By Katy Mackey

The Yahoo! and Microsoft Search Alliance is often dismissed by advertisers who are completely focused on Google AdWords but are they making a mistake?

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The story so far

The Yahoo! and Microsoft Search Alliance was formed “to create a competitive choice in search for advertisers and consumers” (read: take on Google) but since its UK launch in 2012, the change hasn’t really set the world on fire. That said, do you really want to miss out on lower CPCs, higher click through rates and a better return on investment? Didn’t think so.

If Bing’s so great why aren’t more people using it?

Previously advertisers have shied away from the Search Alliance for a number of reasons. Suggest advertising on the Search Alliance and an all too common response is “it’s not worth it”. Search Alliance campaigns, like ones running on Google, take time to build and optimise and many people take the view that for 10% of the traffic one gets on Google*, it just isn’t practical.

*Source: The E Word, January 2014

Initially, those who did try were confronted with the clunkiness (technical term) of the interface, adCenter. Part of the issue was that it just wasn’t Google: advertisers spend all day every day on AdWords, if you add something new to the mix it’s bound to take some getting used to. Since facing a slew of negative comments when the interface was first introduced, Bing have brought it more in line with the Google standard which we all know and love.

The results speak for themselves

Although the Search Alliance has come a long way in terms of developments and market share, there are still not that many advertisers on it (compared to the number using Google AdWords). Whilst this isn’t great for them or the advertisers who are missing out, for the ones clever enough to use the platform it means less competition so better positions at lower costs per click, better clickthrough rates and overall a better return on investment.

One of my clients, an online retailer, advertises with both Google and the Search Alliance and, whilst Google is the main source of revenue, we’ve been conscious that performance on the Search Alliance outstrips Google month on month in terms of return on investment and cost of sale.

Below are the results from last year. As you can see, the cost per click on Yahoo! and Bing is almost half of that on Google even though our ads appear in significantly higher positions. This led to an increase in click through rate and meant that the Search Alliance could bring in 12% of our PPC traffic in 2013 whilst only accounting for 7% of our spend.

In terms of conversions, Bing doesn’t let us down either. In 2013, the Search Alliance accounted for 10% of our total conversions which is not to be sniffed at especially when the cost of each conversion is a third lower than conversions on Google.

Overall, our return on investment for the two platforms looks like this:

Looking at results like these, the “it’s not worth it” argument against advertising on the Search Alliance starts to collapse.

A word on optimisation

Before you run off to start advertising all over Bing, Yahoo! and more, it’s important to note that results take work. Leaving a campaign to just run itself is a mistake many advertisers make on both Google and Bing (especially the latter) and without continuous optimisation, campaigns won’t run as well as they could.

Bing has an incredible array of reports and tools which allow you to become acquainted with every area of your account and optimise accordingly (look out for more on this in my next post!) but be warned: the Search Alliance is not Google. Although Bing have tried to make the transition between the platforms as smooth as possible, things will be different. You never know though, sometimes you might even like Bing’s version better…

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