Experian Hitwise issued a report on the new alliance between Bing and Yahoo that caught our attention. Here's what needs your attention.
In January 2010, according to the Internet measurement company, the combo achieved the highest search success rates, with 81 percent of the searches on those sites resulting in a clickthrough to a website, versus Google's 65 percent search success rate.
This search success rate metric includes clicks on sponsored listings, ads and organic search results -- the ones that are automatically produced by the search engine.
Bing, Microsoft's search engine, began providing search and search advertising for Yahoo in October 2010, and according to Experian Hitwise, the duo continues to grow its share of all searches.
So, what does this mean for harried SMB marketers who are still coming to terms with the need to manage keywords and track conversions?
"The success rate is a good benchmark," says Heather Dougherty, research director for Experian Hitwise. "This definitely shows that, while Google is the largest search engine, there is definitely value in spending time and making sure your results are appearing in Bing and Yahoo -- because they do have a high effectiveness in driving traffic."
Perhaps even more important for you as a marketer, according to Dougherty, is understanding which searches are unsuccessful, that is, do not result in a click.
"Failed searches show that consumers are looking for this and not finding anything," she explains.
If you have relevant content on your website that you think warrants a click, it could be because your site is not optimized for search. If you think this might be so, she suggests three tactics:
- Make sure your content is optimized for search, with a good concentration of keywords and variants.
- Tweak the description of your page that appears in the search result to make it seem more relevant and attractive.
- Make sure your home page, or the landing page for sponsored and paid search, clearly makes sense as the answer to your most relevant search queries.
To get this kind of insight, Dougherty warns, you will need to move up from Google Analytics to more sophisticated tools.
When cheaper is better
An analysis of the Bing/Yahoo alliance by Marin Software, a management platform for paid search, showed that traffic from it seemed to be of better quality than that from the dominant search engine.
While conversion rates for visitors from Bing/Yahoo increased by 12 percent from August 15 to December 15, 2010, the cost per click ended the year 20 percent below industry benchmarks, resulting in significantly lower cost per acquisition for advertisers.
According to Marin, while Bing has gained search share, it has not gained advertising share. Matt Lawson, Marin's vice president of marketing, thinks this could be because many search marketers have not yet taken the time to redo their campaigns on the new, combined platform.
As a result, cost per clicks fell on a seasonally adjusted basis, compared to Google -- and conversion rates rose.
"Both are really positive signs for the advertiser," Lawson says. "The two things you worry about are, how much do you pay for your click and how much revenue are you getting from that click? People are ultimately getting a better return on investment for their search spend."
This lag in ad volume on Bing and Yahoo reflects a misperception among advertisers that somehow the lead won't be as good, says Ron Burr, CEO of WebVisible, a provider of local online marketing software and services.
"That is not the case," Burr says, "and small business owners definitely should be using it. A customer is a customer."
"As a small business owner, you don't have time to manage search optimization and campaigns on multiple search engines," Lawson says. The majority of SMBs have focused on Google, with maybe a little Yahoo thrown in. Now, you can buy ads on both Bing and Yahoo at the same time. "From an efficiency standpoint, it's now much easier for advertisers to access a larger share of the market."
If you're not already extending your search engine optimization and marketing efforts beyond Google, now is the time.
"Over time," Lawson says, "the cheaper rates may disappear. But the efficiencies of being able to now access close to 25 percent of the search share through one system instead of having to optimize for both Bing and Yahoo will remain. And this information is a good reason for advertisers who have been on the fence to look beyond Google."
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