Insights from the North
Earlier this month I had the pleasure of speaking at the inaugural Prolific North Live event, a gathering of digital minds in Manchester to promote the growing range of talent in the north of England.
As with any good conference there were lots of insights, trends and learnings to digest and so I thought I would share my thoughts on some of the key takeaways from the conference and the impact for paid search practitioners.
Mobile growth doesn’t mean ignore desktop
This was a recurring trend from a number of the speakers throughout the day but I think it was most elegantly explained by O2’s head of SEO, Colin Woon (@colindwoon). Mobile is becoming the default device for search with Google announcing last year that mobile volume had overtaken desktop. However just because mobile is in its ascendancy doesn’t mean that desktop is no longer of any value.
Colin shared a very telling slide in his presentation that depicted 54% of all searches coming to the O2 website were from mobile, however, 62% of orders were from desktop. That means that desktop is punching above its weight for conversions. Mobile may well be the key to engaging consumers in the research phase but orders are still largely dominant on desktop, at least for O2.
No doubt some businesses will have seen a tipping point in conversions from mobile but the overall message was that desktop still outperforms mobile for conversions. This is not a new trend, but I think it’s worth highlighting here because it’s all too easy to focus on mobile and forget about the work horse of Search which is the humble desktop. And although Colin’s data was only referring to organic search, the same principle applies to paid search. At Bing we’ve seen a huge YoY growth of click volume of 37% from smartphones between August 2014 and August 2015. But this tremendous growth in mobile volume doesn’t mean that desktop is no longer important.
- Action for PPC marketers – check your campaign performance by device and use bid modifiers to boost your bid for well performing keywords on desktop.
Create loveable products
One of my favourite sessions of the day came from Adam Warbuton (@ProductAdam) who delivered an excellent and inspiring presentation about creating products clients will love. Adam’s work at Travelex has been guided by the principle of MLP (Minimum Lovable Product) a subtle but important variation on the now overused MVP (Minimum Viable Product).
Part of the problem with MVP is the principle has been muddied and often misconstrued to mean “the cheapest product we can create and get away with”. Whilst this isn’t a fair reflection of MVP, what Travelex have done is to raise their game from what is minimum standard that is viable, to what is the minimum standard that will delight customers.
What this means is a change in perception, where the “good enough” becomes “not good enough” and the “nice to haves” become “must haves”. This was evident in the love and care that had been lavished on the Travelex app. Attention to small details delighted customers, such as putting “bon voyage” on the confirmation page if the customer had said they were travelling to France, but “adios” if they were travelling to Spain. In Adam’s own words, the “nice to haves” are important and they all add up to make the experience for the customer that much more enjoyable.
I think this principle could easily be applied to paid search, for whilst we are not directly creating products we are creating ads and new campaigns all the time. We are all busy and under time pressure but to lift our game to create ads that will inspire, engage or amuse our clients, rather than just the minimum viable ad is something we should aspire to.
- Action for PPC marketers – create MLP ads and campaigns that aren’t just viable for your clients but delight them.
Customer experience is the marketing differentiator
Another core theme of the day that was echoed by many of the speakers was about creating great customer experiences rather than just interactions. Adobe’s EMEA Marketing Director, John Watton (@jwatton) said that brands that want to “survive and thrive” would have to focus on creating great experiences.
From a search perspective the experience the customer receives when they make their query is crucial to whether they are going to click through or not. At Bing one of the things we are really keen to do is to mix up the experience beyond the simple box and ten blue links. One of the things I am most keenly anticipating this year is the release of image extensions, something that Google trialled but ultimately discontinued but something we think has real merit and will deliver a different experience for consumers when they search.
We have been running some early beta tests on image extensions and the results are extremely compelling, achieving much higher CTR than ads with just sitelinks. What this shows is that experience matters, and we should all strive to make the experience magical, even in something relatively mundane like search advertising.
- Action for PPC Marketers – embrace new ad extensions to broaden the consumer experience they have when they search for your products and services.
Strategy is still an issue
One of the shocking revelations of Dave Chaffey’s (@DaveChaffey) presentation was there still seems to be a worrying lack of strategy and vision when it comes to digital marketing. When asked the question: “do you have a clearly defined digital marketing strategy?” 50% of marketers admitted that they were engaging in digital marketing but did not have a strategy.
This problem is echoed in Search, with many brands implementing paid search campaigns tactically without necessarily thinking about the broader strategic vision of what Search can achieve. One of the issues we have with Bing Ads clients is the strategy isn’t always reflective with changes in the market. I wrote recently about the disparity between revenue share and search market share in the UK between Google and Bing. Not only do you need to have a clear strategy for Search, increasingly clients need to keep that strategy fluid in order to respond to the dynamics of the market we operate in.
- Action for PPC marketers – have a clear Search strategy but allow for changes in the market that means your strategy can effectively adapt and still be relevant. Keeping your Search spend in line with relative market share is a good place to start.
Simple things are often the best
I was endeared to a fantastic presentation by Yossi Erdman (@yossierd), Head of Brand and Social Media at AO.com. Yossi’s presentation was full of humour and interesting learnings from the past couple years growing the AO brand. What really came through from Yossi’s presentation was that as marketers we should never stop trying new things, and often simple things can work really well.
Trying to make washing machines sexy on a limited budget is always going to be challenging. What the AO team did was use simple competitions through Facebook, giving away dishwashers if people could spot how many plastic ducks they had put in the picture.
Although it sounds trivial, the insight that came out of the exercise was that completing simple tasks with the prospect of a reward makes people happy. Thousands of people were prepared to do simple tasks like counting balloons or guess how many items of clothing could fit into a washing machine if the effort expended was minimal and there was the possibility of getting a free appliance.
These are not revolutionary ideas but in an industry frankly as mundane as white goods, a simple idea well executed can go a long way.
Applying this mantra to Search, there is increasing pressure within the industry to make campaigns more complex, more granular and more sophisticated just to keep pace with the industry. I am a massive proponent of innovation in search, but innovation doesn’t have to be complex, and sometimes just executing simple ideas really well can be outstandingly effective.
- Action for PPC marketers – strip back a campaign to its most basic elements. What one change could you implement simply to make it more effective?
Advertisers are continuously looking for ways to reach new customers and grow their businesses, but finding these customers has become more challenging.
Did you know 33% of searches on Bing are unique?2014 Bing Internal Data
It is impossible to reach these searchers with exact match alone, especially when it comes to the much sought after long tail. This is where broad match can greatly benefit advertisers, helping to distribute messages on a wider scale. All it takes is a little time and effort to start reaping the benefits of broad! But before all that, lets remind ourselves how broad match works on Bing Ads.
A Broad Refresher
In essence there are two ways of using the match type as exampled below, which provide different levels of functionality and control.
Side note – Bing does not offer broad match negatives. However, when importing these from AdWords they’ll be added on phrase and not dropped from the import. More about this topic
Pre-launch – impact planning
The Bing Ads opportunities tab provides highly valuable insights relating to the potential of broad match for your accounts. You can quickly see the possible queries a broad match may trigger as well as suggested bids, impressions and click delivery. This can be achieved directly in the UI or via the Excel export function.
Without considering the support and direction that negative keywords provide advertisers may find that they appear for irrelevant queries. PPC practitioners should exercise post implementation planning and think about the types of terms that a broad keyword may deliver and what they would not want to appear for.
A highly informative area to start your investigation is Bing suggested searches, which shows the most popular queried variations of a search term. Typically, a point of entry when looking to build out exact keyword lists, but equally as efficient when it comes to creating negatives.
Example: a fashion brand wants to expand their advertising of trainers via broad match. They search for high level generic keywords to ascertain Bing user trends. Immediately they see two trends they believe are unlikely to deliver orders, as they do not stock these types of products.
Following on from this, the advertiser knows that Bing applies close variants to broad match. They scrutinise the keyword “trainer” to understand the associated queries. Reviewing the suggested searches, they can see queries unrelated to their products and flag them to be added as negatives.
Think logically about the types of terms that might be delivered by broad match in relation to your keywords. For example, a retailer of trainers wouldn’t want to appear for queries such as “dog trainers” and therefore they would add “dog” to their negative list. Common sense always prevails!
Building on the above, protecting your brand is of the utmost importance. Therefore, create a “stockpile” of negatives that you consider detrimental. Think about the potential risks associated to your category i.e. an airline would add negatives such as “crash” and “accident” to broad campaigns. This will ensure that you steer clear of areas that might damage reputations. Adding these terms to a campaign negative list is recommend and can be easily distributed across your account.
Once you have your negative lists built then it’s a simple case of applying these, triple checking that everything is covered, and diving feet first into the world of broad match advertising!
Post launch - A cycle of refinement
Broad matching is an exploratory practice that is used successfully by advertisers to find additional traffic and revenue for their businesses. Here at Bing we have seen advertisers achieve 70% more clicks and 56% more conversions by adding broad into their PPC arsenal. That said, it takes a lot of love and nurturing to truly get the best from your activity, however it is certainly nothing overly complex.
Two options in the Bing Ads interface for reporting search terms;
Keywords tab (under details) - quick spot checks on specific campaigns/ad groups.
Reports tab (search term report) - access search queries from multiple accounts in one go.
No “one size fits all” approach, but there are some handy tips for hassle free analysis;
Apply thresholds - filter data and make opportunities standout e.g. queries with 100 clicks or more.
Conditional formatting - combine with thresholds, spot trends that are prime for implementation.
The easiest part of the process! However, when it comes to negative keywords think about the match type (exact or phrase) that you want to apply. Using phrase negatives will help cut out multiple search queries and give greater broad control.
Set aside regular time to check your performance. Sounds painfully obvious, but search patterns evolve, continuously providing new opportunities to explore. A simple practice is to use scheduled reports, delivering your next opportunity directly to your inbox!
Final thoughtsMaking assumptions on what exact terms consumers are going to search is no longer a viable option if PPC growth is to be achieved. To reach this evolving and lucrative audience requires something more adventurous, explorative and frictionless. Quite simply, it requires broad!
Here’s the second episode of our new #AskBingAds video series!
In this episode, we’ll cover:
And you’ll get a chance to see me do an impression and discuss one of my favorite topics, earthquake safety.
As a reminder, keep asking us product-related questions on Twitter using #AskBingAds and each month we’ll choose several to address in a new episode. If your question is selected, you’ll get one of the fabulous t-shirts you see me wearing. A huge thank you to those that submitted questions, keep them coming!
Keep in mind that if you have an urgent request that requires immediate attention, please contact support. Note that the Bing Ads Blog will be on hiatus from now through next week, but we'll be back for the week leading up to New Year's Eve. Happy holidays, everyone!
Feel free to ping us on Twitter -- don't forget to use the #AskBingAds hashtag for a chance for us to feature your question in a future episode (and send you a free shirt)! For general support questions, you can visit Bing Ads Answers forum. For feature requests, you can submit and vote on your top-priorities at the Bing Ads Feature Suggestion forum, or send us your feedback directly at BingAdsfirstname.lastname@example.org.