We spoke with David Pann, GM of Microsoft's Search Network, and he tells us that we can expect Bing's version of product listing ads sometime this year. This may raise a few eyebrows, considering Bing's heavy campaigning against Google's PLA-based Google Shopping model, but rest assured, Bing's not about to start a paid-only model for its shopping results.
Would you test the waters with Bing's product listing ads? Let us know in the comments.
Just in time for the holidays, Bing launched a big anti Google Shopping campaign advising people not to get "Scroogled". This was in response to Google's transition to a paid inclusion model for shopping results.
“Merchants must now pay Google to be listed in the shopping results, and how much they pay helps determine how they appear in the rankings, so now every ‘result’ is really just an ad,” a Bing spokesperson told us at the time. “Unfortunately most consumers are unaware of this change because the disclaimers are not easily discoverable.”
We don't have much in the way of details about Bing's coming product listing ads (even their official name), but Pann says it's not going to result in a pay to play system for Bing Shopping the way Google Shopping is set up. Google Shopping (as of October in the U.S. and since in other countries) is based solely on PLAs, but Bing will retain free listings as well. Pann says there is room for free and paid to co-exist.
When we talked with Bing's Stefan Weitz in December, he told us, “The problem with Google’s Shopping results is that they look like search. They act like search. But everything one sees in the ‘search’ experience is bought and paid for.”
“In stark contrast, we simply don’t take money in exchange for ranking. Period,” he said. “The vast majority of our product listings come either from free feeds given to us by merchants and our crawler. Yes, it’s harder. Yes, it costs us more money to make sure we offer a quality shopping experience. But at least it’s still real search.”
“One of Danny’s issues is that we accept feeds from third party aggregators like Shopping.com and PriceGrabber,” Weitz continued, referring to a Danny Sullivan article criticizing Bing for engaging in some of the practices it seemed to be calling out Google for. “A merchant may pay to have their products listed in one of those third party sites. We, in turn, get feeds from those sites to make sure we have a complete product offering catalog. And if a customer happens to buy a product from a merchant who has paid one of the third party shopping sites to be listed, we do get a portion of that click revenue. But – and this is important – we DO NOT take into account the fact a merchant paid a third party when we rank our product offers. If we manage to get paid, it’s a happy accident. Unlike Google, it isn’t our business model.”
Pann expects the product listing ads to come to market sometime this calendar year.
Bing product listing ads have been spotted in the wild in the past. Last summer, RKG shared some screenshots of what Microsoft was testing at the time.
It's unclear at this point if the finished product will look just like these. Pann did say the product would be similar to Google's PLAs. He also noted that some "alpha testers" have been using them.
There has pretty much been nothing but positive data coming out about Google's PLAs lately (positive for Google and for advertisers). In fact, Adobe recently shared some data with us indicating that Google PLA spend alone is nearly that of Yahoo Bing Network spend in the U.S.
Still, Yahoo Bing Network continues to take away market share from Google piece by piece. Microsoft points to independent data from firms like RKG showing that Microsoft’s Bing Ads and the Yahoo Bing Network have seen positive momentum already this year, and that Bing Ads have gained paid search spend share from Google for the fourth quarter in a row.
Pann attributes the Bing Ads momentum to a variety of factors. One is new ad formats like its version of sitelinks, which Pann says have seen rapid adoption. According to Pann, advertisers come over with the mentality of "It performs well over there [Google], so it will here too."
Another factor, Pann says, has been Microsoft's efforts in reducing friction for advertisers and making the system easier to use. He says Microsoft has adopted the philosophy of "what takes 45 minutes in AdWords should take 15 minutes with Bing Ads". He also says the Google Import Feature has been a key factor, in its availability for the desktop tool, the API, and the user interface. Adoption of the feature, he says, has taken off.
Similar capabilities will likely be implemented in other tools in the future. He notes that Google's agreement with the FTC (the part related to ad campaign data portability) is an important step in that regard.
Microsoft and Pann appear quite pleased with the level of success Bing Ads have seen in recent months, but Pann says, "We're not finished by any means."
The new product listing ads are just one thing Microsoft has up its sleeve for the year. Also on the horizon are Bing Ad Express (aimed at Small Businesses) and Click-to-Call ads with Skype integration. More on those here.
Are you looking forward to Bing offering product listing ads? Let us know in the comments.