This is a guest post from Sarah Essa, Insights Manager at
The digital transformation of the travel industry continues to gain huge momentum—eMarketer forecasts that digital travel researchers and bookers in the UK will reach over 30 and 27 million in 2017. Because of so much forward motion, search engines have become a key platform to connect with digital travel consumers.
The Bing Network has displayed notable growth in this field, recently reaching over 20% market share in the UK marketplace. Read on to discover the top five travel advertising best practices on the Bing Network.
 UK Adult Digital Travel Researchers and Bookers, 2015-2020, eMarketer.com, October 2016.
 comScore qSearch (custom), June 2016. Bing Network includes Microsoft Search sites, Yahoo Search sites and AOL Search Network sites in the UK.
 Internal Source: Volume of searches with travel intent relative to the average monthly volume between June 2015–June 2016, Bing, Yahoo & AOL sites in the UK, all devices.
We all know the two most popular websites in the world right now—Google and Facebook. On any given day, people are performing close to 3 billion Google searches, and over a quarter of the world’s population use Facebook. Bing is also growing fast and is now a major SEM contender.
Advertisers have much to gain from an integrated search and social advertising approach. But exactly how much?
To answer this question, we conducted a study of more than 200 enterprise advertisers managing Google, Bing, and Facebook campaigns. With billions of dollars in annualized ad spend managed on the Marin platform, we work with many of the world’s largest and most sophisticated advertisers.
Here’s what we found:
For full research results and actionable tips for cross-channel success, download The Multiplier Effect of Integrating Search and Social Advertising.
This is a guest post from Dionte Pounds, Account Manager at
Product listing ads, or PLAs, are an incredibly successful strategy for e-commerce companies to promote available product inventory on Google and Bing. Unlike standard search ads, PLAs incorporate a visual image over a text description to show the user the product they’re searching for.
There are plenty of reasons why you should be adding a PLA strategy into your advertising mix. Cost-per-click (CPC) will generally be below what you’ll see across search ads. As a result of showing the user an image of the product they’re searching for, click-through-rate will usually be pretty strong. Once the user clicks the ad, they’re taken directly to the product page, making the user journey simple and leading to a higher conversion rate.
Additionally, it’s quite easy to set up and manage campaigns. Both Google and Bing provide product level reporting, so you can also see how each product is doing individually.
With the holiday season in full swing, let’s take a look at some tips to drive great results from your PLA campaigns.
The first and most important step in improving PLA performance is to have the proper product group segmentation. Product group segmentation is vital to drive traffic efficiently. If all of your products are lumped together in a single product group sharing the same bid, you’re not maximizing your PLA campaign potential. In this case, you’re bidding the same amount for your best performing product group as your worst. This will lead to wasted spend and a poor return on ad spend over time.
A well-managed PLA campaign should have a structure that allows for isolation of product groups. Look to each product’s category, type, or brand to figure out what level of segmentation works best. In some cases, it may be best to separate each product entirely.
After viewing your product category report, you’ll have a good idea of what type of product group segmentation will work best for your campaign. In order to optimize the new structure, look at the average CPC for each product group and the ROAS. If the ROAS is below account target, you should start bidding with a CPC below the average. Likewise, if you have a ROAS that’s well above target, you can start that product group with a bid above the CPC to maximize returns.
Try to make use of your conversion rate, ROAS target, acceptable CPA, and average order value to back your way into a starting bid. Let’s imagine the AOV for an account is $50, conversion rate is 1%, and ROAS target is 200%. For this imaginary product group, a $0.25 bid is suitable.
PLA campaigns are very likely to drive more traffic from mobile devices than desktop or tablet devices. Generally speaking, this increase in traffic comes at a price, meaning lower conversion rates and ROAS. Look at how your campaigns are performing across devices, and be sure to use negative mobile modifiers for mobile devices and tablets if it makes sense.
If you’re already bidding down on mobile devices, be sure to take a look at your desktop CPCs when placing starting bids on your new product group structure. It may be possible that the cheap mobile clicks are driving down your average CPCs. If that’s the case, then base your new bids on the desktop CPC to avoid a loss in traffic.
An often-overlooked aspect of PLA campaign management is mining for negatives. Just like a search campaign, PLA campaigns need to be scrubbed regularly for negative terms to prevent wasted spend.
There’s still time this holiday season to maximize your PLA performance across Google and Bing! See if you can utilize some of these tips to drive great results.
In PPC, there are two main approaches when it comes to bidding workflow—manual and automated. Over the years, there’s been debate among search marketers on the pros and cons of each approach. Search marketers have differing opinions on which yields the best outcomes.
One of the main arguments in favor of manual bidding focuses on the control that it affords the search marketer, in contrast to the hands-off nature of automated bidding inherent with publisher bidding—like AdWords “Smart” bidding and most (but not all) 3rd party proprietary bidding algorithms.
In nearly all automated bidding approaches, the search marketer sets a goal and the bidding algorithm reviews historical performance, and then calculates a bid with limited transparency from start to finish.
The apprehension some search marketers feel towards automated bidding derives from the opaque nature inherent in most approaches. This fear is realized when a campaign is underperforming, and the search marketer becomes at a loss for what’s amiss, or how to improve it.
Putting that fear aside, let’s reflect on the many benefits of automated bidding, which is the reason for its proliferation.
Here are just a few.
Automated bid management is a huge time saver. Think about it—how long would it take you to manually change a million keyword bids? How confident would you be that each bid is optimized to maximize your return?
If you’re being honest with yourself, the answers to those questions should naturally steer you towards automation as the optimal solution. Automation augments the search marketer by executing repetitive tasks, serving as an ‘enabler’ for the search marketer to focus on growth opportunities or account strategy while keeping tabs on daily performance.
Automated bid management platforms produce accurate bids through regression modeling that looks backwards to predict future outcomes. With millions of dollars at stake, these algorithms are typically built with risk aversion at their core to produce low error rates. By their very nature, they make changes at scale that’s quite literally impossible for any individual, or even team, to compete with.
The reality is, sophisticated marketers with material budget use an algorithm to bid on their media today. If you aren’t, you’re putting yourself at a disadvantage.
Automated bid management platforms allow advertisers to define the goals and milestones for the algorithm to work towards. The marketer remains the operator and the brains of the operation, with the bidding algorithm working as his proxy.
Learning from massive datasets to create better future outcomes is at the heart of bidding algorithms. Today, this type of mathematical analysis is popularly called “machine learning” and “artificial intelligence.” Most ad tech companies have years of experience with these techniques, but largely fly under the radar in popular press, with newfangled applications like self-driving cars getting the headline coverage.
So, how do you get the best of both worlds? Simple—employ automated bidding with full transparency. That’s not an oxymoron. That’s a real thing offered by a few leading independent marketing partners (not to toot our own horn, but Marin Software is one such example).
Fully transparent bidding solutions (i.e., the bidding system shows you the step-by-step logic of the bidding algorithm) allow users to see all the details behind their bid calculations for each keyword. This includes the bidding model(s) employed, the details of the dataset used, performance bumpers activated, and any other pertinent details behind the decision-making. If automated bidding is fully transparent, many of the arguments opposed to automated bidding lose their heft.
Information Available in a “Fully Transparent” Bidding Solution
The level of information available for each keyword in a “fully transparent” bidding solution varies. That said, at Marin Software, we show the logic of our algorithms “line by line,” which allows users to see a full breakdown of bidding decisions, including:
Contrast this to the information displayed in a “black box” bidding solution:
Fully transparent bidding solutions allow PPC managers to review the logic used to reach a bidding conclusion. In addition, the search manager has the option to overlay bidding rules to ensure the algorithm behavior is consistent with their risk tolerance and strategy to hit certain goals and milestones.
The best fully transparent bidding solutions also allow you to preview bidding calculations before they’re pushed to publishers, and manually override bids on specific keywords if needed. This gives PPC managers the full control of manual bidding with all the time saving, efficiency, and data processing power of automated algorithms.
If automated bidding isn’t currently part of your strategy, we hope this post helps break down the nuances of different approaches. Although it also explains the pros and cons, it advances the argument that if you aren’t using a transparent bidding algorithm in today’s environment, you’re hamstringing yourself, because it’s near-certain that your competitors are employing an automated method of bidding to try and out-compete you. If you’d like to learn more about Marin Software’s approach to bidding, click here.
We’re proud to announce immediate support for Bing Expanded Text Ads. Bing “Upgraded URLs” is a prerequisite to leveraging Bing’s Expanded Text Ads, and we’re offering full support for that, too.
Last, but not least, we’ve enhanced SmartSync to be compatible with both Bing and Google Expanded Text Ads. All Marin Search customers have access to SmartSync, which provides a 1-click migration to Bing Expanded Text Ads. We think this is the easiest (and fastest) method for savvy marketers to explore this opportunity.
“Bigger is better” is the key mantra behind the move to Expanded Text Ads, a move expressly designed to help advertisers succeed in a mobile-first world. Our empirical observations tend to refute the argument that Expanded Text Ads is a smart investment of resources, with well-constructed and thought-out ads yielding better increases in both click-through and conversion rates.
Before and After
With the deadline to migrate comfortably in the future, it may be tempting to put this task off. We encourage our advertisers to resist the temptation and try out Bing Expanded Text Ads now. Our recommendation is based on our observations, as described above.
The following is a brief list of the methods available for Marin customers to quickly get their ads launched:
Activate SmartSync: Execute your migration to Bing Expanded Text Ads with just one click. SmartSync takes care of the heavy lifting by automatically porting your Google Expanded Text Ads to Bing. And, best of all, your Google Expanded Text Ads can remain permanently synced to Bing Expanded Text Ads as long as you like, which means you can make a single ad change within Marin and have it applied to both of your key search engine partners.
Follow the Marin Guide to Expanded Text Ads: Avoid confusion by following our migration guides for Bing Upgraded URLs and Bing Expanded Text Ads. We walk you through the nuanced details of what’s changed, how to take advantage of these changes, and how to get up and running quickly.
Hire Boost Media to rewrite your Bing Expanded Text Ads: Tap into Boost Media’s network of professional copywriters to build brand new text ads from scratch. Marin Software has negotiated preferred pricing on behalf of our customers. To get started just contact your client services team.
With school out and warm weather in, we traditionally think of the summer months as the best time to take a vacation. However, is it actually prime time for search advertisers to ramp up their ad campaigns?
To answer this question and others, we took a look at travel advertisers on Google and Bing. We examined 2014 and 2015 to locate any trends in advertiser spend and performance for the travel vertical across quarters, and to assess the state of consumer behavior. Google and Bing dominate the global search market, which made them ideal for our study—other search publishers have regional presence at best, so they were excluded.
We found a few interesting things:
For more great information on search advertising in the travel industry—including cross-device performance data and campaign recommendations—download The State of Travel Search Advertising: Trends, Formats, and Paths to Success.
We recently published our 2016 Cross-Channel Marketing Report, which looked at the current state of shopping ads, and examined advertiser and consumer behavior over the past year. Now, with the shopping season even closer, advertisers are quickly making sure their budgets and ad campaigns are ready and flawless.
Based on the data, what are our top tips for retailers looking to get the most value out of their digital advertising campaigns this holiday season? Read on.
We predict that 40% of all shopping ad dollars will be on a mobile device. Similarly, around 37% of search clicks will be on a shopping ad on either Bing or Google. Be sure to budget ad campaigns accordingly to match up with consumer attention during critical holiday spikes.
Research shows that spend peaks in November, with overall ad spend reaching almost 90% above what it was in January. Smartphone behavior was the most pronounced—smartphone ad spend spiked to almost 400% above baseline in November when compared to the year’s beginning.
Smartphones now make up the majority of clicks and spend for all shopping ads. With 55% of all shopping ad clicks originating on a smartphone, the importance of properly optimizing ad spend can’t be overstated.
Research shows that shoppers are utilizing mobile devices in-store more than ever, to conduct product research and price-shop. Being able to capture this audience while they’re in the middle of a purchase decision may be crucial this holiday season to ensure an offline conversion.
While Google remains the largest search publisher for shopping campaigns, Bing is no slouch, either. Adoption of Bing Shopping Campaigns (BSC) has been accelerating and Marin has seen over 20% of clients on Google Shopping already using BSC. While Google Shopping has more viewership and use, BSCs are competitive in price and performance, and may be a good option for some retailers.
Shopping ad spend has been taking up a larger portion of retailer ad spend every year, reaching almost 30% of all search ad dollars this year. However, this doesn’t mean this is the only ad format retailers should consider.
Expanded Text Ads (ETAs) are a relatively new ad format that have seen strong early returns for many advertisers. Early data has shown an almost 300% ROAS for ETAs, meaning they’re highly competitive with both conventional search ads and shopping ads.
While social networks have always been a highly mobile device oriented channel, this is especially true for retail. Almost 95% of clicks on retail ads on social are on a mobile device, and mobile also accounts for 90% of all social spend for retail advertisers. Research shows that consumers interact differently with social ads than they do with search. Rather than research, social ads are better used for awareness and to start conversations with target audiences.
Each holiday season has been bigger than the last, and the trend is positioned to continue this year. Retailers have more choices than ever when it comes to ad campaigns. However, with this increased choice comes increased difficulty, as effectively managing spend across multiple devices and channels isn’t easy. A little planning, knowledge, and foresight will go a long way.
Between the distant frenzy of the Q4 shopping season and the rising calm of midyear, Q2 tends to be the quietest quarter. However, this doesn’t mean there’s nothing happening. Among other things we found in our research, mobile display played a larger role this Q2—but overall, the ubiquitous move to mobile is actually slowing down. And, tablet usage continues to drop.
To create our quarterly benchmark reports, we sample the Marin Global Online Advertising Index, composed of advertisers who invest more than $7 billion in annualized ad spend on the Marin platform. We analyze data from around the world to create our report. For Q2 2016, key findings include:
For detailed information on Q2 2016 search, social, and display mobile performance and strategy recommendations, download our Performance Marketer’s Benchmark Report Q3 2016 – Vital Search, Social, and Display Performance Data by Device.
Last year, we forecast that 30% of all retail paid-search spend would be on a shopping ad, and 45% of all product ad clicks would be on a smartphone—and smartphone click growth ended up being even stronger than we predicted. Looking forward, where do we see shopping ads this holiday season?
We took a look at month-over-month variations and factored in seasonal shifts in performance to forecast where we’ll be by December 2016:
For more results sampled from the Marin Global Online Advertising Index—composed of advertisers who invest more than $7 billion in annualized ad spend on the Marin platform—read The State of Shopping Ads: 2016 Cross-Channel Marketing Report. With data charts on mobile, social, text versus product ads, and strategy recommendations for the 2016 holiday season, be sure to download your copy today so that you’re prepared for the Q4 rush.
As retail search advertisers continue to plan their campaigns for the 2016 holiday season, they’re weighing the pros and cons of text versus product ads. What’s the most effective ad type for reducing cost, increasing CTR, and maximizing returns on spend?
The answer: it depends.
Sampling the Marin Global Online Advertising Index, composed of advertisers who invest more than $7 billion in annualized ad spend on the Marin platform, we analyzed data from around the world to create our 2016 Cross-Channel Marketing Report. Here are just a few of our findings:
For the full results of our research, including data charts on mobile, social, text versus product ads, and strategy recommendations for the 2016 holiday season, download The State of Shopping Ads: 2016 Cross-Channel Marketing Report.