What’s Up With Bing Ads in 2013?

One of the most-viewed posts on this blog is one I wrote in September 2012 called What’s Up With Bing Ads? In that post, I commented on their constant rebranding, interface and editor issues, and support challenges. That post is consistently in the top 10 most-viewed posts on my blog.

Let’s fast forward 13 months and see what’s changed. I just got back from Bing Ads Next, an exclusive event held at Microsoft’s Redmond, WA campus. About 20 of the biggest names in PPC were there, and we spent a day seeing Bing Ads’ version of the future of search.

The highlights of the event have already been covered elsewhere, so I won’t rehash them here.  Instead, let’s review what’s changed with Bing Ads over the past year or so.

Online UI and Editor improvements.

In my 2012 post, I complained about issues with the online UI: it timed out too fast and, despite its overhaul, was still clunky to navigate.

In my opinion, most of the interface issues have since been fixed. It no longer times out after 15 minutes – I’ve been able to stay logged in most of the workday. The import function from Google seems to work well (more on this in a minute). The reporting interface is very fast, and in some ways is better than Google’s.

All that said, there are still niggling things missing from the Bing Ads online UI. During the Bing Ads Next feedback session, Matt Van Wagner said what we were all thinking: Why doesn’t the online UI show conversion rate? It’s 2013, for crying out loud – this is a must-have metric and why it’s not available in Bing Ads can only be a gross oversight.

I won’t even get into the login and account creation issues. The Bing Ads team has heard the PPC community loud and clear on this one. Let’s hope there’s a fix in place before this becomes mandatory in 2014.

Let’s talk about Bing Ads Editor for a second. I use Editor all the time, and it’s improved a lot over the past year, too. The import from Google function is nearly flawless. Editor stayed on par with Google’s move to Enhanced Campaigns – and I can only imagine what a curve ball that was to the Bing Ads development team. The fact that they were able to offer the same features as Google, with the same timing, is a Herculean feat of engineering.

But Bing Ads Editor continues to have silly bugs in it, too. The most recent one is that changes you’ve posted still show bolded in Editor, as if they didn’t post. And, only some of them show up this way. So it’s not clear whether all of your changes posted or not – you’ll have to go look them up in the online UI to be sure.

Bing Ads Support.

Here’s where Bing Ads really shines – far outshines Google and their joke that passes as support. When was the last time Google invited a bunch of PPC influencers to the GooglePlex to talk about Adwords? Anyone? Bueller?

My Bing Ads rep was at all the social functions held during Bing Ads Next. He’s a true partner in helping us succeed, and is knowledgeable and responsive. The weird support issues that I outlined in my 2012 post have, thankfully, gone away. Bing Ads Next attendees universally praised Bing Ads support, both their assigned reps and those who man the Bing Ads Twitter account.

So What’s Really Next for Bing Ads?

Only time will tell. I liked a lot of the new things we saw at the event. I love the fact that Bing Ads is listening to us.

But one comment I heard this week is that there was a little too much talking and not enough listening at the event. Bing, if you’ve brought in what amounts to the best minds and biggest influencers in search, ask them questions! Spend twice as much time listening as you do talking! Learn from them! Don’t lecture them about stuff that they already know. Show them more new concepts and ask them what they think!

Amid rumors that Yahoo wants out of the Bing Ads deal, I don’t think any of us truly knows what’s next for Bing Ads. At its core, Microsoft is a software developer, not a search innovator. Their pace is too slow and their products too bloated to keep up with Google. But I love that they’re trying. With advertiser support that’s far superior to Google, and with better ROI nearly across the board, I still think they have a chance.

What do you think? Is Bing Ads going in the right direction, or are they doomed? Share in the comments!

 

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Bing Ads Is Like A Second Language

No matter how many languages you speak, chances are you only have one native tongue. Even children who are raised bilingual probably have one language they prefer speaking.  For those who learned a second language later in life, communication and understanding can be challenging at times. You can speak and understand the second language, and as you use it you get more fluent, but it’s still easier to speak your first language. You’ll probably get tripped up on idioms and idiosyncrasies in the second language, too.

Bing Ads feels like a second language to many PPC’ers, with its own idioms and idiosyncrasies. Here are a few that can be hard to understand.

Different Targeting Methods

I actually like the fact that you can set targeting at the ad group level in Bing Ads. It’s precisely the kind of control that we PPC’ers like. But like a favorite expression in a second language, it’s hard to remember exactly how to put the pieces together.

Also, sometimes targeting doesn’t import nicely from Adwords. And let’s face it – most of us create campaigns in Adwords and then import them to Bing. Adwords is our first language, so we draft everything there and then hit the “translate” button (in this case, the “Import from Google” button).

Different Negative Keyword Matching

Well, negative keyword matching isn’t really different in Bing Ads. We just have fewer options. Bing only has negative phrase match and negative exact match. There is no negative broad match. Since Bing’s traffic is usually more qualified, having fewer negative match options is ok; but we’re just used to having another way to “say” it, if you will.

Those Pesky Parameters

Parameters in Bing Ads remind me of that weird “S” in German that looks like a “B.” (I’m embarrassed to say that I don’t even know what that’s called. I took Spanish in school.)

Parameters are actually really cool and allow advertisers to do things that you can’t do in Google. But they’re so unfamiliar to most PPC’ers that they don’t get used. I’d guess that English speakers writing in German forget to use that funny S, too.

Technical Issues

Nothing is more frustrating than technical problems. Just ask the zillions of people who tried to download iOS7 this week.

Adwords has their share of technical problems, for sure. (Red bar of death, anyone?) But when Bing Ads has them, the community goes crazy.

I’ve seen many examples of people having trouble downloading the new Bing Ads Editor. It’s weird, because I downloaded it earlier this week and haven’t had any trouble with it. Nonetheless, Bing doesn’t get any slack here. In a way, it’s unfair to Bing. It reminds me of a speaker who’s using a second language, complaining that others didn’t understand him. But it’s still frustrating when a new feature or release is announced and then doesn’t work.

But Bing Ads is a language worth learning.

Remember those old Avis ads, where they crowed about being #2 and trying harder? That’s Bing. They know they have a long way to go before they catch Google, and they’re working like crazy to not only catch up, but offer additional value.

First of all, the newly-released Bing Ads Editor is much more like Adwords Editor. They took out all the “foreign language” and it looks and feels more familiar. It’s faster and smoother to use.

Bing hasn’t made the dreadful switch to Enhanced Campaigns, and they’ve promised not to. I can’t tell you how happy I am about that.

And Bing Ads still offers mobile-only campaigns, as well as targeting for different mobile operating systems.

I firmly believe that Bing is a language worth learning and speaking.

What about you? Are you learning to speak Bing Ads? Or is your first language, Adwords, your best friend? Share in the comments!

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Why I Start New Hires on Adwords Editor

This week’s PPC Chat discussion centered on PPC Basics – a topic near and dear to my heart. I love training new PPC’ers on the fundamentals.

One of the questions was “Do you believe entry level PPCers should immediately have access to Google and Bing Editors? Why?” The ensuing conversation was interesting, and frankly, surprising.

I immediately answered with “Yes! It’s the first thing I train new PPC staff on!” But many others disagreed, saying the Editors were advanced tools that should be reserved for experienced PPC’ers.

I respectfully beg to differ. Here’s why I start new hires on Adwords Editor (and Bing Ads Editor, too).

At its core, I love starting off with Editors because they make it easy to understand account structure. Account structure is so important to PPC success that failing to understand it can lead to less-than-ideal results. And it’s just easier to see account structure in Editor.

adwords editor treeIn Editor, everything is stacked hierarchically in the left tree. You can’t see ad groups without clicking on campaigns, and you can’t see keywords without moving over to the tabs. It makes it easy to explain structure to a newbie without overwhelming them: you start at the high level (campaigns) and work your way down.

To experienced PPC’ers, this structure is second nature. To a newbie, it can be hard to comprehend. Editors reinforce account structure by forcing you to navigate through it.

Contrast Editor to the Adwords online UI.

adwords ui

What are all those tabs? What am I looking at? What does all that data mean? ::head explodes::

It’s so easy to get tripped up in the online UI. You can click right to keywords, but you’re seeing every keyword in the account! That’s confusing to a beginner – and overwhelming. And it doesn’t reinforce the fact that small, tightly themed ad groups are a best practice. If you’re seeing thousands of keywords at once, it’s hard to focus.

Then there’s the issue of screen load times. Both Google and Bing are light years ahead of where they were 5 years ago when it comes to page load speed – Bing, in particular, used to be nearly unusable due to slow page loads. Still, especially in large accounts, it takes time for pages to load, and those seconds add up fast.

Editors, on the other hand, don’t have that problem. When you’re learning and trying to find your way around, it’s nice to eliminate the added frustrating of waiting for a page to load, only to discover it wasn’t the page you wanted.

The other huge benefit of training newbies on Editors is that it’s error proof – as long as you don’t post anything. I put the fear of God into my trainees by scaring them off from the “post” button.

Think about it – you can do whatever you want in Editor, including adding new keywords, ad groups, ad copy, settings, whatever – and nothing goes live until you post! Playing around is one of the best ways to learn, and PPC is no exception. I give my trainees the freedom to play around in the Editors all they want, as long as they don’t hit “post.” Everything they do in Editors can be erased with one click of the “Revert” button.

When it comes to doing real PPC work, of course your new PPC’er will eventually have to post things. The beauty of using Editors is that you can check their work before it goes live. If they’re working in the UI, every change goes live immediately unless they remembered to set the campaign or ad group to Pause – creating a bigger margin for error than I’m comfortable with.

Of course, bulk changes are also way easier in Editors. I said in PPC Chat that years ago, before Editor, we literally had to hire an intern to update ad copy every time our prices changed (I was doing in-house e-commerce PPC at the time). Not very efficient.

Some PPC Chatters felt that the online UIs were necessary for newbies to understand PPC basics. I disagree with that. What basics can you find in the UI that aren’t in Editor? Unless they’re talking about online learning resources, all the PPC basics are in the Editor.

Of course, there are some tasks that can’t be done easily or at all in Editor. Search query reports are a big one. Reviewing SQRs is a great task for new PPC’ers, but they’ll have to run the report within the UIs.

That said, I have trainees export the data to Excel, review it, make recommendations, and then send to me for review before making changes. All they have to do in the UI is run the report.

Enhanced campaigns are also not well supported in Adwords Editor at this time. There are several features, including ad group sitelinks, which are not currently supported within Editor. But a new PPC’er should not be working with complicated Enhanced Campaigns features anyway, in my opinion.

I’m not at all saying that people should never learn or use the UI. I use both Bing and Google UIs daily. But for learning PPC, the UIs are overwhelming. Editors make it easier.

You’ll want to go read the streamcap from Tuesday’s conversation – the whole thing is required reading for PPC’ers new and old.

What do you think? Want to add to the discussion? Share your opinions in the comments!

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3 PPC Wishes – Fulfilled?

google_bing_logosHere we are in 2013, and wow, did 2012 go fast. It seems like yesterday that I was writing my inaugural 2012 blog post on my 2007 PPC Wish List.

Every year in PPC is full of changes and innovations – some needed, some expected, and some surprising. This year was no different. Plenty of posts have catalogued everything that happened, so I won’t bore you with that here.

Instead, let’s see how the search engines did with my 2007 PPC wishes.

Wish 1: More traffic and search leadership from MSN/Bing.

While I can’t go so far as to say Bing hit a home run in 2012, they did hit a long triple. They renamed themselves as Bing Ads, reworked their online UI and desktop editor, and essentially made themselves more like Google. They went a long way towards greater search leadership with these innovations. They also continued to provide the great community outreach and customer support that they’ve been known for. And their PPC search team was ever-present at search conferences, something we’ve seen less and less from Google.

This is all well and good, but what about traffic? If you’d asked me that question in June, I’d have told you they were still languishing in the basement. But by the end of the summer, Bing had reached an all-time high of 25% share. We saw similar increases in our clients’ traffic from Bing Ads, and thankfully the traffic quality, for the most part, remained as good as it’s always been.

Wish 1: Fulfilled!

Wish 2: Better Adwords query matching.

In my 2012 post, I lamented the awful query matching on Google. Throughout the year, Google did make strides in this area, most notably by adding the option for “near match” for exact and phrase match keywords.

In reality, though, this was just Google’s way of changing a default setting (near match is a default) and sponging from newbie PPC advertisers. I know few veteran PPC’ers who choose to have near match enabled – if we want near match, we’ll use modified broad.

Furthermore, judging from my search query reports, even when you do opt out of near match, you’ll still get “close variants” that aren’t closely related at all. It’s frustrating.

Add to that the continued annoyance of “session based broad match”, and Google has completely failed on this.

I’m actually working on a blog post that will further delve into the miasma that is Google keyword matching. Stay tuned for that in future weeks.

Wish 2: Unfulfilled.

Wish 3: More accurate PPC traffic estimates.

On this wish, both Google and Bing made significant positive changes.  Google completely revamped their keyword tool, offering several new options.  My favorite is the “Ad Group Creator,” which groups keyword suggestions by theme. While some have complained about the suggestions made by the tool, I like them – it saves time slogging through thousands of keywords trying to weed out the irrelevant terms. You’ll still need to slog through, but it’s much faster to eliminate entire buckets of keywords than to pick them out one by one.

Google’s traffic estimation tool also has improved geotargeting capabilities, and from what I can tell, they’re fairly accurate. This is huge for advertisers who want to expand into new markets, or who only serve certain cities, states, or regions.

While the Google improvements were good, Bing’s were awesome. I’m not talking about their online keyword tool, either. I’m talking about Bing Ads Intelligence.

I’ve written before about the tool, and am finishing up another post about it. For now, suffice it to say that Bing Ads Intelligence is now my go-to keyword research tool. It’s faster, easier, and more accurate than Google’s, and it offers features that Google does not.

Wish 3: Fulfilled!

Wow, that’s 2 out of 3 PPC wishes. I’d say 2012 was a pretty good year!

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Bing Opportunities Tab Beats Google

Sometimes we PPC managers just need quick ideas for new keywords and bids. We don’t want to spend a lot of time doing keyword research and calculating keyword-level ROI. We just need to ramp things up in a hurry.

Google has had an Opportunities Tab for a while now. It’s ok – not great, but ok. Not to be outdone, Bing Ads also added an Opportunities section – and they’ve done Google one better.

Bing Opportunities are in both the online interface and the Desktop Editor.

I’ve often wished that Google had an Opportunities section in Adwords Editor. Using Editor is so much faster than poking around in the online UI, so we’re there anyway – why not show us keyword & bid suggestions? But alas, it’s not there.

Bing, however, has Opportunities in both places: the online UI:

And in Bing Editor:

Since Bing’s online UI is even slower and more painful than Google’s, I rarely log in except to check stats. For real PPC work, I’m in the Desktop tool. It’s great to have Bing Opportunities right there.

Keyword Suggestions are More Relevant

Just this week, I was working on keyword expansions for a client. This client recently launched a new product line, so we’ve been actively adding new keywords for a while now. The client is in the B2B space, so we invest pretty heavily in Bing because their CPC is about 40% lower than Google’s. But that’s another post.

As I was updating bids in Bing Desktop, I noticed a green bar at the top:

I will say here that I loathe the red “error” bar in Desktop, mostly because it flags stuff that’s not even errors and/or that’s unfixable. But that’s another post.

Anyway, the green bar got my attention, so I clicked “View.”

The optimizations were new keywords. Curious, I downloaded the list.

It consisted of 100 keyword suggestions for the client’s new product line.  The suggestions actually looked relevant and promising, unlike most of the recent Google Opportunities I’d looked at. So I began reviewing them in detail.

Out of the 100 keywords, 30 were relevant to the campaign for which they were suggested. Not bad. Only 5 keywords were totally irrelevant to the client; the rest were applicable to other campaigns (just not the one they were suggested for).

I don’t think I’ve ever gotten 30 relevant keywords from the Google Opportunities tab. On a good day I might get 3 or 4. So, I decided to hop on over there and see what they were suggesting for this client and campaign.

Google actually returned fewer total keywords: only 80 were suggested. But yikes, those keywords! Only 2 out of the 80 keywords were relevant to the campaign. Ouch.

That’s not the worst of it. Out of the 80 keywords, 42 of them were irrelevant to the client. Let me say that again. More than half the keywords that Google said were “opportunities” were totally irrelevant!  Worse than that, the majority of them were very broad, very high-volume consumer-focused keywords.  The only opportunity here is the opportunity to line Google’s pocketbook.

So Who’s More Relevant?

Here’s a visual showing the breakdown of the relevance of the keyword opportunities for the 2 engines.

So whose Opportunities do you plan to take advantage of next time?

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Bing Ads – The Latest

Lately there’s been a lot going on with Bing Ads.  As I’ve said before, one of my favorite things about Bing Ads is their responsiveness to the community.  After my last post about them, one of their community reps actually reached out to me personally, and we had a great conversation about recent changes to social media policy within Bing.  And, in case you haven’t noticed, they’ve started responding to tweets directed their way. Thank you, Bing Ads! The community really appreciates it!

This week, the PPC community love went even further, as Bing Ads participated in a PPC Chat interview.  Can you imagine Google doing that? Or Facebook? Yeah, me neither.

Anyway, the chat was informative – as always, there are several new things on the horizon for Bing Ads.  I’m sure some will prove highly useful, and some not – but that’s ok.  It’s the innovation we want.

One thing I really appreciated about the chat was the honesty that the Bing Ads reps showed.  For example, one of the questions asked of them was (I’m paraphrasing here) “it seems like many of your new innovations have been copies of things Google has done already.”  The response was (paraphrasing again), “well, we keep hearing that people want us to be like Google, and we want to give our users what they want.”  I love it! Instead of feeding us some corporate PR BS, they told it to us straight.

Take a look at the streamcap, if you missed it on Tuesday.  It’s worth a read.

That was the good stuff. Now for the not so good stuff.

After a nice run with the latest incarnation of Bing Desktop, I ran into a brick wall yesterday.  I had gotten all excited and decided to build out a bunch of new campaigns in Bing by importing some Google campaigns.  But alas, it wasn’t in the cards.  I started getting all kinds of “duplicate ad” errors again, even on ads that weren’t duplicates.  I’d had this issue with ads with the same title, so I was prepared for that.  But yesterday, I started getting errors with ads that were completely different!  I have no idea why that happened, but it was annoying.

I was finally able to fix the issue by deleting the ads that Bing told me were duplicates, and then re-typing them by hand. Not cool.  And so, I didn’t get to upload as many campaigns as I had wanted to.

This is really the crux of the issue.  It’s like we can’t spend money on Bing if we try.  In this case, our client is looking for additional traffic & exposure, and I was hoping to use Bing for some of that – but no dice.

On the plus side, the Bing Ads folks on Twitter were helpful and responsive when I complained about the trouble I was having.  I’m crossing my fingers in hopes that the issue can be fixed soon. I’ll keep you updated!

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What’s Up With Bing Ads?

Frequent readers of this blog, along with my friends on Twitter, know that I have a love/hate relationship with Bing Ads, formerly known as Microsoft adCenter.  I’ve heaped ample praise on them at times – recently, in fact.  I’ve also been quick to applaud their community reps’ involvement on Twitter.

But as many of my online PPC friends can tell you, there are plenty of frustrations with them, too.

In fact, one of the things I kind of hate is that they can’t settle on a name for their product!  They went from Microsoft Search Featured Sites, which I participated in during another lifetime, to MSN Search, to adCenter, and now to Bing Ads.  To read more about the latest incarnation, check out this Search Engine Watch article.

During each incarnation, Google Adwords has been Google Adwords – no rebrand needed.

So why can’t Microsoft make up their mind on a brand?  It’s a mystery to me.

Let’s talk about the new Bing Ads for a minute.  It’s getting a lot of press, even meriting a writeup in Forbes, of all things (although their article is pretty lame).

The new Bing Ads has several improvements, earning praise from me:

  • Both the interface and the new Bing Ads Editor have a clean, easy-to-use feel.  With every relaunch, Bing gets closer to Google Adwords, which is what many of us have asked for all along!  Tabs, features, and common tasks are all where you’d expect them to be in the new release.  That’s great, and it saves time.
  • Bing is finally moving towards using “normal” keyword-level destination URLs, instead of those confusing Param1 parameters!  Actually, the parameters were one feature that Microsoft has had for a long time that Google lacks – but it was so confusing that few advertisers took advantage of it.  Now, it’ll be easier to understand.
  • “Import from Google Adwords” functionality built right into the interface.  Imports were already easy with the Desktop tool, but now you can import from the online UI, too!

Bing Import from Adwords

These improvements are welcome, to be sure.  But of course, with the good comes the bad:

  • The online UI times out too fast.  I’ve noticed it timing out in as little as 30 minutes, whereas in the old UI, I could stay logged in nearly all day without it timing out.  Also, there’s a bug in the new UI that logs you out if you click on the “Home” tab.  More on this in a few.
  • Both the online UI and the Desktop/Editor tool are still slow, especially on first load.  The Editor tool takes probably 20 seconds to open the first time, although once it’s open, tasks load quickly.  Still, it’s frustrating to sit there and wait 20 seconds just to look at one keyword, or budget, or bid.
  • The Editor tool, while improved over previous versions, still has weird error messages and quirks.  Copying an ad still returns an error.  And making changes to said ad without tabbing to another field results in the loss of all the changes you just made.  Not good.

Now for a rant.  Brace yourselves.

What the heck has happened to Bing Ads support?!?  As I mentioned earlier, great support was one of the huge positives about using the old adCenter.  They were active on Twitter, they responded quickly, and they generally seemed to care.

Since the release of Bing Ads, things have changed.  Take a look at their Twitter feed now:

Bing Ads Twitter

It’s all just the party line – more like a typical corporate “content pushing” Twitter account than an interactive, “we care about our customers and are here to support them” Twitter account.

In fact, I tweeted to them about the Home link issue I mentioned earlier, and the response I got was “Sorry, we can’t troubleshoot via Twitter – please contact support.” Boo!

I didn’t contact support.  And I’ll tell you why.

About 6 weeks ago, I had several problems with the old Desktop tool:  issues with spreadsheet imports, duplicate ad errors, and other problems.  I contacted support, and they were very responsive.

Too responsive, in fact.

The interaction began with the rep asking me to send screen shots of the errors I was seeing.  OK, I can understand that – once.

But it didn’t stop there.  Not only did the rep ask me to take additional screen shots of nearly every action I was taking in Desktop, they also wanted me to:

  • Uninstall and reinstall Desktop (an hour-long process, at least)
  • Remove and re-add all of our clients
  • Run an error diagnostic process and send them the resultant export file

I mean, come on.  Really?  I appreciate their efforts in fixing the issues, but I felt like I was the technician here.  Why should I have to create umpteen screen shots and run diagnostics?  Maybe this would make sense if I was the only person with this issue, but I can’t imagine that’s even possible, given all the comments I’ve heard on Twitter about Desktop frustrations.

But wait, there’s more. It gets worse.

Not only did I have to do all this work, the adCenter/Bing rep called or emailed me every day.  Every. Day.  Wanting to know if I’d made those screen shots yet. Or if I’d uninstalled and reinstalled.

Seriously?

I don’t hear from my boss this often.  It was like a crazy work assignment.  A work assignment just so I could use a tool that’s supposed to – yes indeed – help me DO MY WORK.

Why, Bing Ads?!?

Why did a simple call to support have to turn into a huge assignment for me?  All I was trying to do was add a few ad groups to Bing Ads – ad groups which have since spent maybe $3 total.  Was that really worth the hours of effort on my part?  Is $3 really worth daily calls and emails from the tech person at Bing Ads?

I know I’m not alone here.  I’ve heard from people who’ve given up on Bing Ads entirely because it’s just not worth all the effort it takes to spend $3.

The frustrating part is, I do like Bing Ads.  We get good results for our clients that use Bing Ads.  I meant everything I said in that SEW post.  I really like their community reps, too – I genuinely do.  But this experience has soured me on Bing Ads again.

What about you?  Do you have a love/hate relationship with Bing Ads?  Or do you just love them or just hate them? How can they improve?  Share in the comments!

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