Transition Time is Now: Yahoo to Bing PPC

In case you missed it, Bing announced taking over the Yahoo! organic search function at the end of August.  And this month (beginning early September) the transition of paid search (PPC) from Yahoo to Bing is underway in earnest.  Time to get it done!

From Yahoo! to Bing in 1,300 EZ Steps

Just kidding!  The search alliance folks have tried to make it easy to move from Yahoo! to Bing.  I think I can get it down to, well, not too many steps.  (btw, if you get confused in this discussion between “Bing” and “AdCenter” you are seeing things clearly.  See Kevin Lee’s rant on Microsoft’s brand confusion over this transition issue in his ClickZ post.  I will refer to Bing’s pay per click service as AdCenter.)

My own first experience wasn’t too bad, but it did include some typical Microsoft moments.  I took the straightforward route from my client’s Yahoo! account to import the campaign into AdCenter just following the screen prompts. Since we didn’t have an AdCenter account, I had to register before moving on, and everything seemed to go smoothly until I came to the screen with the payment information.  The import process actually included our Visa card info, except for the security code, so I just entered that and submitted the form thinking I’d be taken to AdCenter’s admin area.

Nope.  I got a message to the effect “Gee, we’re sorry, but we’re experiencing difficulties.  Can you try again later?” I’m used to this from Microsoft so I just turned it off and walked away.  Later, I went back directly to AdCenter and our new account worked. I clicked on the options I wanted and the account showed up ready to go, even with the billing information intact (apparently).

This is actually a very complex process behind the scenes, so I do not mean to be too hard on Microsoft. My point here is to expect some imperfections in the process, but persist.  It actually works pretty smoothly considering everything..

Finally, just so you know, AdCenter will give you the option to import your Google AdWords campaigns also, and you may prefer to do that.  In this case, you might end up abandoning the Yahoo! data altogether.

Nuts and Bolts

Here’s the basic steps I’d take to move a PPC account from Yahoo! Searchmarketing to AdCenter:
Set up an AdCenter account (I’m assuming it is new for this occasion).

  1. Log in to your Yahoo! account and download the compatibility report and the current campaign data.  You’ll want these for backup, certainly, but also for helping adjust your settings in AdCenter after the transition.  Not everything will come over intact.
  2. Yahoo! will give you prompts to link your account to AdCenter.  When you get to the login screen, sign into your AdCenter account, follow the screen prompts to complete setup and import your campaigns.
  3. The time-consuming part starts now.  You will have to go through the campaigns and adgroups one by one, either using your compatibility report as a guide, or just looking at the data as you go.  You will find a lot of missing or changed settings.  Get started.
  4. Don’t forget to turn off the Yahoo! account when AdCenter is working.

Some Changes to Expect in AdCenter

You are moving from Yahoo! into the AdCenter world, and they have always done some things differently. The rules going forward are Microsoft rules, so you’ll need to make some adjustments. Here’s a few common ones to look for (and your compatibility report can help flag these for you).

  • AdCenter uses Google-like phrase match types, unlike Yahoo!.  You’ll have to go back through the keyword match types to fix these (this is one thing that might tempt you to import a Google account rather than Yahoo!).
  • Some of your ads will not import, especially if the adgroups or campaigns were paused (at least, that’s my experience), so you may need to re-write some ads.  Also, a common problem will be the 25-character maximum AdCenter has for titles so that the longer titles you may have used in Yahoo! will simply be truncated, making for humorous results you’ll need to edit.
  • Campaign settings like geo-targeting will have to be reset in AdCenter.  I found the geo-targeting tool in AdCenter very balky, working sometimes and not others to allow me to drill down to narrow geographic areas.  I might be doing something wrong, but for the life of me I could not figure it out, especially since it worked fine sometimes.  Try and try again.
  • Budget allocation may be a little strange since the import will simply calculate a monthly budget by multiplying from your daily budget setting, but for my client’s account it allocated almost all the money to a single campaign and assigned 17 cents per day to two other campaigns.  Why? I’m really not sure, but you may want to check it out.

Back to Bing

There you are, back in the Microsoft fold, in case you thought you had left it.  Bing and Yahoo together should draw roughly 30% of natural search traffic in the U.S., and having just two big PPC platforms simplifies the advertiser’s life a little.  If you don’t have it, you might want to get a Windows Live ID now that you are going to be working in with Microsoft again.

Checklist for the Yahoo to Bing Transition

The momentum is finally building.  It seems like ages ago that the Bing – Yahoo! search merger happened, but we are finally beginning to see the results.  If you haven’t already, it’s time to start getting your accounts in order.

In this post we give you a timetable (best we can) and a short checklist of preparations you need to make. In the next couple weeks, we’ll roll out a couple more posts on organic and paid search transition issues in more detail.

Who does this affect?

Every business that depends on the Internet for visibility in its market and for sales or leads will be affected by this change.  Bing will take over the Yahoo search functions, and as every Search Engine Optimizer alive knows, these two search engines do not return the same results. Your online visibility is about to change, for better or worse.

The (Tentative) Timetable

A few days ago, Steve Ballmer, Microsoft’s CEO, was reported in Softpedia as saying that the integration of Bing and Yahoo would be done by Christmas. This optimistic assessment is bolstered by the fact that the two search giants are already testing some results in their technical merger.  A more comforting cautionary note comes from Yahoo, which recognizes that “the holiday season is important to you,” and that they may defer their goal of final transition to Bing to after the first of the year “if we believe that it will improve the overall experience” (i.e., keep the ad money rolling in).

So what do we know for sure?

The transition on paid search is obviously a bit uncertain, but there’s agreement in both camps that the organic search results will be supplied by Bing by the end of August or in September. Web marketers like EZlocal were already seeing Bing-driven results in tests in late July, so this piece of the transition seems to be on course.

The Natural Search Transition

To get ready for the natural search transition, you need to optimize your website for Bing, and that includes most of the things you are already doing for Google. The natural search results after the merger for both Yahoo and Bing will mirror Bing, so take a look at your results in the two search engines and see your future.  If it’s not a nice picture, get to work.

  • Register your site at Bing’s webmaster tools to begin to get information on how the MSNbot/Bingbot sees your site.  There’s nothing revolutionary in Bing’s guidelines to webmasters, but you should be watching this information for anything specific to Bing.
  • Take this opportunity to go back through your site and upgrade your SEO on-page content and setup.  This is something you should always be doing anyway, but now’s a perfect time.

Paid Search Transition

It’s a good thing the paid search is a little more distant (though we don’t know exactly how much) because there’s more to do.  Now is the time to either set up an adCenter account or link your Yahoo SearchMarketing account to one you already have. There are some specific things to do in the near future.

  • Beginning sometime this month (about mid-month some say), Yahoo will feature a tab in its Searchmarketing accounts that will take you to adCenter to set up or link an account.  Look for it and get started.
  • The editorial and privacy policies going forward will be Bing’s, so review their guidelines and make changes accordingly.
  • The merged Pay Per Click platform will follow Bing’s formatting policies – say goodbye to those relatively long Yahoo ad contents.
  • Your Yahoo Searchmarketing history will NOT be ported over to Bing.  13 months of it will continue to be visible on the Yahoo site.
  • Budgeting will follow Bing policies, including raising the minimum cost per click from one cent to $0.05.

The Impacts of the Merger

The small picture for each of us is that the Bing takeover will shake up our natural search rankings, one way or the other. Longer term, watch for changes in pricing as the larger, merged search operation engages Google competitively.  Recently, the combined Yahoo + Bing share of search touched a bit over 31% in the U.S. compared with Google’s 62% (down a bit).  That’s big enough that search marketers really cannot avoid optimizing for and advertising on Bing any longer, if they haven’t already started doing so.  Bing is getting bigger.