Bing Smart Search – the future of integrated ad experience?
Bing's Smart Search feature has been up and running as part of the Windows operating system since October 2013. It is designed to bring ads to the core of the user experience, going from desktop to search results with just a few keystrokes. Just type into your Start screen, or call up the search bar, and Windows will display a range of search results from your device memory and the Web. So far, so integrated.
Yeah, but I don't search the way I think...
Or so you thought. One new advantage of Smart Search is that it works well with 'natural language', i.e. search queries constructed as questions or complaints. No longer must you stick to the bare syntactical minimum (e.g. 'buy shoes'); you can now use question phrases such as 'my shoes are too small', and Bing will act as extension of their stream of consciousness. However, it seems as though this functionality works best when searching within Windows 8 rather than branching out into web search.
Okay, where does advertising fit in?
The exciting news for us is that Bing Ads appear in Smart Search results just as they would on normal search. The Bing Ads team stressed
here that you don't need to take any action to get your ads to appear – all your ad copy and extensions will be transferred right over (this all seems to be coming together nicely). However, there are a few criteria that Bing Ads in Smart Search must have, so here's how to give your Bing Ads the best chance of getting into the new front line of search results.
- The ads must have a very high quality score, and as such only a few will actually make it to the search pages. Make sure your keywords, ads and landing page are as closely matched as possible, and don't be surprised if your ads don't always show. Some searches will only return one ad, so being in position 1 is also important.
- Bing will crawl your landing page for an image to display, but it can't produce one if the page makes heavy use of Adobe Flash or HTML5. Consider whether it's worthwhile tweaking your landing page (whilst this may seem like overkill, reducing Flash usage gives your page a faster load time, which contributes to a good UX in general. So there.)
- Make sure your site is responsive to different devices. Smart Search really comes into its own on tablets, with touch exploration being a key feature being pushed.
- Pack your ads as full of extensions as possible. There's a lot of white space on Bing Smart Search just waiting to be filled, so there's no excuse not to make your ads as user-friendly as possible to chase those all-important conversions.
One drawback of trying to use Smart Search with ads is that whilst the data is recorded and incorporated into Bing Ads reports, we can't yet segment it out to see how it performs in relation to regular search. It's still an uncharted territory with plenty to work on but we hope to see this new data sometime in the future.