Ten Tips For Alliance Search Partners

Alliance (Bing & Yahoo) search partners have a bad reputation. For one, everyone hated the integration when it was announced and they are still bashing it. Advertisers believe the quality of traffic from Alliance Search Partners is awful (debatable), and the volume isn’t there (depends on what it’s compared to). Some people seem to take a perverse pleasure in bashing Bing & Yahoo search partners.

These haters often compare alliance search partners to Google (surprise – Google wins), but that’s not the best way to think about them. Alliance search partners have considerably more, and higher quality, search traffic than the 2nd tier search engines. It’s not Google, but who else is? And no, the Google content network is not clearly better, it’s not even a good comparison (content vs. search). Alliance search partners can help your CPA and generate some volume when done properly.

Many advertisers have tried but failed to get a good CPA with Alliance search partners because they often use same keywords, match types and strategy as your other search campaigns. Advertisers who fail to get a good CPA use the same KPI’s (CTR, average position) and strategies (tail terms, multiple match types) that they do for AdWords and AdCenter. The standard approach which works for most search won’t work for alliance search partners. Here are some simple ways to improve CPA.

1. Set up different campaigns and ad groups for search partners than for Bing and Yahoo only (search partners settings are done at the ad group level). This feature has been around for a long time, but many people still aren’t using it. Why bid the same amount by keyword when 25% of people from and convert, whereas only 5% of search partner traffic converts?

MSN Settings

* The settings can also be adjusted via AdCenter desktop tool (often this is the easier way).

Making this change will also improve your CPA in Bing & Yahoo campaigns. CPA will fall as lower quality traffic from search partners no longer drags down your Bing & Yahoo only campaigns. You can then choose to bid more and expand volume at the previous CPA or enjoy the lower CPA.

2. Don’t bother testing many ads per ad group. You won’t get any reliable insights, the volume isn’t there except for ultra-competitive, high volume terms. Use two ads per ad group.

3. It’s usually best to use broad match. Phrase or exact match are only useful for high volume terms, the volume won’t be there to optimize. The volume isn’t there to optimize on phrase & exact match for most keywords, and it’s hard to predict six word phrases to include on phrase or exact match. Make sure to check the query reports to confirm that this is correct. Weirder things have happened than getting 494 clicks per day for [fuzzy pink sandals with green shoelaces] on exact match in Northern Alaska only.

4. Accurate alliance search partner only volume estimates will be hard to find. Search partners are constantly changing. The MSN Intelligence Plug-in doesn’t break down search partners vs. Bing & Yahoo only traffic. So how should advertisers estimate traffic and budget when making proposals to management for funds? Start with a small budget and test up. Set ultra low cpc’s, use a limited keyword list of high volume terms and if it works then start expanding to mid-volume keywords and increase CPC’s. This approach limits your downside loss if alliance search partners doesn’t work.

5. Never, ever care about average position at all. This is sometimes true for regular search, but is always true for alliance search partner campaigns. If you are in first position on search alliance partner websites you are probably a failure.

Bad advertisers (and there are a lot of them) complicate the bid auction environment. They (the amateurs) include search partners in their general campaign and bid $30 per click as if the user was coming from Let other people overpay for low quality traffic.

6. Because you’re in a low average position, your CTR will stink. Again, you can have a high average position and CTR – and a horrible CPA – if you’d like. Manage to CPA and ignore the absolute amount of your CTR. Test ad copy to improve CTR, but don’t bid up because the number is so low that you’re frustrated. Low average position is often a sign of competence when it comes to alliance search partners.

7. Don’t test match types to increase CTR. Astonishingly low CTR’s have a way of frustrating PPC people. It’s low, but that’s a function of your low average position, and for search partners a low average position can be a sign of competence.

8. When you’re in average position 8.2, tail terms with very few searches will be a waste of time. Don’t use tail terms. You won’t have enough data to optimize. You’ll see high bids, but very few clicks or impressions. It’ll be frustrating – but we do have a stress reduction kit.

9. If you don’t have good health insurance, a better option is to be patient. Wait for data to optimize. Search partners traffic can and sometimes does behave nothing like Bing & Yahoo traffic. An ad that works well for Bing & Yahoo may perform poorly in search partners. Don’t make keyword and ad copy changes based on the performance of your higher volume Bing & Yahoo search only campaign.

10. Use the most useful available information – publisher performance reports. Most bid management tools can’t get conversion information for specific partners and relate it back to clicks and $’s, which is why you’ll need to use the Bing publisher performance reports. You’ll need to put the Bing pixel on the website to get conversion data which can be associate with clicks and $’s (and help you figure out if you’re CPA is any good). It’s worth the wrangling with IT. Blocking domains is one of the best ways to optimize search partners. Bing search partners are transparent unlike Google, use that information to weed out the bad partners so you can bid more on the others.

There are a lot of great sites on the Alliance search partner network – don’t write them off. Managing an Alliance Search Partner separately and differently requires an open mind and new tactics. Those with the willingness to adapt, learn and embrace new thought processes can achieve low CPA’s and more volume than 2nd tier search engines with alliance search partners.