Bing Becoming More of a Search Contender with New Keyword Tool

At SMX West last week, Bing announced a whole set of new features now available in Bing Webmaster Tools, including one that I’m admittedly excited about, Bing Keyword Research Tool.

While its functionality will differ slightly from Google’s Keyword Tool, Bing’s will focus heavily on organic search volume with six months’ worth of historical data, rather than one. This is the first web interface tool of its kind for Microsoft, and it should hopefully provide a reliable alternative to Google, which we’ve come to rely upon probably too heavily.

This keyword research resource is still in beta, but so far, here are some of the features that are outshining Google’s comparable tool:

  • As previously mentioned, six months’ of data or a custom date range filter!
  • Search query volumes based on organic queries.
  • Both a language and a country filter unlike Google’s ‘Local’ versus ‘Global’ data segments.
  • Raw search volume numbers without rounding or averaging.

One aspect of the feature that’s less intuitive is the ability to perform research in ‘Strict’ mode. This option will show you search volumes for what we have come to know as “exact match.” Whereas, when the strict mode field is left unchecked, you will receive data for phrase match terms.

Another great feature is the ability to roll over the results to see advertising data. It reveals how much the average bid and resulting CPC must be in order to advertise in the MainLine (above organic results) and the SideBar (to the right of organic results). This is definitely more advertising insight than Google is currently offering.

Undoubtedly, Bing still has some glitches to work out. For instance, only being able to search on one key phrase at any given time and the inability to search multiple countries simultaneously. Both of which hinder a researcher’s pace substantially. Bing is also offering a very arbitrary graph showing query trends for the selected period. However, it’s refreshing to have another data tool that’s independent of Google and offers a unique perspective on the data as well.

Caution: Keyword Match Type Curveballs Coming Your Way

Not-yet-breaking-news!  Be prepared to spend more time working in your AdWords account, because Google is soon to release a change to keyword match types that will require a lot more attention to previously low-risk keywords.

One of the first things you learn as a PPC analyst is the difference between match types in Google AdWords.  You’ve got your exact match: safe, reliable, no-frills, thrills, or surprises…you get exactly what you pay for.  You’ve got phrase match, which adds a little intrigue to the mix, opening up new possibilities, letting you test your balance with training wheels on.  And then there are the broad matches, the wild card risk takers of the keyword world.  All essential players in an optimized PPC account, all requiring their own unique strategy for management.

But now Google is throwing us a curve ball, known as “near-exact” and “near-phrase” match types, coming soon to an AdWords account near you.  What does this mean?  With near exact and near phrase match types, your keywords will match with plurals, acronyms, abbreviations, and misspellings of your keywords.  What continues to distinguish this matching from the two forms of broad matching is that your near phrase and near exact keywords will not show for synonyms of your keywords as they do for broad match.

As a long time PPC geek, this *addition* to the AdWords match type arsenal is quite welcome.  Gone will be the days of racking our brains for every plural, misspelled, or mis-typed possibility for a keyword to add to an account.  This should save some time in keyword list building and will easily open up the reach of our keywords, allowing for higher impression and click volume potential.

That being said, there are certainly some words of caution to be heeded before going full speed ahead with near-phrase and near-exact.  The increased liberality of these match types (beyond traditional phrase and exact) will mean that advertisers should be paying more attention than ever to their search query reports, diligently making sure that these broader match types are continuing to deliver quality traffic and not showing ads for low relevancy search queries.

Another rumored aspect of this match type switch up from AdWords is that, while it will initially be a feature that you can opt out of using, eventually *all* accounts will be transitioned to near-phrase and near-exact…meaning that traditional phrase and exact match types will no longer be available to AdWords users.  My guess is that a forced migration such as this would be quite disappointing to the PPC community, this geek included.  Additions to the arsenal for paid search success are always welcome.  On the other hand, sweeping changes aimed, ultimately, at increasing advertising spend and profit for the advertising platforms without regard to the impact on the many small and medium sized businesses utilizing the platform…not so welcome.

Stay tuned to the Leverage Lowdown as this story breaks!

Conversion Data for Google AdWords Ad Extensions Now Live

The world of Pay-Per-Click is constantly releasing new improvements to help enhance campaign reporting and analysis. The most recent release from Google, however, is one PPC professionals have been requesting for quite some time – conversion tracking metrics for Google AdWords Ad Extensions. With this new release, Account Administrators can now analyze conversion data for Sitelink, Product, Social, Call & Location extensions within the AdWords interface.

In the past, Ad Extension data has been limited to basic metrics such as Clicks, Impressions, CTR, etc. With the conversion metric implementation, however, advertisers are able to determine how target audiences engage with the various Ad Extensions, how often conversions occur, cost per conversion and much more. Although this data is a great way to evaluate extension performance, the information is limited in regards to Sitelinks. As it stands, Sitelink conversion data is compiled for all links in the campaign leaving no way to differentiate between which Sitelink is performing best.

At this point we’re excited to see and share what new developments the conversion data will provide Google AdWords campaigns. Stay up to date with your Account Manager or continue visiting our blog for more information as it becomes available.

Google Display Network Updates

This March, the Display Network, also known as the Content Network, turned 9 years old.  Just in time for the 9 year anniversary, Google announced significant changes will be taking place on the Display Network.  Some of the features are already available, and the rest will be rolled out over the course of the month.  You definitely need to take note of the new changes because they will significantly impact the way you use the Display Network moving forward.  In this post, we will take a further look at what Google is doing and how you can effectively utilize the changes.

The New Display Tab

The new display tab shown in Adwords

Google is creating a new Display Network Tab to join the host of other tabs in your Ad Center Interface. The new Display Network Tab interface has been rebuilt from the ground up to help you efficiently run your Display Network campaigns.  It will enable you to bid, target and optimize your display campaigns all from the same interface.  The new Display Network tab will combine the current “Networks”, “Audiences” and “Topics” tabs and allow you to bid, target and optimize your campaigns all within the new tab.

Contextual Engine Upgrade

The contextual engine has been around for a while.  The engine matches your ads to pages within the paid search network based on keywords you specify within each ad group.  With the addition of the new Display Network Tab, the contextual engine is receiving its biggest enhancement ever – the ability to combine the reach of the Display Network with the targeting precision of the Search Network.  The new engine accomplishes this feat by using “Next-Gen Keyword Contextual Targeting”.  In layman’s terms, this means that you can fine-tune the performance of your contextually targeted Display Network campaigns down to the individual keyword level.  If utilized correctly, the new targeting options will help you take the performance of your Display Network marketing campaigns to a completely new level.

Visual Diagram

Some of us are visual learners, and I am just one of the many.  Google is finally giving some love to those of us who are visual aide fans with the introduction of a new Venn diagram.  Now, whenever you are adding or editing your Display Network targeting options, you will see a Venn diagram that shows how your targeting methods interact with each other.  The diagram will include placements, interactions, and keywords, and the overlapping sections will show you what methods are currently being used to target your ads.  The diagram introduces a new and improved way to how the reach of your campaigns is impacted by combining multiple targeting types.

Keyword Level Data

We saved the best update for last.  Google will be implementing a new feature that offers users the ability to see keyword level performance on the Display Network.  FINALLY!  I know many of you have shared my frustrations in not being able to see and utilize this kind of data in the past.  The new feature will allow you to see the performance of display campaigns at the individual keyword level.  If you are brand new to the Display Network, marketers previously had to use themed ad groups each with their own keywords in order to try and optimize the targeting of the Display Network.

Do not confuse the Keywords Tab with the new functionality of the Display Network Tab.  The new keyword performance statistics for the Display Network will only be available in the Display Network, and the Keywords Tab will continue to show keyword statistics for the Search Network.  If you choose to add or edit keywords in the main Keywords Tab, any changes made to those keywords will affect both your search and display network targeting.  This means it is more important than ever to keep your Search Network and Display Network campaigns separate.  However, the new feature will improve the effectiveness of extending your search based campaigns over to the display network.

As a professional in the Search Engine Marketing field, I believe these changes will dramatically change the effectiveness of the Display Network in the future.  While some of these changes would have been welcome years ago, I applaud Google for implementing the new features sooner rather than later.

Why Do My Competitors’ Sites Outrank Mine?

You feel like you have read and done everything SEO professionals have told you to do. Your site has great high quality content that is relevant, you have interesting white pages, info-graphics, and other content that people want to share, you launched a strong link building campaign, and continue to build relationships with other web sites and bloggers.

So then, “Why/how is it that my competitors are outranking my site for my keywords?”

Guess what, you’re not the only one with that question. In fact, many are starting to ask an even more specific question:  “How is it possible for competitors who practice black-hat SEO techniques to outrank my website?”

I’ve worked on various campaigns and can attest to the fact that I deal with this on a daily basis. And I understand it’s frustrating. Through my research, I discovered that the competitors who out rank my clients all have “paid links,” and not just one or two – we’re talking about thousands of paid links.

As my SEO director wrote in a previous blog post, Danny Sullivan, Matt Cutts, and Duane Forrester have all agreed that “buying links” is highly discouraged and if practiced, puts a site at major risk for consequences. This isn’t news if you’re familiar with the search world. However, after much analysis of many competitors’ links, I find that almost every single competitor has tons of “paid links” and their sites still have the top rankings.

How do I know it’s a “paid link” and not a legitimate editorial link?

Through much time, effort and the help of multiple tools, I spot checked over 100+ links individually for each competitor I analyzed. Typically, most SEO firms who practice this tactic will either own or work with a multitude of blog and site owners to post their clients’ domains with carefully selected and oft-repeated anchor text. Also, a lot of these SEO firms even include a link back to their site as well. If that doesn’t raise a red flag, I’m not sure what will.

As an example of the types of links I see, let’s say your client is in the fashion industry, and you look up their competitors back links and find a link to their site on a blog. Well, as it turns out, that blog is all about paleontology, the science and study of past geological periods. Yet, you find that the content, blog roll (or side navigation), or footer includes a domain link back to your competitor’s fashion website. It doesn’t seem too natural for a blog all about the study of rocks to be including a link back to a fashion site, does it?

So, let’s all ask this question again, how are those sites out ranking my site? Especially when paid links are considered a black hat technique and are frowned upon by the two major search engines and thus by just about every single SEO guru.

While, I firmly believe it is possible to compete with those types of sites and I am against “paid links,” I can’t help but notice that those sites have maintained top rankings. Paid links are still helping sites achieve top rankings.

That said, while “paid links” are leading these sites to top rankings now, I think these top rankings will be short-lived.

Recently, my team members wrote a great deal about upcoming changes for all of us in the search world.

If you missed it, the take away from what Matt Cutts said during a panel at SXSW 2012, is

“We are trying to make GoogleBot smarter, make our relevance better, and we are also looking for those who abuse it, like too many keywords on a page, or exchange way too many links or go well beyond what you normally expect.”

And on Google’s official blog:

“We often use characteristics of links to help us figure out the topic of a linked page. We have changed the way in which we evaluate links; in particular, we are turning off a method of link analysis that we used for several years. We often rearchitect or turn off parts of our scoring in order to keep our system maintainable, clean and understandable.”

Is it possible that those sites with paid links will have trouble in the future? I certainly think so, and this gives the chance for all of us to compete fairly for those rankings. So, if you’re thinking about maybe going rogue and partaking in the purchase of links, I would urge you to reconsider.

If you have any questions about the tools I used to analyze back links or have any other questions, drop me a line in our comment section or visit our Facebook site and Twitter page.