AdWords campaigns, so these can be set by yourself afterwards.
How Can I Track Results?
As with all PPC campaigns, it is vital to be able to attribute sales, leads, or other customer interactions that you deem valuable back to the click. Consequently, you should not run any Bing ads campaign without first getting your Bing ads conversion tracking (known as Universal Event Tracking- UET) set up.
This is essentially the same procedure you likely went through when setting up your AdWords conversion tracking. Your developer places a snippet of code, generated from within the UET section of the Bing Ads UI, onto each web page. Once the code is verified, you can then create conversion goals and remarketing lists in the Bing Ads UI.
OK, So I’m Almost Sold on Bing Ads……Any Downsides?
Leaving aside the obvious matter of lower traffic volume based on Bing’s market share, no analysis of Bing Ads would be complete without looking at some of the downsides.
As an additional ad platform to manage, regardless of whether you are doing PPC in-house or if you are an agency, adding Bing Ads to your digital marketing suite will also require additional time and effort in terms of management and reporting. It is important to apportion your optimisation efforts according to the platforms that drive the most conversions and/or have the most potential. As Bing is unlikely to drive huge quantities of leads or sales when compared with AdWords or other platforms, make sure to strike the right balance in terms of spending time working on the accounts.
The Bing Ads platform is lacking in a few features and capabilities that have moved out of beta on AdWords. Examples here include a lack of some ad extension types and the slow pace of the rollout of Bing Shopping outside of the US, UK and Australia. That said, Bing often offers features not (yet) available on AdWords, such as tablet bid modifiers and image ad extensions.
Of particular frustration may be the limited language and location targeting options for international advertisers. Bing Ads is only available in 12 languages and 35 countries, as illustrated by the table below.
As you can see from the table, in addition to the absence of many key languages and markets, e.g. Japanese, Russian, Turkish and Polish, there are further omissions. For example, despite Portuguese being available for Brazil, Portugal is absent as a market. There are also plenty of Latin American markets absent, even though Spanish exists to serve several key markets there already.
These restrictions also mean you cannot target minority language or ex-pat communities in certain countries, e.g. the French community in the UK.
It’s highly unlikely that Bing will topple Google in the search engine stakes, and by extension, paid search advertising stakes ever. However, it is an established presence on the search advertising landscape in these 35 countries and will continue to grow and refine itself, as well as expand into new markets.
At Tinderpoint we’ve seen huge improvements to the Bing Ads platform and tools over the past few years, and have had many happy clients continue to use Bing successfully after an initial trial. We look forward to the continued development of the Bing Ads platform and our ongoing partnership with the excellent agency team at Bing.
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Richard Talbot is Head of Paid Search & Display Advertising at Tinderpoint, a full-service digital marketing agency based in Dublin, Ireland. With almost a decade of PPC account management experience gained at Google, Bing and latterly in agency-land, Richard has helped hundreds of clients squeeze the value from each paid click. He regularly trains, lectures and speaks on the Irish digital marketing circuit.
Tinderpoint is a member of the Bing Ads Accredited Professional program and you can view our directory listing here.