Yahoo-Bing Search Alliance: Four Steps Advertisers Should Take to Transition to the Unified Platform
The Yahoo-Bing Search Alliance will result in a dramatic shift in the paid search marketing industry, changing the way advertisers manage their pay-per-click marketing programs. Under the new alliance, which starts this fall for U.S. accounts, advertisers will be required to use Microsoft's adCenter to manage both their Yahoo and Bing paid search advertising programs.
As an advertiser, what do you need to do to prepare your search engine marketing campaigns for the transition? There are several steps you can take to ensure your campaigns continue to function smoothly before, during, and after the transition to the new unified management platform.
Before we dive into the nuts-and-bolts of what you can do to prepare your campaigns for the transition, it's important to point out that you should start the process of transitioning to Microsoft adCenter now; waiting will cause undue headaches a few months from now, when you'll be deep into launching your critical Holiday 2010 campaigns. In our own research at my company, Marin Software, we've found that about two-thirds of large advertisers have begun to prepare their campaigns for the transition to a single Bing-Yahoo platform. If you're one of those advertisers who hasn't started the transition yet, it's time to get cracking!
For most search advertisers, the move to a single Bing-Yahoo platform will require adjustments to keywords, creative, bids, and analytical reports in order to maintain existing programs. Remember, this change isn't just a chore, but an opportunity. By combining your Bing and Yahoo programs on a single platform, you'll be able to streamline your search marketing efforts and more easily access the combined query volumes of these two engines.
Here are some strategies to make the Search Alliance transition as painless as possible:
Take stock of your programs. Among advertisers spending more than $100,000 a month on paid search, the average marketer spends 17% of its budget on Yahoo and only 5% on Bing. What's more, about 13% of advertisers do not currently run any campaigns on Bing. If you're one of the many search marketers with a smaller or non-existent Bing program, you'll need to invest in new keywords on Microsoft adCenter to maintain your paid search marketing revenues after the transition. Taking stock of the state of your Bing campaigns today can help you to assess the priority and level of effort required.
Decide on a transition plan. Before you begin adding keywords to your adCenter accounts, it's important to have a strategy. There are three options for getting your adCenter campaigns to parity with your previous Yahoo programs: you can augment your adCenter campaigns manually; you can copy your campaigns over from Yahoo; or you can attempt to replicate your Google campaigns in adCenter. If your adCenter campaigns are reasonably built out already, then the first option likely represents the least work and the lowest risk. The second option, copying your Yahoo campaigns over to adCenter, is supported by the Search Alliance. Adding Yahoo campaigns will be the easiest way to capture the same traffic you were receiving before, but remember Yahoo uses different match types and has different character limits for ad copy than adCenter does. If you plan to port Yahoo accounts over to adCenter, make sure to expand keywords to include misspellings and plurals, and modify creative to meet adCenter character limits. If this option isn't appealing, your Google campaigns have a similar structure to Bing campaigns, but copying these over will require a manual effort to download, format, and upload bulk-sheets to adCenter. Regardless of the option you choose, make sure to double check your landing pages and tracking URLs to avoid issues with missed traffic or miscounted conversions.
Prepare to bid with little history. As you build out your unified Bing-Yahoo search program, the new keywords you create in adCenter will lack the click and conversion history required to make effective bidding decisions. Adding to the complexity, the bid settings of any old keywords on Yahoo will be irrelevant, because the traffic and auction characteristics for the combined engines will be different. To prepare for this situation, make sure your bidding solution can create bids for new keywords and adjust quickly to changing traffic data. In order to start bidding accurately with a limited history, use data from similar keywords to determine bids. As individual keywords accumulate history, you can begin to weight their data more heavily into bidding decisions.
Monitor performance and react quickly. The transition itself will be a period of change, with keyword auctions clearing at new prices and traffic levels for some keywords rising dramatically. The best way to capitalize on this change is to proactively monitor keyword and campaign performance. Set up automated alerts that notify you when a keyword or group hits a specific threshold in terms of clicks, conversions, quality and cost. For terms that exceed benchmarks for performance, you can add similar keywords to your programs using misspellings, plurals, or even raw queries associated with the keyword. For high-volume keywords that end up lagging in quality and ROI, try switching out the copy to see if you can boost overall relevance and conversion. The Search Alliance transition is an opportunity for the smart marketer to optimize for the new combined traffic patterns.
The transition to a unified Yahoo-Bing ad management platform doesn't have to be a nightmare. Use this opportunity to fine tune campaigns, jettison poorly performing keywords, and analyze gaps in your programs. In six months time, you'll benefit from a streamlined search management process that gives you more time to invest in optimizing campaigns. More importantly, with lower management overhead and increased inventory, the Search Alliance represents an opportunity to grow your paid search programs through the new combined channel.