While AdWords is the dominant force in pay-per-click marketing, there are many other avenues for expanding your reach, and should not be missed, especially if AdWords has reached the point of diminishing returns. These alternative pay-per-click services, including Bing, 7Search, and LookSmart can also be a great avenue on a restricted budget, as they tend to offer much less competitive pricing. While they are not as sophisticated with the options they offer, with the right targeting and ads, these alternative PPC avenues can be an effective way to expand reach without needing to be aggressive with spend.
Differences between Bing and AdWords
Bing is by far the closest competitor to Google in terms of search engine traffic, and while they still have a lot of catching up to do, they still have a large user base and a pay-per-click interface that is similar to AdWords.
Lower Cost-Per-Click: Bing Ads, on average, has a much lower cost-per-click than AdWords, largely due to the lower market share.
Less Competition (Currently): It’s possible to gain much more impression share on Bing Ads because fewer businesses are competing for the same keywords. As AdWords is considered the “default” option for PPC marketing, many smaller businesses are competing for spots alongside large businesses, but generally, don’t have the budget to expand into Bing. Right now, the market share for Bing has stagnated, but this could change.
No Modified Broad Match: Google’s option for in-between Broad Match and Phrase Match (the + sign keywords) doesn’t exist in Bing. While this can be detrimental if you use a lot of modified broad-match, it can be helpful to note that broad-match keywords in Bing do not suffer from as many irrelevant clicks as Google broad-match keywords tend to have.
Negative Keyword Match Types: In Bing Ads, negative keywords are all essentially treated as Phrase Match negative keywords. Having a well-organized negative keyword list will make the transition from AdWords to Bing Ads easier, but make sure that any broad-match negative keywords are expanded upon, and any exact-match keywords aren’t causing keyword conflicts.
Parameter matching: Bing Ads allows a more specific keyword insertion by using parameters. It allows you to insert specific keywords in any part of your ad when they appear in the user’s search term. It works in a similar way as keyword insertion for Google AdWords, but offers more flexibility for what words you want to show up in your ad.
Block Ad Scheduling: While AdWords allows hourly scheduling for ads, Bing Ads only allows it in blocks of four hours. In other words, there are six periods of time that you can choose to advertise (or not advertise) in:
- 3am to 7am;
- 7am to 11am;
- 11am to 2pm;
- 2pm to 6pm;
- 6pm to 11pm, and
- 11pm to 3am.
However, since Bing Ads considers the time of the IP Address doing the search and not your own time (like in Google AdWords), it’s easier to work within these limitations, especially for a business with specific hours.
Selecting only search partners: Bing Ads offers the option to advertise only on their search partners (such as the Wall Street Journal). In Google AdWords, Google must be included if you wish to use Search Partners.
Calculating Quality Score: Quality Score is not calculated immediately in Bing – data must be accumulated first before it gives you a score. Quality score does NOT have a direct effect on ad position, however. It’s merely a score to track your results, and doesn’t factor into bidding.
The way quality score is calculated overall remains similar to Google AdWords – Keyword Relevance, landing page Experience, and Landing Page Relevance.
CPC Bidding only: Bing ads only offers CPC bidding for their search network. CPA bidding and CPC (Enhanced) bidding do not exist, so using conversion tracking will not have an effect on your bidding.
Targeting by IP Address only in Bing: Whereas AdWords considers factors like location-based search terms (such as “hotels in New York”) when determining the user’s location, Bing only uses IP Address. It would act the same as selecting “Users only in my location” under the AdWords advanced location targeting.
More Top-of-Page Ads: More ads are allowed at the top of the page in Bing, and will often show four at a time instead of three in AdWords before being moved to the side ads.
Demographics: Users on Bing tend to skew older – this may be due to Bing being the default search engine on Internet Explorer. As such, Bing users tend to be less tech savvy as well.
Character Limits in Ads: Google AdWords allows two lines of 35 characters each for the ad body, and Bing Ads allows 71 characters on one line (which wraps). Why the extra character? It’s used for the extra space that appears between the first and second line when one is importing ads from AdWords (which is added automatically in AdWords).
While the Bing Ads format allows for more flexibility, it can sometimes lead to strange wrapping on the side ads when searching on Bing.
Device Exclusions: With enhanced campaigns, AdWords no longer allows the ability to choose which mobile devices are allowed to show your ad, but Bing ads still allows the option to choose between: Android, BlackBerry, iOS, Windows, or Other. This can be especially important if you sell a product specific to one of these devices.
Some of these changes may benefit your business, or make it easier to manage Bing ads, while others may come as a detriment to your PPC efforts. Most can be worked around, but there may be deal-breakers (such as targeting properly for hotels) that can hurt your campaigns enough to not consider Bing Ads.
Strategies for Bing
Because Bing is a separate market and allows slightly different options for targeting, a separate strategy is needed in order to have a fully optimized campaign.
Importing from Google AdWords: Bing makes it fairly easy to import campaigns from Google AdWords into Bing, but expect some hiccups along the way. Any keywords or ads that were manually approved (through an exception) in AdWords will have to be approved again in Bing. Often, this can be a more tedious process because Bing does not have the option to request an exception through the Bing Ads interface, and must be done through writing or calling customer support.
It recommended that you used Bing Ads Editor for the import, which will be discussed more in detail in Chapter 8.
Use More Targeted Keywords: Because Bing Ads does not use modified broad match, using more long-tail broad match keywords or phrase match is necessary for targeted campaigns. Fortunately, broad match keywords do not have the same reputation in Bing as they do in AdWords – the searches tend to stay much more relevant to the actual broad match keyword, and there are no session-based search terms to worry about.
Manually tag for Analytics: Bing does not offer auto-tagging (naturally, as they’re not a Google property), so to properly track Bing data in Analytics, you must manually tag your data. The URL builder can streamline this process.
Using Phone Numbers In-Ad: Bing still allows in-ad phone numbers, so this can be an easy way to garner free calls, especially if your phone number is already a tracking number (and you have no need for the inconsistent nature of phone number extensions).
Separating Bing/Yahoo and Search Partners: Separating the two will allow for different bid strategies – generally, the search partners have lower bid thresholds, but the traffic is not as targeted because the search intent of the user is based around the search partner’s website, and that won’t necessarily be a neutral search engine.
Broadening Negative Keywords: Because negative keywords are treated as phrase match, your negative keywords will need to be broadened to include re-ordered keyword phrases (like “red shoes” and “shoes that are red”). Additionally, keywords that were exact match may need to be removed if they cause conflicts with currently running keywords.
7Search’s benefits and limitations
Although 7Search is a second-tier pay-per-click service and doesn’t offer near the amount of options or traffic that AdWords or Bing do, it can provide a very inexpensive boost to many marketing strategies. Outlined below are some of the features in 7Search that differ significantly from AdWords or Bing:
Click Free Keywords: Click Free keywords is a unique feature of 7Search. Basically, if a user arrives on a publisher’s page and bounces, the user will instead be redirected to the auction winner’s landing page instead of the old search results (thus, the click free aspect – they never actually clicked on your ad). This feature works best with long-tail exact match keywords, as making Click Free keywords broad will result in a lot of traffic that will eat up your budget.
Limits on keywords and negative keywords: If a particular keyword hasn’t received enough search traffic in the last 3 months, 7Search won’t let you add it. Broadening your keywords will help. Additionally, only 500 negative keywords are allowed per ACCOUNT, so choose wisely.
Very low cost-per-click: The big advantage to 7Search is that it provides very low-cost traffic – the average CPC generally ranges from 10 cents to 50 cents for more competitive keywords.
Low search volume: Although 7Search does convert at a low CPA, it should be used more as supplementary rather than a main source of traffic, and there usually isn’t enough volume to meet your sales needs.
MakeTop Bidding and No Smart Pricing: MakeTop Bidding is a form of automatic bidding in which you can allow 7Search to set your ads so they’re always at the top. This can lead to pretty terrible bidding wars that artificially inflate the click price if more than one advertiser is using it on the same keyword.
Smart pricing doesn’t exist in 7Search, so the price you bid is the price you pay. More bid manipulation is needed in order to garner a good position without paying too much. Fortunately, 7Search does give you an idea of what the advertisers above you are bidding, and you can adjust accordingly.
Longer Ads: 7Search allows 40 characters for the headline and 200 characters for the body of an ad. This allows for a lot more freedom for pitching and describing your product in the ad itself. Be sure to focus strongly on benefits, as a longer ad will be skipped over more often if there’s no difference between it and competing ads.
There are many other PPC services, including Looksmart and Ad.Net, which offer different types of traffic and features. Experimenting with these can lead to good supplemental conversions, but will likely never take up the bulk of your PPC budget like AdWords and Bing.
Are they worth it?
For the advertiser that’s trying to reach every client because every client is a potential close, alternative PPC services are a great, low-cost avenue. They provide interfaces that are familiar but expand into different markets that are not often tapped into by other businesses.
For many advertisers, the amount of traffic that AdWords alone provides is enough – they aren’t meeting anywhere near 100% impression share due to the pervasiveness of Google as a search engine. For others, however, clients are few, but valuable, and every piece of impression share can make a difference between a poor performing month and an excellent performing one.
For those who aren’t meeting the impression share due to the high cost of competition, Bing and other PPC search engines can offer a less costly environment with smaller, but still search-based traffic.