My monthly column for Search Engine Land in case you missed it.
Yahoo plans to begin serving Bing ads in the middle of September. Testing will begin this summer, but the plan is to serve 7% of Yahoo traffic Bing ads starting in mid-September and ramp to 100% by mid-October. The transition team is keenly aware of Q4 concerns and if there are any implementation problems they will push the launch back to February of 2011.
The natural search results transition is not tied to the same schedule and is likely to start sooner than the paid listings.
Folks managing paid search programs should start now to answer these crucial questions:
Is my Bing account fully fleshed out? Many paid search managers have understandably focused their attention on their Google accounts and let the Bing keyword lists, landing pages and ad copy languish. Pretty soon, that account will be 20%+ of your paid search program, so the ROI of time and attention starts to make sense.
Does my Bing account have all the match-type variations, geo-targeting campaigns and negatives as my Yahoo accounts? The negatives question is particularly tough, as the current Bing platform gives advertisers fewer negatives than Yahoo. Choose wisely, and if copious negatives are necessary consider shifting to phrase match in Bing (or greater depression of broad match bids).
Does my Bing account reference Cashback in the ad text? The future of Cashback is in question and Bing has stopped accepting new advertisers to the program. In fact, Barry Schwartz at SEL points out this morning that there is an announcement from Bing that Cashback ends as of July 30th.
What is the differential in traffic quality between Yahoo and Bing? This is a hugely important question for advertisers and for Bing. Advertisers will not have the ability to separately target Yahoo.com and Bing.com traffic. Bing does plan to allow the Yahoo syndication partners to be targeted separately, but this may not be available right away. Inability to segment that traffic at the start would definitely lead to lower revenue for Bing, just as it did for Yahoo.
Even with those controls, if Bing.com traffic is of higher quality than Yahoo.com traffic, smart advertisers will be forced to lower their bids on the Bing platform. The converse is also true. The research is non-trivial as differences in how the engines match user searches to ads make apples to apples comparisons challenging.
Paid search managers will also need to think about how to manage the transition from Yahoo to Bing.
If your Bing account has been well maintained, the best transition option is to just turn-off the Yahoo account once the transition is done.
A second option is to upload ads from a well-maintained account (Google) as a new account in Bing. This ensures that everything in Google is in Bing, but also wipes out account history related to click-through-rates which will need to be re-built over time.
Finally, there will be a "push this button" migration option to automatically port your Yahoo campaign into a Bing account. Those of you who tried this option moving from the open Overture platform to the Panama platform will understand why we don't recommend this one. It has all the down-sides of the second option, plus the fact that Yahoo titles may get lopped off.
Our Yahoo reps, who will be our Bing reps as of September, will send out new insertion orders for Bing accounts soon. Those who don't have dedicated Yahoo reps may get a notice through the Bing interface. Since the invoicing and billing will be handled by Yahoo, most of the Bing annoyances—like not getting any warnings about insertion orders expiring and having ads shut down—will go away under the new management.
As we've maintained all along, we think this change will benefit advertisers. Richer data-sets by themselves will allow good bidding systems to better target traffic value (assuming the variance in traffic quality between Yahoo.com and Bing.com is reasonably small) which will in turn lead to bigger programs at the same efficiency, and focusing efforts on two engines rather than three will allow good analysts additional time to work on higher priority tasks.