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Bing’s Other Ideas: A Head Scratcher

There is a new feature showing on Bing called Other Ideas, that, at first glance, appears to bring together Related Searches and Sitelinks all at once.  This feature is only live on Bing, not Yahoo, and can be found under the ads in the promoted positions on Bing’s SERP.  While the Other Ideas suggestions seem like they could hold value, they have a few of us here at RKG scratching our heads.  Why?

User Experience is Poor

These Other Ideas often look very similar to Google Sitelinks, however, when the user clicks on one of the links it takes them back to a new Bing SERP, similar to how Related Searches work.  As a user looking for something specific, you don’t want to go through another step to find the product for which you’re looking and Google’s Ad Sitelinks have created the expectation that your click will be taking you to a deeper page on the site listed above the link, not a new SERP.

The Other Ideas are too Broad

In the example below for the search query “mens nike basketball shoes”, the Other Ideas link that is listed is “nike” – a much broader form of the initial search query.  Compare this to the Related Searches on the left of the page, which relate much better to the original search query.  It is confusing to us why the Other Ideas link is so broad.

This got us thinking…why would Bing want to show a broader form of the initial search query under the ad, when it already has specific queries on the page in the form of Related Searches?  How would showing the term “nike” enhance the user experience when the user specified they want “mens basketball shoes” in addition to “nike”?

Higher CPCs for Other Ideas

Not only are these Other Ideas broader than the original search query in most cases, they are also likely to carry higher CPCs.  When comparing “mens nike basketball shoes” to “nike”, there’s a very good chance that the phrase “nike” has more competition and thus higher CPCs across the board than “mens nike basketball shoes”.  While CPCs have no direct concern to the user, it does have an impact on the advertiser.

Bad for the Advertiser

In addition to advertisers likely having to pay more for clicks driven by Other Ideas suggestions that lead to broader, higher competition phrases, we have also found Other Ideas in which Bing is showing the initial search query, plus the phrase “coupons” or “discounts”.  These phrases undoubtedly have higher CPCs as you are now bringing in competition from both competitors and affiliates whose sole purpose is to drive users based on coupons.  This not only forces the advertiser to pay more, but also makes their ad stand out less on the page.

Conclusion

With all of this said, Bing’s main goal is to make money…the more clicks they can generate, and in particular clicks with high CPCs, the more revenue they can bring in – I get it.  But at whose expense are they willing to do this?  The user, who is being driven to less relevant results by the Other Ideas?  The advertiser, who may see unnecessarily inflated CPCs?

It was reported by RKG in the RKG Digital Marketing Report: Q1 2012, that CPCs for Google were down 9% in Q1, 2012, while Bing saw an increase in their CPCs YOY.  Could Bing’s main focus in launching the Other Ideas be to drive users to higher competition terms – artificially raising CPCs?  Is this a contributing factor in Bing’s YOY CPC increase?  If so, this is an interesting development, something that would seem to be motivated by the bottom line – putting their own interests before the users.  Alternatively, maybe this is just a clumsy implementation of an idea that holds merit.  We’ll see how it develops.

  • Ben Hochstetler
    Ben Hochstetler is a Senior Analyst at RKG.
  • Comments
    3 Responses to “Bing’s Other Ideas: A Head Scratcher”
    1. John McNulty says:

      I think you’re conclusions are right and that this is bad for both users and advertisers. I do have to disagree with the notion that broader keywords like “nike” are always to have a higher CPC/competition levels than queries such as “mens nike basketball shoes”. Because “Nike” is extremely broad in intent, I feel most all rational advertisers are going to shy away from advertising on this keyword, making competition levels and avg. CPCs lower. A more specific, yet commonly searched for, keyword with commercial value (such as “mens nike basketball shoes”) is probably going to be more competitive most of the time.

      Overall though, doesn’t change the fact that “Other Ideas” may very well lead to poorer outcomes for users and advertisers alike, something that could hurt Bing in the long run.

    2. This is not the Best idea Microsoft ever had. But I think all this bunch of results will change since they plan to put meta web results in here.

    3. John, I agree with you that rational advertiser would likely bid less for a general KW like “Nike” than a more specific KW like “Nike Men’s Basketball Shoes”, however, in our experience rational advertisers are the exception, not the rule. Those bidding for impression-share or pride or keeping the corner office happy tend to focus on the general regardless of back end performance.