Updates on how we match keywords

Update 5/21: In order to ensure a smooth transition, we’ll be ramping the normalization and close variant changes on small amounts of traffic over the next few weeks to better assess the impact. We also want to give you more time to add any stop words and special characters to your accounts to prepare for this change. 

As for the negative keywords section, based on feedback from you, we’ll revisit the functionality and work on a solution that more effectively avoids at the source.

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Understanding a searcher’s intent based on their search query is never a perfect science. Adding stop words, characters, symbols, etc... to a keyword or query can add ambiguity to the definition and the intent. Most of the time, the addition of these stop words, characters or symbols deliver the same intent.  For example, a user searching on the term “buy a car” vs. “buy car” have the same intent and interact with ads similarly.  However, in a few select instances these keywords may deliver different intent.  For example, a user searching on the term “the office” vs. “office” could be looking for different things (The TV show vs. Microsoft Office) and thus could engage with an ad differently based on their particular intent. Today in Bing Ads, we treat these terms as one through a process called normalization – the process by which extraneous characters, such as punctuation marks, special characters and stop words are removed from keywords in Bing Ads campaigns and then dynamically handled when ads are served against user queries in the auction.

While normalizing keywords provides you a better way to scale your keyword lists, we have received feedback that for some highly specific keywords this approach limits precision and control. That’s why starting May 21st we are making improvements in our matching technology.

Normalization Improvements for Better Control

You may recall our blog post last spring announcing relaxed constraints for uploading keywords containing stop words and characters. This relaxed constraint was in preparation for upcoming changes in our normalization process.  Starting in late May, we will begin incorporating this enhanced normalization logic into our auction process.  A description of the changes can be found in the table below along with examples of how raw user queries are normalized today on Bing Ads, and what the query will look like after the normalization change. 

As we transition to this new normalization process, we encourage you to review your keyword list and add any relevant characters or words into your account to ensure you maximize traffic from your ads. Moving forward to show on queries containing stop words you will need to bid on them directly in Bing Ads. A great way to learn what words to add is to opt into broad match and review search query term reports to understand what users are searching for.

Close Variants Changes

In addition to the normalization changes, we will be removing the opt-out functionality for close variants starting May 21st.  Advertisers today are already automatically opted into close variants, so most of you will see little to no impact.

Close variants help drive highly qualified and relevant click volume to your campaigns by maximizing your presence on queries that are the most relevant to your products and services.  Since testing close variants last August, on average we’ve seen ~2-3% growth in click volume while retaining existing ROI for advertisers.  With close variants, advertisers can scale their keywords without spending time building keyword lists of plurals, misspellings and other close variants that have similar intent.

For those who are concerned about matching to some of these variants, you can leverage negative keywords to help control your traffic and costs. The search query term report is great way to see what queries your keywords are matching to, how they perform and what negative keywords you may want to consider adding to your account.  Additionally, Bing Ads prefers to match queries to keywords that are identical so you can still add your own close variants, and adjust the bids based on performance, which becomes even more valuable with the enhanced normalization logic.

Negative Keyword Conflicts

Finally, we’re also making some small changes to how our negative keywords match. Negative keywords are intended to selectively suppress ads when your keywords are matching to queries that may not be relevant to your products or services.  Sometimes, however, negative keywords are added that completely block one or more of the keywords that you’ve intentionally bidded on. For example, if you have the keyword [discount shoes], adding the negative keyword “discount shoes” will cause [discount shoes] to never match.

Moving forward, we will honor your bidded keyword over your negative keyword where there is a complete conflict. In the examples provided below, you can see the scenarios where we will now serve your ad on the query discount shoes where there is a direct conflict.  Note that we will continue to honor your negative keyword on queries like discount shoes in seattle and find me discount shoes, unless those queries also have conflicting bidded keywords.  In addition, we will continue to honor your negative keywords in cases of partial conflict.  For example, the keyword “discount shoes” is in partial conflict with the negative keyword [discount shoes].  We are sensitive to the fact that this configuration of keywords is common and often intentional. 

The different kinds of conflicts are summarized in the following table, and case affected by the new changes are highlighted.

 

If you have keywords affected by this changes that you would prefer not to match, keep in mind that you can always use the negative keyword conflict report to discover these keywords and then either pause or remove them.

How to prepare for these upcoming changes

To prepare your campaigns for the upcoming changes, we encourage you to review your keyword lists and search query reports and add new keywords that will no longer be normalized.  To maximize your click volume, consider opting into broad match if you haven’t already. Additionally, you can leverage search query reports to consider any negative keywords you may want to add.

We often hear our customers asking for more efficiency and more volume from us and we believe these changes will help you better manage campaigns and achieve better performance.

UPDATE: With the 5/21 release date, we will be launching these changes to all major English speaking markets across all devices (US, AUS, UK, and CA_EN), while we take the next 12 months to ramp globally.

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Bing Ads PPC goal series: 4 tips to increase walk-ins

bing ads ppc goalHave you ever watched those baking competition shows where the hopeful contestants say that if they win, they'll use the prize money to open up their very own shop? For most of those small business owners, they're making their cakes, cupcakes and doughnuts out of their own kitchens at home. Sales are based primarily on word-of-mouth and, for the more marketing savvy, advertising for catering services.

To have a brick-and-mortar storefront is a dream for many entrepreneurs who aren't standing on firm enough ground to quit their day jobs just yet, so if you're at the point where you've got a physical location where customers can visit you, you should absolutely be taking advantage of every opportunity you have to drive potential customers through your doors. Given how ubiquitous smartphones are now -- nearly 2/3 of Americans have them -- being able to reach people who are looking for the products and services you offer at exactly the right moment when they're searching for businesses like yours is crucial.

Here are some quick tips to bring people to your store using Bing Ads:

1.) Use Location Extensions in your ad. Showing your potential customers that you're local through displaying your address and a link to directions is a sure fire way to get their attention when they're researching online for a store to visit in person.

2.) Target your local customers. This may be a no-brainer for anyone that sells exclusively to a local clientele, but for others that serve both local customers as well as offer shipping to other locations, it might not be as obvious. If the latter describes you, consider setting up a campaign specifically to drive in-store traffic with tight targeting only on your immediate vicinity. If you have more than one location, create a separate campaign for each and keep an eye on what works best so you can duplicate the most effective keywords and ad copies to your different audiences.

3.) Create key phrases that marry your top keywords with your location. This is especially important for businesses that thrive on tourism; many of your potential customers will be searching for local resources from an area that's not local. For example, my husband and I do a lot of traveling for concerts... if the destination is a kid-friendly one, we'll bring our 3 boys along for the trip and will do some research on things we'd like to have nearby the concert venue. We're currently planning a road trip in July and I've already searched on phrases like "family friendly restaurants Bend OR" and "hotel pool Les Schwab Ampitheater Bend OR."

4.) Use Sitelink Extensions to highlight a map or store locator on your web site. If your web site is equipped with features like these that shine a spotlight on your local appeal, make sure you're making them obvious in your ads by adding them in your Sitelink Extensions.

For more information on how to drive more in-store traffic with Bing Ads, check out the page of the same name here in the "Solutions" section of the Bing Ads site.

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Changes to Approved Limited messaging in Bing Ads

In the past, Approved Limited error messaging has been a source of confusion for some advertisers; what does it really mean to say that a given ad's or keyword's delivery status is "Approved Limited"? Approved Limited may actually be good news. It means your item is already approved in at least one of your targeted markets. If you're not already familiar with this Bing Ads policy status, check out David Salper's post, Approved Limited in Bing Ads: The Editor, the UI and You.

Why, exactly, does this “Approved Limited” status cause confusion to some users? We have heard feedback that sometimes "Approved Limited" error messages appear for ads and keywords for countries/markets that were not selected. While this was a pain point for many of you, we're happy to announce that it won't be from now on!

The status quo

Prior to this update, an advertiser would create an ad and would target a particular market, such as the UK. Even though our advertiser opts-in to only one market (UK), Bing Ads would display error messages for countries like the US and Canada, which was not explicitly targeted. This behavior was seen in both the Bing Ads UI as well as in Bing Ads Editor:

The Bing Ads UI

bing ads approved limited

Bing Ads Editor

bing ads approved limited

From now on

After this update, BingAds will show editorial error messages only for those markets to which the advertiser has explicitly targeted. For example, if the advertiser has opted-in to UK alone, and if there are editorial rejections for UK, the advertiser will be seeing rejections in Bing Ads UI and Bing Ads Editor. In the below examples, since the gambling ad was approved in UK (which was the only market the advertiser has opted-in to), the ad is shown as approved.

The Bing Ads UI

bing ads approved limited

Bing Ads Editor

bing ads approved limited

We hope that with this confusion cleared up, you'll be able to spend more time optimizing your campaigns and less time on wild goose chases to solve error messages that might not be the red flags they appear to be. 

Have you seen these changes in Bing Ads or Bing Ads editor? What do you think? Are you facing any other issue while using Bing Ads? If you have any feature requests for other changes you'd like us to make, please submit them (or vote on them, if they've already been logged) at our feature suggestion forum.

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Questions about our partnership with Yahoo? #AskBingAds

ask bing adsIf you’ve been paying attention to the latest developments in search industry news, you probably heard that some updates have been made to the way Microsoft and Yahoo work together to provide relevant search results to users, as well as high quality traffic to advertisers.

Although there’s been quite a bit of advertising industry coverage on this topic, you may feel as though you have some questions that are still unanswered. If that’s the case, we'd like to help bridge that gap by inviting you to send us your questions about our partnership with Yahoo via Twitter with the hash tag, #AskBingAds. As always, we're happy to take questions on other topics too, but with this hash tag, we're particularly interested in getting a pulse on what aspects of the updates to our partnership with Yahoo might need some clarity for you, our advertisers.

Thanks for reading and have a great weekend!

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