Post by Nonie Carson, Associate Manager, Marketing, with insights from Catherine Smale, Media Manager
Bing recently announced two major updates in an effort to support user privacy and security. Bing will (1) no longer show user search keywords to webmasters and (2) encrypt search traffic by default. While this means more security for Bing users, it also means less information for advertisers.
This update follows Google and Yahoo!, who have already defaulted to “not provided.” Bing is currently in the process of encrypting searches with Transport Layer Security (TLS), (meaning that searches will be sent from https://www.bing.com instead of http://www.bing.com). And brands are already reporting changes in search performance.
REPORTED CHANGES IN BING WEB TRAFFIC
With the gradual move to encrypt all Bing search queries, webmasters and marketers are noticing unintended consequences. Within the last week, Search Engine Land reported unexplained drops in Bing organic search traffic, as well as lifts in Bing referral traffic, which Bing claims was likely caused by transitioning to encrypted searches.
Some large sites are seeing variances as extreme as 20% loss in organic traffic, and a 350% lift in referral traffic. These significant traffic changes have left webmasters wondering if Bing made a search algorithm update, but the changes have been attributed to Bing encrypting search traffic.
MONITORING VARIENCES IN ORGANIC TRAFFIC
Bing stated that the reporting variances could continue, and in fact increase, as Bing’s updates may be changing the way tracking tools are identifying Bing’s referral and organic traffic. As a result, all brands should be wary of reporting metrics while Bing continues its shift to HTTPS.
Bing does offer three unique tools for marketers and webmasters to help monitor search activity and performance changes including:
- Search query terms report: A detailed report covering which search queries triggered brands’ ads, available in the Bing Ads user interface
- Universal event tracking: Provides a robust set of performance metrics for keywords and associated queries a brand bids on
- Bing Webmaster Tools: Includes keyword and rank data, site traffic levels and visitor acquisition details
We recommend that marketers and webmasters take full advantage of available analytics tools to evaluate Bing organic traffic levels. Brands in particular that are experiencing large unexplained traffic changes from Bing should work with their performance account teams to identify whether the cause is Bing’s update to HTTPS.
BEST PRACTICES in ENCRYPTED SEARCH
Marketers have been dealing with encrypted organic search on Google for years. Those who have set themselves up for success on Google in encrypted search should have no problems with this Bing change. Best practices include:
- Use Paid Search Data: Engines will always pass keyword data to advertisers from paid search ads. This data can provide valuable insights into organic campaigns. Take a holistic approach (paid + organic). For instance, traffic/click/conversion trends from paid search keywords can be extrapolated to organic search keywords.
- Look at Page-level Data: Page-level data is extremely valuable for both brands and advertisers. As site traffic numbers change due to the update, page-level data should remain consistent and provide important context regarding performance shifts.
- Focus on Other Metrics: There are many ways to track the impact of organic campaigns: keyword rank, traffic, conversions, backlinks, domain strength, competitive insights. Take this portfolio of metrics to holistically evaluate the success of your organic search programs.
4 IMPLICATIONS for ADVERTISERS
While Bing’s update moves to further protect and secure consumers’ online experience, it carries significant implications for advertisers:
- Currently, advertisers rely heavily on search query reports to determine additional keywords to add to programs, usually at a more efficient cost to the advertiser. Limited referral data will hinder additions of terms and media spend opportunities.
- Search query data is also used to determine negative keywords. This ultimately saves brands money, as search traffic becomes more efficient. This change will limit keyword optimization opportunities on Bing.
- Because Bing already has smaller market share, this change may deter advertisers from investing more in Bing, if they’re not receiving complete referral data.
- Overall, this update will hurt ad relevancy, as marketers will no longer have complete knowledge of the searches users are making.
To learn more about Bing encrypted search queries, please contact your performance account team today.