We are close to 60 days from the formal transition of most advertisers to the Bing platform as part of the Yahoo-Bing search results merger. Over the next two months a lot of ink will be spilled about the expected impact, with prognostications about the ability of the combination to challenge Google and what could go wrong (which would make the former topics moot). In advance of this, I want to give you one early indicator why this combination is something different from what most in the search space are used to seeing.
Over the past few weeks representatives from Yahoo and Bing have visited search marketing agencies with a series of updates on the transition. These updates include status items such as progress reports, timing and checklists of things to do before the big switch. As these visits were taking place, a formal release was made public with appropriate quotes from each party. With the pending shift less than two months away, the knowns are finally outweighing the unknowns. And that brings me to an important revelation that matters for advertisers today, but may also be significant in the search marketplace for tomorrow.
Yahoo and Microsoft are listening to advertisers and their agencies. In this business it is common practice to hear what advertisers have to say, but then listen to consumers. Google built its highly successful search business by putting nothing above the consumer experience and providing the highest relevance possible to those individuals who use the service. This has created consistent friction with advertisers, who want to find a more productive way into the process than just cutting a check to show up when Google decides it best for the end user. Unfortunately for advertisers, while the Google model has been successful, historically it has not produced the kind of game-changing innovation in ad formats or opportunities that get advertisers to make dramatic shifts in how they allocate budgets or think about a channel.
With this new search alliance it has been interesting to witness the openness to ideas from both sides in how best to sell and then to package solutions out of two similar, yet distinct, systems. The biggest win for clients is the news that Rich Ads in Search (RAIS), a Yahoo creation, will be available as part of the Search Alliance. Originally neither party was comfortable committing to any inclusion for the program. As it stands today, RAIS will be on Yahoo and efforts are being made to attempt to bring the offering to Bing at some point, if not in the initial phase of the alliance transition. The pricing model for the product itself isn't perfect, but innovation is a rare commodity in search ads -- and for this product to be available is a big deal.
Additionally, the powers that be have worked hard on smaller, more tactical details to ensure that whether it's the optimizing or the shaping of a buy, advertisers can get some of the best of either world. Areas of investment include:
1. The ability to apply 1,000s of negative keywords at the campaign and ad group levels.
2. Control over search and content distribution by choosing:
a) Only Yahoo/Microsoft owned and operated properties;Additionally, advertisers will be able to do domain blocking for both search and content.
b) Only Yahoo/Microsoft partners; or
c) All Yahoo/Microsoft owned and operated properties plus partner sites.
3. A complete shift to the Bing match types using the standard exact, phrase and broad matching technology.
4. Yahoo Canonicalization will be going away completely.
There are additional advertiser and agency issues still needing to be addressed, including daily budgeting concerns based on Bing historical behavior, and the inability to buy Bing and Yahoo as two distinct networks. However, at least for now, the signs show us that Bing and Yahoo are not only taking the business of the alliance seriously, they are taking the business of their advertisers seriously as well.