Bing Ads – A Surprising AdWords Alternative

By Michael Owen
February 2, 2018
Digital MarketingStrategy
Bing Advertising by Microsoft Logo

What is Bing’s Reach?

Does anyone actually use Bing? According to various sources, an estimated 23% of web searchers in North America conducted searches on Bing or one of their network partners. If you combine Bing and Yahoo searches, which are powered by Bing, ComScore data from 2016 shows a number closer to 33% for US searches on desktop computers. This matches the market share Microsoft also reports.

It’s important to keep in mind that Bing is owned by Microsoft and is the default search engine built into all versions of Windows. Bing also powers web searches done through Xbox.

Since it launched in 2009 as the replacement for “Live Search”, Bing has quietly and steadily eroded Google’s market share to the point that in April 2017, Statista reported Google’s share was down to 65%, while Microsoft Sites, which includes Bing, reached 23%.

Search Engine Usage Compared in 2017

Who Uses Bing Search?

From a demographic perspective, the Bing user tends to be different from the typical Google searcher. Bing’s user base tends to reflect its partnerships with Yahoo and AOL; it is generally older and more affluent. Yahoo still has a loyal following for financial and business news, and has many long-time @Yahoo email users. A very similar demographic that signed up when AOL floppy disks and CD’s were all the rage, and who still miss hearing “You’ve Got Mail”.

Before you discount Bing’s reach as being small, let’s stop and consider the demographic that is growing in North America, and which currently has the buying power, and the numbers, especially for luxury travel (hint: it’s not Millenials).

The same users that still have that @yahoo account – Baby Boomers, and even the high end of Gen X’ers – are the people with the time and money to enjoy luxury and adventure travel. And guess what, not all of them use Google!

These are people who are not in the practice of changing their default search engine on Windows. And let’s not forget about a younger ‘gamer’ segment who use their Xbox to search the web on their TV. Bing powers Xbox searches.

Recent testing with one of our long-time hotel clients showed significant differences between organic Google and Bing visitors. Since October those differences have carried over to paid search ads also.

Adwords and Bing ads Compared

While the volume admittedly isn’t as great on Bing as it is with Google, the conversion rates have proven to be higher from Bing Ads traffic. So too have the average number of page views, time spent on the site, bounce rate, and average amount spent per session. In simple terms, Bing visitors are more engaged and spend more money per booking. This is especially true for properties marketing to an older clientele, or which are at the higher end of the price spectrum.

If you are currently running AdWords campaigns, I strongly recommend at least trying these campaigns on the Bing Ad Network and then comparing the results.

Importing Campaigns Into Bing

Microsoft has made it quick and easy to copy over your existing Google campaigns with a tool which imports your AdWords campaigns, settings, budgets, and bids into Bing. A word of caution however, never assume everything has been copied correctly. You should always verify settings such as geo-targeting, device settings, and ad scheduling.

Just because the volume in most industries is much less than on Google, it doesn’t mean the bids will also be lower. Bing, like Google, uses a complex algorithm to determine bid cost, and the same factors apply on both platforms. Landing page, keyword and ad relevance are key.

As a general rule, I recommend starting off with an initial budget that equals 20% of what you are comfortable spending on AdWords. This aligns with their market share, and you’ll know within a few days to a week if that budget level is sufficient.

Competition in every industry is healthy. I’m hoping to see Bing continue to grow so there is more than “one game in town” when it comes to paid search advertising.

If you want to know more about AdWords or Bing, give us a holler.