Google AdWords vs. Yahoo Bing Network – A PPC Performance Comparison

Every search marketer knows Google dominates in U.S. search volume, handling two-thirds of all search queries. And yet, less is known about the entity that reportedly accounts for roughly the other third of searches – the Yahoo Bing Network (YBN).

This brings up a number of interesting questions for paid search marketers. For example:

  • Is Google dominant in every vertical?
  • How do the two engines compare on click-through rate (CTR) and cost per click (CPC)?
  • Are paid search auctions as competitive on YBN as on AdWords?

AdGooroo (disclosure: I work there) addressed these questions in a recent study comparing the paid search performance of advertisers on Google AdWords and Yahoo Bing across six verticals in the U.S. during Q3 2012:

  • Shopping & Classified (composed of a broad range of retailers)
  • Financial Services
  • Travel
  • Education
  • Computer & Internet
  • Business to Business (B2B)

These vertical categories account for the majority of total search traffic and click-throughs in the U.S. search market.


AdWords Leads in Paid Search Spend, Clicks in All Verticals

AdWords delivered significantly higher impressions in five of the six categories studied – especially in the Shopping & Classified retail category, where it displayed 1.6 times as many first SERP ad impressions as YBN (an incremental 7.3 ad million impressions) during the quarter.

However, in the sixth category, Financial Services, YBN actually displayed more ad impressions than AdWords (although AdWords still yielded more total click-throughs within the vertical).

In addition to earning more search traffic, advertisers on AdWords generally experienced higher CTRs – with AdWords campaigns found to be 2.4 to 5.9 times higher than those on YBN during the period, depending on the vertical.

However, among the advertisers who were active on both engines, AdGooroo found some who actually had better CTRs on YBN than AdWords. For example, 9.5 percent of the Financial Services advertisers who sponsored paid search on both engines enjoyed higher CTRs on YBN than on AdWords, including Citicards and Fidelity Life. In the Shopping & Classified category, 5.7 percent of the overlapping advertisers had higher CTRs on YBN, including JCPenney, QVC, Old Navy, Kmartm and Shutterfly.

The Yahoo Bing Network Offers Certain Advantages

CPCs were almost invariably lower – and usually significantly lower – on YBN than AdWords – from 37 to 77 percent of AdWords’ CPCs, again varying by vertical. So, advertisers were paying a high premium to gain access to AdWords’ heartier search traffic and CTRs. And, as a result of lower CPCs, Brand Impressions (first SERP CPMs) varied from 76 to 90 percent cheaper, on average, on YBN than on AdWords.

The study also showed that there is significantly less competition on YBN than on AdWords. Across the six verticals studied, AdGooroo found 25,056 paid search advertisers on YBN receiving at least one first SERP ad impression, compared to 39,006 advertisers active on AdWords during the quarter. In other words, there were 36 percent fewer active search marketers on YBN to bid against.

What Does This Mean for PPC Marketers?

AdWords is the logical first choice for paid search advertisers for two reasons: superior impressions and click-through rates. However, YBN’s advantages – lower CPCs and CPMs and less competition for ad position – offer a ripe, incremental opportunity for advertisers seeking to maximize their search efforts.

Even so, that notion doesn’t appear to be widespread in the industry. Of the 41,548 advertisers who had paid search ads appear on either engine during Q3 2012, 42 percent (or 17,458) didn’t record any ad exposures on YBN’s first SERPs during the period. By comparison, only 6 percent (or 2,542) did not have first SERP ad exposures on AdWords.

The report’s findings notwithstanding, over the last four years both search networks seem to be more or less fixed in place in terms of their share of domestic search volume. Time will tell whether that will change, and whether we’ll see changes in the media buying habits of PPC marketers as well.

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